WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
Samantha Hess tears up as she describes the first cuddle session she's had in months.
"I miss it so much," says the professional cuddler, whose specializes in using nonsexual touch as a form of therapy. "We get to be like little baby kittens, and it's so sweet to be next to someone and share that space and have that moment where things are OK for a minute."
In late June, Hess was forced to close her Northeast Portland studio, Cuddle Up to Me, as a result of the statewide economic shutdown related to COVID-19. In the intervening weeks, Hess attempted to adjust to a world where physical contact between strangers was inadvisable. She launched a Patreon, and put up a YouTube video of herself staring into her webcam so her clients could access her for "virtual eye gazing" at literally any point of the day.
She's hoping to reopen Cuddle Up to Me in a new building sometime in the fall. For now, she's figuring how her specific brand of healing works in Phase 1. She's just started doing outbound sessions again, with multiple precautions in place—clients must fill out a waiver and submit to no-touch temperature checks, and certain "cuddle poses" are now off limits.
Hess is grateful she can get cozy with clients again. But as she tells us, feeling comfortable is another matter entirely.
See more Distant Voices interviews here.