About the Holding Space

Some of the other cuddlers I know are talking about setting up a commercial space for their business, so I thought I’d share the process and thinking I used to set up my office.

I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be able to work from home. I lived in a large apartment, but with three of my four step-kids living there too, working from home wasn’t going to be practical. I thought about working outcall only, but as soon as my massage therapist suggested setting up an office I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Having an office gives me some control over both my environment and my schedule. Even though I and, I think, most professional cuddlers, charge for travel time it’s a lower rate than the cuddle time. As a consultant who’s worked from a home office for years, I know how travel time to someone else’s locations can eat up your day. I liked the sense of professionalism I think it communicates, the idea that “yes, of course this is a real business, I have an office and everything.”

I looked at several types of space. Some offices bill themselves as catering to start-ups with flexible lease terms. Those tended to have a wait for space – and to be more expensive, starting about $500 a month for 100 square feet. I looked at Sola Salons, but they were even more expensive, around $1,200 a month. I know of several co-working spaces in town, but those wouldn’t have allowed me to bring my furniture in and leave it there. I talked to several yoga studios, as well, but there was the same issue. I could save money by sharing space with a massage therapist, but I couldn’t figure out how to cuddle people on a massage table, so none of those worked out. I looked at several small old houses that have been converted into office space, but they tended to have accessibility challenges – narrow hallways or staircases, and I wanted to be accessible.

One of the first offices I looked at would have had me sharing space with a colon hydrotherapist. She had an extra suite in her office space. I wasn’t sure that was the right place…but it was another alternative therapy and the room was a good size. After we talked, as I was thinking about whether that was the right space for me, she called me back to tell me that what I wanted to do was “just too weird” for her, and she was going to find someone different to rent to. I spent a week or so a little deflated that my idea was “too weird” for my local colon hydrotherapist.

Around this time, I also set up an appointment with SCORE – the local business development agency. I had a meeting with a panel of three people, the person they’d assigned to be my business mentor, her SCORE mentor, and I forget who the third person was. I wanted to get some answers about legal structure, and they insisted that I should create the least expensive legal structure possible. They also encouraged me not to rent office space, because it would be expensive. They weren’t sure where they thought I should operate – they didn’t seem to think going to people’s houses was a great strategy, either. I did not go back to see them again.

I looked at 3 or 4 commercial office buildings. The one I landed in I found by spotting a real estate sign on my way to a Zumba class across the street one morning. The location is not only right down from the police station, but just as importantly a short walk from my husband’s office. (At the time I was looking for office space, we were also trying to find and buy a house – having our offices so close was not only convenient, but it made it easier to establish where we were looking for a place to live.

I have 190 square feet here, and I pay $395 a month. That’s a slight increase from the $385 I paid the first year. I assume the rent will continue to go up a little bit every year (and I’m not ready to commit to a multi-year lease yet.)

I didn’t look at retail space, because A.) I didn’t know how to and B.) I didn’t think I was going to get a lot of walk-in traffic. That’s fine, because I didn’t want the hassle of staffing for walk-ins until I have enough business to justify regular hours.

When I set up the environment, I wanted something that would communicate “comfortable living space” but NOT “bedroom.” I ended up with a futon and an oversized beanbag chair, along with a bunch of pillows and some extra little beanbag chairs. I wanted space that could be used for both individual and 1:1 sessions, so I also have extra pillows, floor padding, and a couple little beanbag chairs that I set out on the nights I have group snuggle sessions.

Here are some of the other things I have (or have been asked about having) in my office

Video Recording Devices

When I was trying to decide whether video recording sessions was a good idea, I thought about two things; A.) the people who were going to be my clients and B.) the people who were going to be suspicious that I was “really” doing sex work. For group A, I anticipated people coming to me to help them with grief or trauma and I didn’t want them worrying about video of them ugly-crying ending up in some comedy reel somewhere. For group B, the people who were going to be suspicious of the work I’m doing, I thought about whether “I have a video camera set up in my office” made me sound more or less like a sex worker. I decided it was a little bit of a Rorschach test –what people thought was going to be based on where they were coming from. I opted against video recording.

Concealed Weapons

Many people have asked me whether I have mace or a gun in my office. I believe the statistics that say the most likely outcome of having a gun for protection is that gun is going to be used on me, so I don’t have one. People who ask me about mace make me laugh – I have 190 square feet in my office. If I fire off mace, it’s going to be a bad day for everybody. I do not keep concealed weapons in my office. I have taken some specific steps to ensure my safety, and I’m not going to detail those here.


IMG_20180801_173429Being a standard commercial office, the space comes with standard overhead fluorescent lights. My office has three, two of them controlled from one switch and the middle one controlled by another switch. It quickly became clear that wasn’t ideal for relaxing people. I didn’t want to turn them off completely, even though I’ve added a few lamps. You can get pictures that go over the lights to dim them – some of them look like clouds, for example. But it was cheaper to go to the local fabric store and pick up some fabric to drape over them. We attached them to the ceiling with binder clips, so they’ll come down easily when I move out, and they’re more interesting to look at than plain old lights.

In this picture, you can see all 3 lights (but the one in the middle is off, so you can just see the fabric hanging down. This is the lighting I usually use for clients. The fabric nearest the door people use is lighter and blue, the fabric in the cuddlier area is space-themed and a bit darker.

Television IMG_20180801_160604

I was so sure that people were going to want to have the television on in the background. Exactly none of the people I’ve cuddled with have wanted that so far. It’s nice for me when I’m working on other things, though – it makes a great secondary monitor.

When I opened the space I also had a DVD player and a stack of movies. My original website went so far as to mention that clients could select the show but that I wouldn’t watch scary movies – because I can’t soothe a client if I’m afraid. Not a single client has wanted to watch TV or a movie with me yet, though, and during the snuggle sessions where I’ve had them available nobody pays attention, preferring to engage with the people in the room instead.


I wanted something that could lay flat, but wasn’t laying flat when people came in. I looked for one that was easy to lay down and stand back up. The nifty thing my hubby did for me was craft stoppers that keep the futon when sitting up far enough away from the wall that it doesn’t have to move when I lay it down flat – this makes it easier to fiddle with in the middle of appointments


I have two folding chairs near my front entrance. This gives clients a place to take off their shoes without getting all the way into cuddle space. I also have some people who come to group cuddles who stay in those chairs, or at least start out there.

Beanbag Chair(s)

The beanbag chair I have is called a Xorbee. It’s the 6-foot size. When they shipped it to me, it came in a box about 24 inches on a side and expanded from there. There’s no getting it back into that box for transport later, though.

IMG_20180317_135332The beanbag is great for sitting people into the toboggan / baby bear cuddle, and is where I usually start all new clients. I made some videos early on that extolled the virtues of arriving to group snuggles early to be the first person to jump into the beanbag, but really nobody ever does that. I’ve learned to have it moderately but not completely fluffed for clients, because it’s pretty tall when it’s completely fluffed, and because there’s an art to sitting in it so that it doesn’t try and dump you back out after awhile.

I also have a couple little beanbag chairs that just add to my snuggle-party fluff

Stuffed Animals

IMG_20180801_173454When I did my first group session, it was in a yoga studio and I had mostly inflatable furniture and blankets, and one of my participants mentioned that there weren’t any textures in the space. I looked for stuffed animals that would have a variety of textures. I’m looking for more rough textures to bring into the space, because people with anxiety often prefer those to soft.

Gravity Blanket

I got a gravity blanket from a kickstarter and I have some clients who really love it. It’s a 20-pound blanket, and it’s not huge but enough to cover one person (or two if we cuddle close. 😊 )


My husband spoiled me with a Keurig, and I LOVE IT so much – but I’ve very seldom had a client interested. It does allow me to offer up my space for networking meetings that might otherwise happen at a coffee shop. (“come to my office, it’s comfortable and I have tea and coffee). I’m not a coffee drinker, but I have several kinds of tea available – mostly for me, really.

I have a Brita filter pitcher and some reusable cups – and I also have some bottled water in case clients prefer that. Very few people do, though.

Coloring Books

I have a supply of inexpensive ($1 each) coloring books and colored pencils. These are for my group events, too, and I have a few people who come regularly and want something to do other than cuddle.

Cuddle Fish

CuddleFishThe Board Chair for the Circle City Aquarium club helped me set up a fishtank, because watching fish is good for relaxation. I super-love having it, too.

Continuing the subtle space theme that started with the space fabric over the light in this part of the room is the little starship Enterprise you can see in the bottom-right corner of this picture. Being a geek is fun.


IMG_20180801_173441I have my coaching certificate up on the wall, as well as several pieces of art that came from the yoga studio where I did my training. If there’s such a thing as good vibes sticking to art, these mandalas have all the good vibes!

I also have a wedding picture displayed in my office. (Which feels a little cynical to me, like I’m displaying a certificate of ownership. But apparently it doesn’t feel cynical enough for me not to do it.) I just got married a couple years ago, so it’s a pretty current picture, otherwise I’d probably use just a current picture of the two of us.

Looking around my office, I don’t see anything else that stands out as an intentional decision. If you have questions about any of this, feel free to ask. If you want to come see the office in person, check out my events or make an appointment.


The Opposite of Creepy

The Indianapolis Star published an article on my work recently, and of course I delved into the comments to see what people had to say. There were several commenters who said the service was “creepy.”

If I do it right, though, my service will reduce the amount of creepiness in the world.

Creepy, according to the dictionary, means “an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease.” People fear or are uneasy in situations where they don’t know what to expect. I’ve worked very hard to help people understand what to expect when they come in to see me.

That work starts with my client agreement. When I get electronic inquiries, the first thing I do is ask people to review my agreement. It’s short – just 258 words. If you read at average speed, you can read the whole thing in just over a minute. Several people have told me upon reading it that they don’t want to work with me because the agreement is too restrictive. This tells me the agreement is doing its job, helping people to understand the parameters of the session. Hopefully that reduces the sense of unease they feel.

When people complete the screening process and come in to see me, I start out checking in to see how they’re doing and what they want to get out of the session that day. Sometimes clients just want to talk and be heard. Most often, they want to be held. Either way, I let the client lead the session based on what they are looking for that day. Being in control of the helps to reduce any sense of fear or unease.

With both my one on one clients and my group sessions I try and help people get more comfortable expressing what they want. This is where my work starts to reduce the amount of creepiness in the world outside of my office. As people get better at expressing what they want, they also naturally get better at expressing what they don’t want. A lot of behavior that people label creepy is about someone trying to get interaction out of another person who doesn’t care to participate in that interaction. The creepy folk count on the fact that, in polite society, an uncomfortable person is going to stay uncomfortable rather than risk creating a scene.

Once professional cuddling clients or group cuddle participants start practicing and getting comfortable telling other people where their boundaries are, however, the creepy person’s weapon of choice stops working. As long as you feel like its rude to tell someone you don’t want a hug, you’re going to get hugs you don’t want. As soon as it becomes no big deal to say “no” to interaction you don’t want, the amount of interaction that you fear or feel uneasy about drops precipitiously.

When I was at Cuddle Sanctuary’s training this spring, Jean shared a story of one of their regular clients who got catcalled one day by someone, and who had become so comfortable saying “no thank you” in group cuddles that she just automatically responded “no thank you” and went about her day. It was only later she realized that she had rewired her brain to be comfortable saying no to people, and expecting that no to be respected. Her comfort telling people no had disarmed this strangers creepy behavior for her in this situation.

As we practice doing the vulnerable things, they become less scary. As we become less scared of expressing our boundaries, we find more ease in our daily lives. This is something my clients report to me as a result of their sessions. If you’re curious to see if that would work for you, come check out my services in either the one on one or group sessions.

The Challenge of Clarity

It’s happened again.

I’m now up to seven inquiries in a row on Cuddle Comfort profile who have stopped talking to me when I shared a link to my client agreement and asked them to review it to make sure the session sounded like a good fit for them.

The first time this happened, the person was kind enough to respond to my follow-up inquiry about what had changed. “Your agreement is too constricting,” they told me. “I’m very affectionate and if there’s mutual chemistry, an agreement would limit us from anything further.”

They understood my agreement correctly. It’s in place to be clear that, when I do this work, it’s not a gateway to “anything further.” Even if there’s chemistry. Even if they find me attractive. Even if I find them attractive, for what it’s worth. I treat this work the same way I treat my coaching work, which means keeping a therapeutic boundary in place is a necessary component of the work, and something I take seriously.

I’m really glad this individual (and all of these individuals) are clear enough about what they’re looking for from a professional cuddler to recognize that the service I’m offering isn’t a good match for those goals. I’m a little frustrated from a business perspective that my clarity seems to be scaring people off from my business.

The terms of my agreement aren’t more restrictive than average for the cuddle industry. The Cuddle Comfort site where these interactions are happening even includes terms of service that are very similar to my client agreement. Specifically, when you sign up on that site, it asks you to agree to these statements:

“You agree to never use this Website for the intent of meeting another member for sex. You also agree to never attempt to progress a meeting, organised via this website, to a sexual nature.

When communicating with another member, you agree to never indicate a desire to cuddle while doing any of the following: (1) being nude, (2) wearing only underwear, (3) kissing, (4) groping, (5) satisfying a fetish or kink, and (6) anything of a non-platonic nature.”

Why is clarity such a challenge in interpersonal relationships?

There are a variety of factors at play here, from our own expectations, to the desire to have a power position, to the allure of ambiguity.


Our expectations do not include clear words to define the parameters of a physical interaction. While culture is shifting, we’re still not past the idea that it’s ridiculous to talk about physical interaction before we engage in it. We have heard lots of people deride the very idea of asking before kissing someone. In families and communities where affection is less common and more private, we may have never seen someone ask for consent before initiating physical interaction.

When we see it in the movies or on TV, there very frequently isn’t conversation about what sort of interaction is going to happen. Also in the movies or on TV characters the scriptwriter knows (creates) the deepest desires of each individual, and is able to make sure things turn out the way they want. We grow up on stories where everything turns out okay, where the characters get to a happy ending without ever having a conversation, and we get the mistaken idea that works in real life.

Things we haven’t tried or seen modeled are foreign and often uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable for people when I answer clearly and without embarrassment questions like “what happens when I get aroused” because they’ve never talked openly about that, especially not to a stranger. The clarity of my communication is unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable


Being clear about what you want in any interaction is not only vulnerable, it can reduce the amount of traditional power you have in that negotiation. When you are haggling over the price of a car or a starting salary, you don’t want to be the person who says the number first. The power position is the one who says the number last because that person has the benefit of learning more about what the other party was thinking, and the opportunity to have more information before they commit to a position.

In clearly stating my boundaries, I’m signaling that I want a different power balance with my clients than they may be accustomed to. I’m not going to try and hide my agenda in the belief that will help me get more out of the interaction. I also mess with the power dynamic by not accepting tips or gifts from clients. I recently had an inquiring client who found me on Yelp stop talking to me shortly after I let him know I don’t accept tips. He wanted a multi-hour session, and after we’d scheduled he stated that he was very excited and that I would be happy because he would be a very good tipper. I replied “I don’t accept tips. I hope instead that my happy clients will schedule additional sessions” he stopped replying. He ultimately no-showed on the session. I won’t ever know if the shift in expected power dynamic was what threw him, but it’s my hunch based on the way the conversation changed at that point..

The Allure of Ambiguity

Ambiguity is a communication strategy that allows the other party to create and maintain their own stories about how an interaction is going to go. This is extremely effective in a variety of business and interpersonal situations. It can provide flexibility and allow each party in the communication to do their own work in making sense of the interaction. There are books and articles on this strategy, lauding it as a way for organizations to avoid pigeonholing themselves in a changing world.

Ambiguity certainly has its appeal as a business strategy. There are lots of people doing this work who are ambiguous enough to draw in clients who want to preserve the possibility in their minds that sexual interaction isn’t completely off the table, even if it is. This might well be a smarter strategy than what I’m trying to do.

My Dubious Decision to Continue with Clarity

But I’m intentionally trying to do something different. I want Holding Space to be intentionally, unambiguously, and openly platonic. I want my clients to know up front that I am focused on the therapeutic benefits of platonic touch. I want my clients to know that they are paying me for emotional and nurturing labor, and I want them to value and serve the parts of themselves that need to be nurtured and cared for in that way.

Too much of our culture implies that value is tied to sex appeal (and so inherently to virility and the culture’s ideas about attractiveness.) We don’t make space for needing to manage our physical and emotional health. We don’t pay attention to what would help us to heal and feel whole. Clearly valuing the nurturing of my clients, rather than leaving open the possibility that the “real goal” is sexual is apparently kind of a buzz kill.

Which is sad, really, because cuddle buzz is nearly as good as yoga buzz in terms of having a beneficial, healing effect on the body.

I want Holding Space to be part of the effort to change those things, so I continue my dubious strategy of not accepting tips, and of requiring my clients to explicitly agree to my client agreement before we schedule a session. I understand that this thing where clients are interested until I’m clear about what I’m offering is going to keep happening. But it’s the only way I know to do this work in the way that speaks to me.

I wish I knew how to reach more clients, to create an environment where more people could have those experiences. If you’re looking to spend some time in the healing rest and digest state, I hope you’ll be able to overcome the challenges posed by clarity and give it a try anyway.

Is Holding Space Innovative?

Applications are open for the 2018 Indiana Innovation Awards, the only broad-based awards focused on Indiana.


Is presenting platonic touch openly as a service innovative?

Is talking about the effect platonic touch has on the nervous system, where it can not only calm anxiety and soothe depression but also improve cardiac health by reducing systemic inflation novel?

Is having an established commercial location for doing this work, rather than going into people’s homes, an innovation?

Is using touch as a workshop took to help people connect with themselves, and learn the skills required to navigate consent successfully innovative?

Is providing a technique for helping clients radically relax, or helping them re-wire their brain’s approach to touch new?

All of those are open questions. In addition, the nomination form asks for economic impact. Holding Space hasn’t created any jobs yet, even the founder is just working part time at it. And the annual revenue numbers aren’t impressive.

I didn’t invent any of these things. I’m not even the first person to bring them to the state. But I am the first person to run touch-based consent education at GenCon. Is that enough to count?


I’m going to submit an application anyway.

I suspect they’ll laugh at me. But they’ll know I exist. Maybe they’ll fight me. But that’s a step in the process too.

Summer of Snuggles

Part of the reason I started Holding Space was to help normalize platonic touch in our culture. This summer, I’m doing this by handing out hugs at various public venues. Find me at the Fishers Summer Concerts on Tuesday evenings or Wednesday lunchtimes, or at the Carmel Summer Family Concert Series at the Gazebo on Wednesday nights. I’ll also be showing up at some other local festivals (like the Strawberry Festival on the circle yesterday, or Monumental Yoga next week).

Two public hug sessions in, I’m not over my nervousness about handing out public hugs, but I am more convinced than ever that it’s an important part of what I’m trying to accomplish with Holding Space. Professional cuddling doesn’t work in a culture that doesn’t have a comfortable relationship with platonic touch – and our culture is a little shaky on that ideal.

Friends have warned me to “stay safe” when I go out to give hugs, and that’s not entirely unreasonable. It’s not entirely reasonable, either, though. The venues I’ve chosen are in very safe parts of town (each of the concert venues I’m going to is no farther than across the parking lot from the local police station, and the festivals on Monument Circle also have a pretty strong police presence.)

Some of the people that encounter me are gonna laugh at me. That’s already happened. I’m not gonna say that’s my favorite part, but it doesn’t make me feel unsafe. Someone yesterday asked me if I offered more than hugs, which was creepy and unpleasant, but mostly made me sad for the guy who asked. I believe I’ll have the same reaction if someone gooses me –  It hasn’t happened yet, but if it does it’ll be creepy and gross and will also give me an opportunity to ask what makes him think that’s a reasonable part of hugging a stranger. I promise to report back how I actually react when it happens – but I know it’ll be a growth opportunity for me and not something that damages me.

I’m actively looking for other opportunities to encounter people in public and offer them hugs. If you have ideas, comment here. Thanks for following along on my interesting journey!

Consent and Courtesy

The salesperson who just called tells me I need to advertise more, which may be true. But I’m not looking to spend money on that today, and I’m pretty sure their platform isn’t the right choice for my business. I explained that politely to the sales person. What he heard, apparently, was a series of objections he wanted to overcome so he could make his commission.

I stated my boundary clearly and politely, and gave the guy a chance to respond to my “this is not the right time for me, but I wish you good luck with your next call. Have a nice afternoon” with a “thank you, please call us when the time is right.”

Instead he decided to do what they teach you in sales training – work to overcome the objections. I’ve read enough sales training to know that a lot if it says never to take no for an answer. It says there is never a reason to accept a no from a potential client, and that if you’re good enough you’ll be able to get a “yes” from everybody.

Apparently, this guy was familiar with those ideas, and he just kept talking after I clearly told him I wasn’t interested. After just a couple of tries to wrap up the conversation, both of which he ignored, I ended the call in the middle of one of his sentences.

I felt a little rude doing that, to be honest.

And yet.

That feeling, that defending my boundaries was a little rude? It’s dangerous. It’s how we end up doing too much, spending too much, sacrificing our sanity and safety in the name of being “nice.”

But what if instead of being nice, we decided to be kind (to ourselves as well as to other people). What if we worked from the assumption that we know what we want better than anybody else does? What if we extended that idea to everybody and assumed each person knows best what they want? What it we stopped feeling like our primary purpose in life was to make other people comfortable?

What if we looked for the ways our boundaries helped the people around us. Nothing this sales person said was going to change my mind about spending money to advertise – especially not with a company who claims they are part of Google (they’re not) and can make me the #1 search result in my area (that’s not how that works.) I don’t have to be mad at the person who called me, after all, they’re simply doing a job and trying to make a living. But I’m also not obligated to waste my time (and theirs)  because I’m not willing to just hang up the phone.

As a business owner, I read a lot of advice about how to market things- and a decent amount of that advice goes against my principles as a consent-based business. I don’t want to be pushy. I don’t want to sell my services to someone who’s really looking for a different type of service. I don’t want to trick anybody into trying what I have to offer because they might like it. That’s not the type of business I want to run. You’re not going to find an invasive pop-up on my website, because I believe that people who want to sign up for my newsletter can find the sign up themselves (it’s shown prominently on the first page, after all.) You’re not going to find me glossing over the “this is definitely platonic” part of my screening call – I want people to be clear about what I offer before they fork over their money.

What you are going to see is me showing up places and sharing what I do. Sharing the benefits of platonic touch with people. Offering free hugs. Offering pay-what-feels-good-to-you community events. I am going to insist on marketing my business in a way that feels authentic and respects other people’s right to make informed choices about whether they want to do business with me or not.

It’s not your typical business model, and it might not work. But it does reflect the sort of world I want and believe we can create.

Are you looking for the same sort of world, but worry that you don’t have the skills to help create it? I specialize in helping people to develop those skills; identifying where their own boundaries are and communicating those boundaries to others. That work can happen in a coaching environment where we never touch, or in a cuddling environment where we can use touch as a workshop took to help develop these skills. Interested in learning more? Book a session today!