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  • Writer's pictureDrew Dotson

Cuddle parties and self-care

Have you ever heard of a Cuddle Party?

I’m not referring to my status when I’m on the couch in a pile of beagles. Instead, I’m talking about a capital-C Cuddle, capital-P Party, which is a term I recently learned while reading Melissa Febos’s book, Girlhood. Cuddle Parties were created to “promote and enable empowered consent, choice and nurturing touch.”

I’ve never attended a Cuddle Party, nor am I trying to recruit you for one. But while reading about Febos’s experience at a Cuddle Party, I learned something valuable that I aspire to incorporate into my life.

At the start of a Cuddle Party, the facilitators explain the rules to the attendees. One rule is that you must make specific requests and receive a verbal yes before touching another person. That’s not the part that got me, though. In the book, Febos explains that, if a person answers no to your invitation to spoon, for example, you’re instructed to respond, “Thank you for taking care of yourself.”

There’s no need to be offended and no reason to make someone feel guilty. Nobody should ask for an explanation. Just accept the no, and trust that the person is doing what’s best for them. End of story.

Ever since I read this, I’ve thought about how beautiful that response is—how much compassion you demonstrate when you accept another person’s no without attempting to negotiate. If someone declines a lunch invitation, your response shouldn’t be, “Oh, c’mon you’ve got to eat,” or, “Don’t be lame.” There’s a reason they said no. Maybe the person is struggling with social anxiety. Maybe they’re on the verge of burnout. Maybe they’re dealing with serious diarrhea and don’t want to explain.

Imagine how appreciative they’d be if, instead, you responded, “No problem. We’ll find another time!”—i.e., “Thank you for taking care of yourself.”

I’d like to take it a step further, though. What if we showed ourselves the same compassion when we fall short of what we hoped to do? Maybe you only have the energy to run one of the errands on your list today. Maybe it’s been a long week and sleeping in seems more important than exercising before work. Those priority shifts shouldn’t be characterized as lazy.  

Sometimes taking care of yourself looks a lot like resting.


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