Just Hold Me
Do real men like to cuddle?
By Dave Johns
Posted, Slate.com; Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, at 6:57 AM ET
The first signs came early.
Most infants can’t do much, and I was no exception, according to grown-ups who were present at the time. But there was one area in which I dominated at a very young age: I was a crackerjack cuddler. Given a supple shoulder or a warm lap, I showed all of the necessary skills—the burbles, the sighs, the tiny hand-grabs, the determination to get cozy for hours on end. I snuggled all comers. I drooled in their faces.
And I had a strong will to cuddle. When I got my first big-boy bed, I devised a successful strategy of running around the house at bedtime until I was furnished with a parental snuggle partner. Later, I enlisted my little brother: If there was He-Man to be watched, it was easy enough to convince him to serve as a pillow. (I still find him useful in this respect.)
By the time I started cuddling regularly with girlfriends, in college and thereafter, it was clear I possessed an outsize appetite for sedentary touch. While some of my partners found my cuddliness endearing, it caused problems too: Showers started later and appointments were blown. For some of my associates, morning productivity declined—or so they said—and the narcotic properties of my skin were blamed.
This was nonsense on its face; it takes two to snuggle up. Besides, I viewed cuddling as a productive activity in and of itself, like going to the gym or scrubbing the toilet bowl. A snuggle a day might keep the doctor away.
Yet even as I defended myself, I also harbored insecurities about my tactile needs—doubts that have never gone away. I will confess that a great canoodling session is not the apex of human achievement. No doubt the architects of the Roman Aqueduct were not snuggle-maniacs. If the building of civilization had been left in the hands of unreconstructed cuddlers, the project might have suffered delays.
More vexing than the laziness question, however, is a fractured feeling I sense deep in my cuddly heart. For me, the urge to cuddle is Janus-faced: At times I can play the snuggler-protector—the father figure who enfolds, defends and marches into the future; yet my default setting, if I am being honest, is the cuddle-receiver—an infantile and insecure sensory insufficiency from the distant past. The crux of the problem is this: I want to be held, and it is an awful, wussy feeling.
Oh, Lord! Why must I cuddle so?