The Cuddle Party was not only an opportunity for physical contact, but also a chance to practice being a person.
Suz, the leader, made it clear that our real goal should be to experiment and experience negotiating connections.
I will say, everyone seemed eminently cuddleable.
Not everyone was interested in serious cuddling, though; a few people were quite wary. This is okay and part of the process, Suz said. It’s about learning to set boundaries and say no as well as to be open. This is great practice, especially for women who’ve been taught to be compliant or to take care of others.
I found myself at first wanting to jump up and approach people who seemed to not have settled in, like a good hostess. I also wanted to make sure Mike was comfortable. Instead, I just lay there in the heap. And gee, everyone worked things out without my help.
I ended up being rather passive and letting people come to me. Cuddling felt good but, except for one intense encounter, not mind-blowing. I connected with people on a physical level, exchanging comforting animal warmth, without associating other emotions with it.
This represents, in my mind, a sign of my emotional growth
and health. In my younger, touch- and connection-deprived days, any warm
interaction would flood my body with inappropriate amounts of oxytocin, making
me long for that person to be my true love or best friend.
The oxytocin definitely was flowing for me at the cuddle party. In the last half hour, I felt extremely energized. Didn’t want to cuddle any more, I wanted to run around the block a few times.
Interestingly, all this cuddling with strangers made me feel more connected to Mike, my partner. I thought this was odd, but it makes sense when you consider how oxytocin forms bonds in monogamous species.
Oxytocin is released not only in cuddling but also -- especially -- during orgasm. In monogamous species, the reward center of the brain is loaded with oxytocin receptors. Oxytocin also enhances social memory, so the brain associates the intense pleasure of orgasm with the sex partner, making him or her truly a Significant Other.
Every time they touch, the bond deepens as permanent changes take place in the brain.
And I think it works both ways: My body associates oxytocin release with Mike, so any release reminds me of him. Nice!