Gillian, 36, is a professional cuddler in Calgary, Atla. Gillian has asked her last name be excluded to maintain her personal privacy.

What happens in my sessions is it’s a real connection – it’s real, we’re real, we’re face to face, nobody can hide anywhere and I think that’s rare.

I get something out of that too, I get to be part of the experience the same way my client does. It’s a beautiful thing.

I was introduced to it about seven years ago when cuddle parties first came to Calgary … it’s a party where you cuddle, it’s facilitated so the first hour of the experience is going through the rules of cuddling and setting the stage for everybody to have a safe platonic experience, and the last two hours is an open experience of platonic cuddling. At the time I was single and I was really touch starved and I didn’t want to get into a relationship but I really needed to be touched and so I went there and just found what I needed. I was quite nervous but I relaxed quickly and I felt that it was a safe place and I was totally addicted to it after that.

A couple of years into that I had this idea come to me well what if I could offer this to people one on one? At the time I don’t think I was ready to step out and do that, I did place a couple of advertisements. I started to get some response and I got scared and I backed away, I just wasn’t prepared. All of last year it was on my mind, I kept coming back to it like “Gillian do it, do it,” so then finally I made a decision [in] February of this year that I was going to start.

Initially I was dipping my toe in because it’s a very unconventional business and I wasn’t sure what kind of response I would get. I feel I’ve learned how to read my clients and I’ve set up a website now so I’m all in. I have a client base and I love doing it so for now I’m building a business out of this.

“It’s the same as going out and booking a massage, [people] just need the nourishment,” — Gillian says.

My education is as a writer so I have a background in journalism. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit so I’ve been a freelance writer and I still do that. This is not a full-time income for me yet. I hope it to be and that’s what I’m building towards but at this point it’s still freelance writing and I enjoy that.

I have 10 clients now, so in a month I’ll have about ten sessions. The place where I’d like to see myself is 60 clients. A majority of my clients are repeat, I’ve got people that are coming once a month, every couple of weeks and once a week.

I have been so blessed that I’ve not had a bad experience with the way that I’m filtering my clients and connecting with them on the phone and I’m also really intuitive so that helps as well. I’ve connected with beautiful people but still they’re coming into the unknown and people are totally nervous, sometimes shaky and a little wound up. Often times I’ll start off the session by just having a hug, sometimes people will get a little teary eyed just because it feels so good and there is such a need.

My safety is number one — I always have to make sure that I am protecting myself and feeling good with what I’m doing so that I can keep going out and doing it. I have had one experience where I had to reiterate my boundaries with a client a couple of times and that fellow is not a client with me anymore. I wasn’t harmed or anything during that experience, but he just didn’t respect the lines.

Oh man, people come and they’re tense, they’re nervous, and they go away like they’re melted, they’re open, they’ve got sleepy eyes and a big smile on their face. It’s almost like you can come wrapped up in the day’s problems and you leave and it’s melted away. [In] one testimonial on my website, mycuddle.ca the client was really struggling with life, he had issues with his body breaking down and having trouble sleeping. He’s one of my regulars and his sleep has greatly improved, his outlook has improved and one thing he said which I thought ‘wow’ [was] he said cuddling with [me] may have saved his life, so that’s a pretty bold thing to say.

I’ll always write, but professionally…maybe. I might do an article here and there. It’s good stimulation for my brain. Actually, writing and cuddling are a good – and strange – combination. I’m single today but ready to get into a relationship. That will definitely be something to navigate in the future and I’ll have to choose a partner that’s OK with what I do for a living.

As told to Lexi Freehill. This interview has been edited and condensed.

lfreehill@cjournal.ca

Editor: Anna Junker | ajunker@cjournal.ca