Normally when you think of snuggling an image of a child with a stuffed animal comes to mind, but there’s a very different form of snuggling going on in Central Pennsylvania and throughout the North East thanks to Evan Carp.
“I truly saw the value of being around somebody, because I literally went out once a month and that was to go to a doctor. I just had no human contact whatsoever” said Carp.
Carp suffers from a disease that causes severe pain in his hands and feet. It led to isolation and for 6 years he barely came out of his basement. “I didn’t want to stay depressed and doing absolutely nothing with my life” said Carp.
That was around eight months ago, about the same time he found out about professional snugglers online. “I was reading about similar businesses that do this and there wasn’t any in my area or even close so my idea was to start one” said Carp.
That idea was The Snuggle Buddies. He started with 4 employees, both men and women, but quickly discovered that the clients were nearly all men seeking women. “A lot of people think that it’s an undercover escort service and we provide something more than cuddling” said Carp.
He said he spends a lot of time having to turn down men who want more than just cuddling, but there are plenty of people willing to pay the $60 dollars per hour just for a snuggle. Now he has 30 employees working for him including Kariann Exley.
“I had somebody that was really interested in my feet. I went with it because it didn’t break any of my boundaries” said Exley. She said typical clients include widowers and lonely businessmen. Some clients just want to talk. For example Orthodox Jews, for whom physical touch with the opposite sex is usually only allowed with one’s spouse or close family member.
Exley said awkward moments are a hazard of the job because the cuddling can make some of her male clients physically excited. “It’s just human instinct. It just happens it’s biological. And I don’t make a big deal out of it as long as they don’t. They can either step out and take a moment to readjust or we just pretend it’s not there and eventually it goes away” said Exley.
July Swope has been a licensed psychologist for more than 3 decades and said snuggling can change the brain. “It increases the endorphins and endorphins are the substances that help us feel good, so we get a jolt, we get a glow, we get a smile” said Swope.
FOX43’s Eames Yates decided to give it a try. He was nervous and his heart was pounding when it began, but by the end he felt calm and relaxed, which Exley said was the desired effect.
Carp is glad that The Snuggle Buddies has taken off, because it means more money in his pocket. Since he started his business he’s gotten married and escaped the crippling effects of depression, which makes no one happier than his mother, Susan Geller. “He used to be really shy. He’s come out of his shell because of the business. He’s good at this. He’s developed the gift of gab which I really didn’t know he had” said Geller.
Kariann and the rest of the professional snugglers, as well as the hundreds of clients they serve, are also grateful that finally Carp has come out of his shell.