Ali C is a handsome woman. She has a soothing voice, striking eyes and, I imagine, hair that smells like gardenias. She has an apartment in the Financial District, which is where she hosts her clients. But Ali C is not a prostitute, nor is she a masseuse or a dominatrix or any traditional career in which people "host clients" in their homes. She's a Professional Cuddler, and she claims to be the city's first.
Ali C (not her real name) is 47-years-old, and not particularly rotund, which does seem like it might afford a slight upper-hand in the pro-cuddle world, like height in basketball and prepubescence in women's gymnastics. Still, Ali C cut her cuddle teeth early on, she tells the Daily News, humble bragging about her innate, God-given cuddling skills despite (or, perhaps, because of) a lack of affection in her home growing up.
To Ali C, cuddling isn't associated with sex—it's a form of therapy. "Did you know that cuddling has been proven to lower blood pressure, lift serotonin levels, balance the nervous system and strengthen the immune system?" she writes on her website, CuddleUNYC.com.
Here we see Ali, clad in floral pajama pants and a light pink tank top, grinning somewhat maniacally as she plays little spoon to a mustachioed man dressed in his finest cuddle outfit: A beige thermal, Adidas workout pants and socks (they match!). He envelops Ali in his arms and grips her hand. She continues to smile toothily into the back of his hirsute paw, and they chat breezily about the Knicks season, probably. Just another day at the cuddle office.
Clients come to Ali C for many reasons—perhaps they're recently out of a relationship, perhaps they're just lonely, or perhaps they're still waiting for the patent to go through on their Girlfriend Pillow™. Sessions begin with a brief pre-cuddle discussion, in which Ali C lays her ground rules and allows clients to ask any questions they might have. ("Are we going to have sex? Are you sure? How about now?")
The answer to that one is, succinctly, no. "As far as I know, cuddling is legal," she says. "And if it weren't, that would be the crime."
On the topic of crimes, clients must, of course, sign a waiver, filled with the standard rules about keeping one's pants on and not attempting to subtly paw at Ali C's breasts. On her website, she asks that clients shower "close to appointment time," as well as brush their teeth and rinse with mouthwash immediately prior. ("If you've eaten or drank anything between brushing and your appointment, you'll need to brush again.") Ali C is accepting of sexual arousal, and promises "you will not be made to feel uncomfortable."
The standard cuddle package is $60 for 45 minutes, but more luxuriant indulgences are available. For $200, Ali C will treat clients to a Cuddle and a Movie, which are selected from a list of Films I Have On Hand. Each film on the list is designed specifically to keep romantic/sexual feelings on ice, except in the case of the Bourne Conspiracy, which is a video game, not a movie, and can therefore be anything. Somebody Up There Likes Me was a risky choice, as it's unclear whether Ali C charges extra for tear-staining her office/couch. There's also a $250 Holiday Cuddle, which includes "3 Hours of Cuddle time in front of a beautifully lit Christmas tree" and "Christmas Carols Playing" and/or "Holiday Movie."
She doesn't exactly own a TV yet, but says that if someone ever selects her movie package, she'd buy one.