Just the other day a neighbor phoned my wife to report a fact that had my wife responding with a “Now I’ve heard everything.”  It’s a common expression and one I’ve heard many times.  Nevertheless, when I use it, as is true with my wife, we usually, most often, actually really mean it.

Here’s the connection:  The other day while reading an Oregon newspaper, I found myself using it again.  It was in reference to a story out of Portland about a “professional cuddler,” who for $60 will cuddle with another person for just under an hour’s time.  In reading the article, of course, I was compelled to comment, “Now I’ve heard everything.”

The article, by Shane Dixon Kavanaugh of The Oregonian, described a cuddling session he witnessed as beginning by the cuddler and cuddlee slipping their shoes off.  “Soon,” Cavanaugh reported, “their bodies tangled together.  Her fingers roamed her client’s shoulder, coming to rest in the thick of his hair.  His tattooed arm wrapped around her waist as jazz guitar riffs rippled through the room.  For the next 50 minutes, their eyes stayed shut, their clothes stayed on and neither uttered a word.”

We’re informed that Samantha Hess, the professional cuddler, is not alone.  Countless cuddlers, says Hess, have taken root in places like western New York state and Madison, Wisc.  However, Hess is Portland’s pioneering practitioner.

She will agree to see, she tells, men and women in movie theaters, parks, and even clients’ bedrooms.  She’ll wear glittery makeup, let her hair down, and wear T-shirts and capri pants…whatever enables her clients to feel more comfortable.

Touch is fundamentally important, argues Hess, and many of us don’t get enough of it.  So, she has staked her future on it.  She now has a website, a federal tax ID, and a business registered with the state of Oregon.  She had an attorney draft a client waiver where she will proceed with someone who must be clean and keep his clothes on.  No funny business is allowed.

Out of concern for her safety, Hess requires all potential clients to meet her first in a public place.  She also carries a nonlethal weapon to each session and she gives the name of each client, their address and the time of their appointment to a third party.

Obviously, there could be some wiggle room, if you will, that could occur during a cuddling session.  The reader may be able to fantasize developments that could take place under the circumstances, speculating as to whether waivers and pre-session interviews could cover all the risks.  Then there’s the arousal factor, a condition that conceivably, just might possibly happen when two healthy humans are so involved.

As for the legality of Hess in the practice of her profession, cuddling rubs rather close to Oregon’s definition of “sexual contact” under the state’s prostitution statute.  The definition includes any intimate part of a person that may arouse or gratify sexual desire.  A Portland Police Bureau spokesman has said that while it may not fit the legal definition of prostitution, the public, he speculates, may not see it that way.

Personally, I have no basis to question Hess when she says she is no prostitute.  Nevertheless, she admits that “her cuddling contributed to one marriage ending.”  Myself, I view cuddling as an at-home activity as I prefer to remain with the woman who’s my wife.  Meanwhile, should a professional cuddler hang her shingle out on North River Road, will this community respond with the same “ho-hum” with which Hess so far has been greeted in Portland?

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)