Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Where in the Standard Industrial Classification Manual?

The question I mean is where to put this new personal service industry that has arisen inevitably after COVID.  It's not prostitution after all; it's not massage.  Nor is it Qigong, the ancient Chinese art that uses hands at a short distance for healing.  The sentimentalists call it the "cuddling" profession, while the unsentimental bureaucrats call it "therapeutic entanglement."

You pay by the hour, for the privilege of lying on a bed with your therapist, entangled as you may wish, but often in the classic "spoon" position.  Pajamas are worn.  Quick testing virtually eliminates any possibility of spreading the disease.  Conversation is natural and generally of the sort that one might have with one's barber or hair stylist.   "How is your son's new job?" and so on.

Arousal is not permitted, rather strictly prohibited, but of course one's choices in therapist often reflect one's orientation and other physical standards of intimacy -- not just gender, but height, weight and age, often with the goal of ruling out certain sorts with respect to whom arousal will be all but guaranteed!  On the other hand, like a masseur or masseuse, the therapist has pledged, in effect, to accept all comers who come with the right spirit, regardless of body structure.  It is all, you might say, "antiseptic," anti-toxic.

And yet people sometimes reach such a level of rapport with their hair stylist that the relationship blossoms, reciprocally, and the wallet must be put away.  Thus the tradition or convention arose in therapeutic entanglement, over time, that once a year only, on Valentine's Day, the Big Ask may be articulated, in the form of one of those little pink hearts, laid on the counter after the February 14 session, carrying the words "Will you be my valentine?"  Many awkward aftermaths follow, and many professional relationships forever broken, but also sometimes love follows, in a social environment in which other paths from "here" to "there" have been blocked, semi-permanently and hopelessly.

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