Are Tall Skinny Dudes the Best Cuddlers?
A few months ago, my friend was talking about tall, lanky white guys having a moment — think Pete Davidson (6'3") and Machine Gun Kelly (6'4"). Maybe Kim Kardashian and Megan Fox onto something, she mused.
I instantly thought about my ex-boyfriend from college who was 6'4" and very skinny. I don't always go for tall guys, but he was the most amazing cuddle I have ever had. (For reference, I'm 5'4", so the height difference was significant.) He would wrap himself around me like Gumby, all arms and legs, as we cuddled for hours watching the Evil Dead trilogy. He was the unicorn of cuddlers — we could spoon and his arm wouldn't fall asleep. I still think about him to this day.
Remembering our perfect fit, plus the sudden pop culture obsession with the MGK's of the world, made me wonder: Are tall, skinny dudes the best cuddlers?
In an attempt to prove this hypothesis, I began asking people about the best cuddle they've ever had, curious if beanpole men would be the common denominator. For Ilana LaGraff, a 26-year-old elementary school teacher living in L.A., it was indeed an MGK-like ex who earned the took the top spot in the cuddle rankings.
"I'm kind of a bigger girl and he was really tall and lanky," she says of her ex. "So I was actually really surprised when our bodies just fit so well together."
LaGraff and her ex cuddled constantly at the beginning of their relationship, even joking that they were addicted to each other. Then Covid put a temporary halt to the cuddles. "That absence of cuddling really took a toll on our relationship, actually," she adds. "And we were, like, going through withdrawal."
When Dani Smith, a 37-year-old community college instructor from L.A. wrote in a Facebook comment that their partner would "win the cuddle Olympics hands down," I needed to know more. Namely, was their partner tall??
"It's a very puzzle-piecey kind of experience," they explained of getting cozy with their partner. "You know how sometimes when you cuddle with people, it always feels like there's an extra limb that there's not a place for? Yeah, there's no extra limb."
Unfortunately for my hypothesis, Smith and their partner are about the same height — 5'4" and 5'5", respectively. Though, to some degree, opposite are still at play: Smith describes themselves as "wiry-slender," while their partner is "muscular and medium curvy."
"We just kind of end up pretzeling around each other in various ways where everything has a comfy spot," they tell me. "We both find the other one to be an equally brilliant cuddler — which, for me, I'm like, 'Well, I don't know how that works, because I'm a bony little shit.' And somehow I never end up shouldering them in the head or anything either."
Why Do We Crave Cuddles?
Dr. Lisa van Raalte, assistant professor at Sam Houston State University, conducted an experiment in 2017 on the effects of cuddling on long-term monogamous relationships. (For research purposes, cuddling is defined as "intimate, physical and loving contact that doesn't involve sexual behavior, but involves some degree of whole body touching.")
Van Raalte found that couples who cuddled more made their already good relationships even better: "They are not only happier, but they're less likely to think of other people. They don't want to go outside of the relationship to find satisfaction," she says.
Although the biological effects of cuddling haven't been empirically researched, affectionate physical touch provides a host of benefits, including higher oxytocin levels (the warm fuzzies), lower blood pressure, and reduced cortisol.
Jamila Dawson, LMFT, a sex and relationship therapist in California and co-author of the book With Pleasure: Managing Trauma Triggers for More Vibrant Sex and Relationships, believes that everyone needs physical touch, partnered or not.
"I cannot stress enough how important it is to sensually touch your body or be able to touch somebody else's body," she tells InStyle. Especially in times of trauma or stress (or a pandemic), physical touch reminds us that we are alive. "In some ways, we only know that we exist because we're being touched."
In my non-scientific experience, cuddling with a lanky human being means that there is a lot of surface area for close physical contact — it's like being wrapped up in another person, thus intensifying the positive biological effects of cuddling. Also, lanky guys are cold all the time and motivated to seek warmth, which means they have extensive cuddling experience.
But, alas, there is another element to the cuddling equation, which could explain the presence of average height outliers: chemistry.
The Cuddle Gods Giveth, the Cuddle Gods Taketh Away
As LaGraff and her boyfriend continued to date, they started to run into issues that cuddling could not transcend. When they finally broke up, she had a hard time going "cold turkey" and felt physically alone: "It's like I was dickmatized — except not by the dick — it was by his cuddling."
Thinking back on my ex, we did have really good chemistry, but I didn't know how to communicate my feelings with him. Truth is, I was terrified. The sheer vulnerability of physical and emotional affection — to be accepted and loved just as I was — made me want to run for the fucking hills. I broke up with him right before the two month mark.
LaGraff later wrote in a Facebook comment, "If only cuddles were the only thing that made relationships work!"
Turns out, based on my extensive research, tall, skinny guys are not necessarily the best cuddlers. The best cuddle partner makes you feel safe and secure, like a warm, fuzzy blanket. But emotional compatibility, open communication, and genuine affection are more important than any physical attributes.
As for Pete Davidson and Machine Gun Kelly — Kim Kardashian and Megan Fox must love them for their scintillating personalities or chaos goblin line cook energy.
I hate to say it but — it's not just about the cuddles.