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Sunday, September 05, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Cuddling and the self-taught sex coach

By Libby Copeland
The Washington Post

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WASHINGTON — "I get now what my life's been leading up to," Reid Mihalko says. "We all want touch in our lives, but nobody's telling each other."

Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski are the organizers behind the cuddle party, which originated in Manhattan.

Mihalko's journey toward his destiny has been uneven. At 36, he has held just about every job. He grew up in Pelham, N.H. At Brown University, he studied fine arts and did comic-book illustration and played football. He studied karate and massage. He moved to New York and played an evil henchman and an evil nurse on soap operas. He became a minister on the Internet through the Universal Life Church. He spent 2-1/2 years taking courses at Landmark Education, an outgrowth of a '70s movement.

For 14 years he has also been working as a bartender. After talking to many customers about their relationships, he says, he decided to become a sex and romance coach. Although he has no degrees or official training, he has read a lot and "had a lot of conversations with experts."

He has written several romantic comedy screenplays and sitcoms, none of which has sold, and an as-yet unpublished "humorous how-to book for men on oral sex."

He met Baczynski at a party.

"Our first conversation was like, 'Oh, you're a sex educator? I'm a sex educator!' " Baczynski says.

Now 26, Baczynski studied public relations and women's issues at the University of Georgia. According to her online biographies, she has been involved with AIDS groups and women's sexuality forums, and is a "registered Barbara Sher success team leader."

In February, after throwing some massage parties, Mihalko came up with the idea for a cuddle party. He invited Baczynski, who offered to join forces. These days, the business is about breaking even, Mihalko says, and he pays his bills bartending and working as a romance coach.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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