Free Love, 21st Century Style



Every Saturday, you can come to Union Square to get a free hug and advice on anything that’s bothering you. Photo: Stephanie Ott.

Sitting on folding chairs in the middle of Union Square on a Saturday afternoon, five people offered advice to New Yorkers for just a quarter. Along with advice on anything that people have on their minds, they also offer free hugs. Most of the time, people ask about love – “Is he the one?,” “Are we meant to be together?,” “Should I text first?”

According to Beryl Teitelbaum, a Hunter College psychology student and one of the advice-givers, people also asked about which stocks to invest in, friendship and jobs. Teitelbaum said the craziest thing anyone ever asked him was: “Is it OK to cheat on my fiancee the night before our wedding?” Teitelbaum’s advice was to think about what that meant about their relationship and whether this was really the person he wanted to spend his life with. While the advisers admit that they never know the right answer to peoples’ questions, they do offer a sympathetic ear. There’s no time limit – if you pay a quarter, you can talk about your question for as long as you want. On average, they earn $30 to $50 per day, some of it recently spent on new chairs for participants. Lucy van Pelt, a character in the comic strip “Peanuts” who offered advice from a booth for a nickel, was the inspiration for the project, which starts around 1 p.m. every Saturday.