Durham, N.C. — When I first heard about Cuddle Time for You in Durham, I thought the idea was a little odd. Cuddling with a stranger on a bed in an office park...seemed more awkward than comforting.
But then I visited the Durham company.
Owner Jeff Everson got the idea for Cuddle Time for You after hearing about a similar company in Oregon. He was attracted to the therapeutic aspect of it, saying he knew friends who had gone through a loss, divorce or break-up that could have benefited from this kind of service.
Nearly 500 people applied to be professional cuddlers, Everson said. He focused on finding people with backgrounds in psychology, massage therapy and related fields.
Professional cuddler Jennifer, who would not share her last name, said the experience is about taking a few minutes for yourself and relaxing.
"It's just a cuddle," she said.
Everson said despite what some people may think, the business is about cuddling and nothing more. High-definition cameras are in each of the therapy rooms, so Everson can monitor the sessions. There isn't sound, but he says he glances at the monitors from time to time just to make sure customers are following the rules - which include staying above the sheets on each bed and wearing at least two layers of clothing.
Customers seeking more will be blacklisted and prosecuted, Everson said. So far, he has only had to blacklist a few potential customers who called seeking out a little more than cuddling.
Since opening in February, Everson said there have been many customers - some repeat visitors. He said some customers have even been referred from therapists.
Cuddlers work part-time and are paid $20 an hour, plus tips.
There are several approved cuddle positions, including the classic spoon, the luxury lounge (where the customer's head is resting on a pillow on the cuddler's lap) and the huggle (a cradle from behind kinda position).
Sessions last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and you can even pay to watch a movie with your cuddler - no porn or horror movies though. Everson will even supply the snacks.
The experience is all about the therapeutic aspect of being cuddled and talking, Everson said.
What was it like getting cuddled for this story?
At first, a little awkward. The office park it is located in is near a yoga studio and next door to an vacant dentist office. The rooms were a little too much like a hotel - and definitely smelled a little Febreezy to me. The environment could definitely use some "spa-like decor."
Jennifer was awesome. She couldn't have been nicer and more calming. We chatted and she nearly put me to sleep while rubbing my back during the luxury lounge.
WRAL photographer Randy Mews shot the video package to go along with this post. It was hard not to laugh during the shoot because it seemed so odd to me to have a camera in my face while I was being cuddled by a stranger.
The news camera definitely made it more awkward, but otherwise the experience was relaxing.
Would I do it again?
Probably not. I really only like cuddling with my husband at home. But I can definitely see the therapeutic aspects of it. Just having someone to talk to and give you a hug is sometimes all you need to feel connected to the world again - especially after a break-up or loss.