By Alex Dixon The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.
You lie down, wrapping your arms around the other person while drifting off to sleep or chatting.
While this may seem like a familiar scene to most, what's unusual is that the other person is a stranger and you've paid them to embrace you.
It's called professional cuddling and it's growing in popularity across the country. And soon, Durham will have a facility for it, called Cuddle Time For You.
"I've had friends that have been through bad breakups and....and they're just lost, but they don't want to jump into a relationship," said Jeff Everson, owner of Cuddle Time For You. "So, I even had a friend who was like 'I wonder if I can get someone to come home and just sleep next to me.' And that's kind of what spurred this -- there is a need for this out there."
And before you jump to romantic conclusions, the services are strictly platonic, and Everson said he takes a number of measures to keep it that way.
The "cuddlers" are trained on approved positions and video cameras, without audio, are set up in each room. Customers must also sign a waiver, which outlines the appropriate dress and behavior.
"Everything is above the covers," Everson said. "To keep it legitimate, it's got to be standardized."
Even so, Everson said he has already gotten a few requests that will prompt him to potentially screen customers via email or phone before they can make appointments.
"I had one weirdo, and I'll call him a weirdo because he was a weirdo, email me and ask if he can do this in his underwear. And I'm like 'no, you have to be clothed,' he said. "The minimum is a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. You can't come in here in your underwear and no shirt. It's not that kind of business."
But for those who do seek the service sincerely, like Kate Brown, cuddling and talking with the person can provide a way to clear the mind and relax after stressful days.
"I don't have time for relationships and I don't want one. Relationships are too much stress, but I still like that feeling of comfort," Brown, 31, said. "That comfort that the cuddler will provide for an hour will mean tons."
Brown, who works as a marketing manager in Apex, said she is recently divorced and has an extremely busy schedule. She said spending time with the cuddler will allow her to decompress after busy days.
Everson said with the universities in the area, he also plans to ramp up services and marketing during final exams.
"I had a kid in December from (N.C. State University) begging me to get (an appointment), because it was finals week and he was stressed to the gills," he said. "And he goes 'this would calm me down and relax me to get through (it).'"
Everson said he has received a lot of interest since he began to plan the business in November.
He's had more than 100 people apply to be a cuddler, a position that pays $20 per hour, and has narrowed that down to five employees.
The five cuddlers he's hired, two men and three women, are comfortable cuddling with both males and females, Everson said.
Everson said that about 80 percent of the potential customers interested so far are male.
The idea for the business came from a woman in Portland who began offering cuddling services out of her home, Everson said, and he's modeled it after that business along with several of his own tweaks, like operating the business out of a commercial location.
The business will open Feb. 23 at 1415 W. NC 54 Suite 215.
"I looked at the demographics of Portland and I looked at the demographics of this area, and we blow Portland away when it comes to population, universities all that other kind of stuff," he said. "I thought, 'what a great opportunity.'"