It is with not a little trepidation that I must report on “cuffing season”: the time of year when temperatures and Vitamin D levels dip, inspiring humans to attach themselves to each other like mollusks so they don’t have to spend winter months alone, sipping hot cocoa in a snuggie.
We’re supposed to be well into the season by now, cuffed to someone whom we can sext over Thanksgiving dinner and bring home by Christmas. But this year’s unpredictable weather—summery temperatures one day and bone-chilling cold the next—has upended cuffing season schedules. Cuffing needs a good stretch of a not-too-hot, not-too-cold autumn for dating to occur. It also needs fewer dark news stories of sexual exploitation, abuse, and prominent men masturbating in front of women.
Indeed, 2017 is not serving ideal conditions for some light, flirty cuffing.
Cuffing—in case you are deliriously happy in a relationship or single and not aware of social fads waiting to be monetized by advertisers—is a time when singles couple up, apparently spurred by the onset of winter.
It is, for its believers, Mother Nature’s way of beseeching us to couple up for body warmth and reproductive purposes.
Put simply, it’s too damn cold and dark to go out and socialize at the height of winter, so you best revamp your Tinder profile and cuff or be cuffed—unless you want to be single for half the year.
Eventbrite has advertised countless cuffing season-themed parties and mixers this year, from a creepy sounding “Cuffing Season ‘Teen Party’” to a bizarre “Cuffing Season Yacht Edition.”
“People are just much less social in fall and winter, so you want to lock someone down before,” said 24-year-old Samantha Leach, who lives in New York City and works at a women’s magazine.
Leach and her friends “talk about cuffing ALL THE TIME,” she said in an email, noting that they spruce up their dating app profiles “once summer ends and you’re not drunk and meeting people on some rooftop somewhere. It’s a hundred times easier to get some in the summer.”
You know cuffing season has begun when the trees shed their leaves and pumpkin spice lattes invade Starbucks, according to a 2015 New York Times story that identified cuffing season as a mainstream phenomenon.
You also know cuffing season has begun when Vogue starts urging readers who don’t want to take part in cuffing season to stock up on salt lamps and thermal socks instead.
“Women who are independent and don’t want a relationship or lack thereof to define their life narrative have given up on that bullshit,” said 25-year-old Kylie Bichsel, who works in fashion. For her, cuffing is “not worth the misery.”
Indeed, there are plenty of good reasons to skip out on cuffing season this year—one of them being the schizophrenic weather this fall. A 25-year-old colleague said she’s been “tryna cuff me a man” for more than a month now, but unpredictable temperatures haven’t been conducive to cuffing.
“Our first date was a lovely fall dinner at the end of September when the chilly weather was just getting good,” she told me. They spent their next date “looking at fall leaves” and cozying up to each other on the roof of his Brooklyn apartment. He even lent her one of his sweaters.
“It was all very Taylor Swift,” she said, “but then it got hot again.”
But one man who launched a dating website based on the concept of cuffing said cuffing season doesn’t necessarily depend on weather patterns.
“Cuffing season is any period when you feel tired of being alone but don’t necessarily want to be in a relationship,” said 46-year-old Madd Poets (his pen name), a licensed roofing contractor in Florida who recently launched his cuffing season dating site last year.
Cuffing is “based on the five love languages,” he said. “Do you want to be cuffed by someone who shows you they love you? Tells you they love you? Spends quality time with you? Or do you just want physical touch? Or gifts?”
Still, he acknowledged that cuffing season is “heavy in September and consistent until February, when it dies off.” In other words, just in time for Valentine’s Day and a whole other set of coupling neuroses.