Imagine: You recently meet someone and hit it off immediately. Before long, one date has become 10, and it hasn’t even been two weeks. This person is now first in line to all the other people you have loosely been dating or sexting or whatever it is you do with people you sort-of like. Time with them has usurped time on Tinder to the point where you now feel comfortable introducing them to friends.
Your friends like this person, too. Everyone is really happy for you. But slow down, they say. This person is amazing and all, but beware, because while it is spring in your heart, it is Cuffing Season outside. Your newfound homie-lover-friend may be into you now, but friends caution not to make any future plans with this person past Black History Month.
What was once just some millennial shorthand to describe a well-known pastime of dating behavior—our tendency to long for a relationship more as the air around us gets colder—has now become the pumpkin spice latte of dating mores. These days there are just as many guides written about how to succeed during Cuffing Season as there are on how to lose 20 pounds in three weeks. Bloomberg Businessweek casually made a reference to it in a story about two girls who wrote a Craigslist ad looking for “Fall Boyfriends.” Other major outlets have given Cuffing Season the full think piece treatment, replete with actual science.
Right about now, for those who are getting all the feels for someone new, there is at least one hater in your life who probably thinks you and the fresh-out-the-box boo should go get tested for CST (Cuffing Season Tendencies). Just listen, people are using the term in real-life conversations about dating without a hint of irony, like the person who goes to Starbucks and says, “I’ll take a grande PSL” with a straight face.
I know this because more than a few people dismissed the very strong feelings I had for a woman I showed interest in this time last year. At this point, I was a nine-year resident of New York City well-versed in the art of winter dating. To me, the cold months never meant a decrease in dating volume so much as they meant a change in dating activity. Just like my summer dating cycle, I would go out on two or three dates throughout the week, but instead of rooftop bars and outdoor concerts, it would be coffee shops and indoor concerts. Instead of a day at the beach making sand castles, it would be a day in Central Park making a snowman.
Dating was a year-round activity for me, and though I was more than open to the idea of slowing down, that had nothing to do with the forecast. I was single and I would act like it until I was given a reason not to. That was my mindset last year, as I made my way to a Halloween party (arguably opening night for Cuffing Season), thrown by a friend of mine. I had low expectations that I would meet anyone new. The feeling was a lot like what Joan Didion alluded to in “Goodbye to All That,” her essay about living in and leaving New York City: “I stopped believing in new faces.”
But then, this tall, gorgeous stranger walked into the living room. I maneuvered myself in a way that made it look like I got close to her by accident. I introduced myself and asked who she was dressed as.
“Guess,” she said.
I gave her a once-over, feigning interest in arriving at the right answer, but secretly used the opportunity to take her in. “Rambo?” I said. “
She was dressed as Major Lazer, the dancehall DJ, but really looked more like a Sin City version of Rambo.
She smiled and said, “Well, enjoy yourself,” then walked away to mingle with other guests.
As I made my way to another party that night, I used words like “special” and phrases like “the one” to describe her to friends, even though all I knew was her first name. Had my friends, a mix of men and women, been dismissive of my intentions on the grounds that I just met this woman I would not have put up a fight. But that wasn’t their reason. Rather, they thought this was all a ploy to get ready for the long winter that awaited us. “I’m just saying,” one friend said, “it’s cold tonight, it’s only going to get colder, which means Cuffing Season is here.”
In defense of everyone who thought this, aloud or otherwise, their feelings were not entirely baseless. I understood where they were coming from. A lot of guys—and not just the ones who memorize Drake lyrics—start reassessing relationships right around the time the temperature outside has us doing that whole jacket-on, jacket-off thing. They spend much of the summer stacking dates, but as soon as October hits they get serious, acting like some fantasy football owner, making spreadsheets with names of “prospects” until they’re down to one person they can be with before snow hits the streets.
I get it. Players get cold too, which is why by winter, even the most Marcus Graham-like bachelor is trying to live out every word to Dave Hollister’s “One Woman Man.” But any man who is letting the weather dictate their heart needs to chill out. One can make a long list of activities and things to do during winter—from drinking hot chocolate to spending time in the gym, getting ready for next summer, if that’s your thing. But dude, getting into a relationship or finding one girl, should not be on that list.
I am talking specifically to men not only because I am one myself but because Cuffing Season is primarily a single-guy mandate. Women may not need a storyline to care about their sports, but a lot of men need sports to help them put their dating life in context, hence why you see so many men posting memes about Cuffing Season drafts, while other guys are dishing out game on how to cut ties when the “season” ends.
Which brings me to “Cuffin’ Season,” the song released by Fabolous on his most recent mixtape, The Soul Tape 3. It came out last year on Christmas Day. Before Bobby Shmurda had everyone in New York City doing the Shmoney dance, Fabolous had most of Manhattan screaming the lyrics to “Cuffin’ Season.” Even if you weren’t at La Marina in the last six months, you probably heard someone yelling, “You was at La Marina all summer!”
Fabolous is one of those rappers preoccupied with “keeping it real” for his small, but loyal male fan base. It’s partly why he directs his ire on “Cuffin’ Season” toward women. But, Fabolous knows like I know, a lot of men get sucked into Cuffing Season too. If you listen closely, the song serves as a backhanded PSA for men to avoid the temptation of taking part in the yearly ritual, the only time certain guys feel it is acceptable for them to be in a relationship. And if you bothered to turn down the volume on the numerous cuffing season playlists you’ve been listening to, you would actually realize winter is a great time to be single.
Start with Thanksgiving dinner. No significant other means you don’t have to visit the family with a new person who may or may not be around the following year. When the gift-giving holidays hit, no boo means one less present you have to buy for someone else, and one more gift you can give yourself. Your free agent status also allows you the chance to be the defacto date for all the holiday company parties. New Year’s Eve can be spent getting drunk alone, getting drunk with friends, or kissing strangers. It can also be spent doing none of those things, but still, options are good.
Being single during the winter is the shit. And that’s not to say being in a relationship during the winter isn’t. A month after that Halloween party, the woman I raved about met me for our first date, which turned out to be my last first date. She’s now my girlfriend and we’re in the process of moving in together, which, to be clear, had absolutely, positively, nothing to do with Cuffing Season. Don’t let all this talk convince you that you need someone just because people are wearing Timberlands again. If you want to be in a relationship with someone now, be in a relationship. Fuck the weather.
[Illustration by Jim Cooke]