Getting Cuffed

by Niya Doyle

photography courtesy of Pexels

As the world gets colder, we often start to seek some additional comfort to escape the hostility of it all. The idea of a nice, warm body to lie next to suddenly seems extremely appealing. It’s cuffing season: supposedly a prime time for you to start something new in your love life.

However, once you “cuff” yourself to someone for these next few months, is it a start of a potential, budding, long-term relationship? Or have you, like the other many naïve, lonely singles looking for love, been played into what is just an extension of the prevailing hookup culture on college campuses?

The chilliness of cuffing season—unlike those breezy, frivolous summer months through which ‘flings’ emerge—often forces you to stay at home or leaves you too unmotivated to do much at all other than commute between the abode and work or school. So, you stay wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa watching Netflix instead of being out and about enjoying the fall and winter weather.

Then it dawns on you: why do all of this alone when you can have the company of another? The fabled tale of a classic holiday romance may sound cheesy, but it’s better than the alternative you see with a quick glance around your messy living room. Before you know it, as you’re looking for a distraction, you find yourself swiping aimlessly on Tinder.

The way in which dating apps have tapped into our innately human need to feel less lonely is striking but also unprecedented. According to a study by Slice Intelligence, the number of users who pay to use the app increased by 71% in 2016 alone.

The logic seems pretty simple—you’re never more than a couple swipes away from someone new. Moreover, if the person you’re talking to doesn’t check off the list of all the desirable traits you’re looking for, just move along and browse the hundreds of matches for someone who does; why waste your time on one person when you have others to choose from? And if one date doesn’t go phenomenally, the experience in itself may be worth the exploration (given that it’s not a disaster).

At what point, though, does having too much choice ruin the entire “dating” part of a relationship? On these apps, you’re picking people solely based on appearances and a surface-level understanding of who they are, rather than considering things like their personality, similar interests and career choices. This creates a shallow dating atmosphere, where one can become extra fussy and pass on people they feel skeptical about for the next better-looking person instead of getting to know any one person particularly well.

While staying cooped inside with a significant other, sex inevitably becomes part of the equation. This is where cuffing season usually becomes toxic. Some are quick to resort to the bait-and-switch once spring hits, even if things started out under the pretense of a relationship. This distortion of one’s intentions also plays into what many would view merely as sex positivity. The constant pressure from society to lose your virginity and/or to have as much sex as possible makes cuffing season a breeding ground for the one-dimensional “no strings attached” relationships.

The whole point of hooking up with someone is purely for sexual pleasure, not for physical or emotional comfort. Cuffing season becomes an extension of hookup culture, in that it blurs these lines, where the intentions become unclear. Is your new companion there just to feed your sexual appetite or do you want to actually spend down time with them?

To “cuff” someone is to settle down; to be tied to a person for a longer period of time. Cuffing someone is inescapable, and while it is obviously possible to leave any dignified relationship, to leave one that you both have spent a lot of time and investment on means to leave something behind.

Of course, real relationships can come out of this, but with the strong current of “no strings attached” and more and more people not wanting commitment, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something resembling anything like a relationship. The two are nearly polar opposites; one promotes closeness through emotional and physical bonds while the other is purely somatic. Mixing up the two is sure to cause unwanted outcomes.

Cuffing season ultimately depends on the interpretation of the individual. Whether you’re ready for long-term commitment or not, you should always be mindful of your partner's feelings and communicate clearly and frequently. No matter if it’s a long-term relationship or a one-night-only type of deal, communication is always needed to make sure both parties come out okay and understanding of each other. If you’re trying to cuff a partner now for the rest of the year, make sure you’re clear with your intentions so no one’s heading into the new year with a broken heart.