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Alex Smyth

Swipe Left: Let’s reassess the chokehold ‘cuffing season’ has on us over the holidays

Not boo'd up? Who cares?! The holidays season is so much more than that.

15 Dec 2021

Welcome back to gal-dem’s monthly dating column ‘Swipe Left’, bringing you Shanice Dover’s latest musings on love, sex and relationships.

Winter is just a few weeks away and, as usual, is being ushered in with shorter days and colder evenings. The start of the new season has seen the re-emergence of some familiar trends – the heating goes on, the thick coats come out and according to the internet, cuffing season begins.  

Legend has it that cold weather is the catalyst for a hibernation-like instinct to kick in for the single among us, compelling us to find someone to hunker down with for the colder months. Our social media timelines are suddenly full of jokes and memes about shooting shots and unsuccessful attempts to find someone – but is it really that deep? And how does this widespread pressure to be coupled up really affect us?

As a nearly-30-something-year-old, I know that the pointed “are you still single” questions will creep up a few times over the next month. There are the awkward, not-so-subtle chats with my parents, asking hopefully if I’m seeing anyone yet (and barely hiding their concern when the answer is still no). Or the dread of occasionally stumbling across medical reminders of how fertility decreases significantly for birthing parents after 35. But worse still, is the act of comparison to friends and family. 

Our social media timelines are suddenly full of jokes and memes about shooting shots and unsuccessful attempts to find someone – but is it really that deep? “

I speak about it often with a close friend of mine who, prior to getting into a relationship, felt like her entire friendship group was busy being in long-term relationships. In that instance, it can feel like you’re the only single person left in the world, and even worse is the feeling of reckoning the shifts in our friendships when our friends have new partners. The pressure to be in a relationship then becomes layered, because not only do you want to experience a certain expectation or standard of a partnership, you also don’t want to be left behind as your friends start booking wedding venues. 

In our chats, I’d try to reassure my friend by reminding her that firstly, she wasn’t the only one left, because how could she be? She was literally speaking to me, another single person! And we both have a good chunk of single mutuals, too! Secondly, even if she was the last single person in her group, it’s not a marker of failure or unworthiness, it’s just something that can happen at any given time because life is random. Like most life experiences, as much as we can plan or envisage when or how something might happen, we can’t expect things to happen on a schedule that perfectly aligns with anyone else. 

I can’t lie – I sometimes have to remind myself of these things too. As much as I’ve spent the last few years moving away from the idea that adulthood has to look a certain way, every now and then, I have to bat away rising insecurities about not having done enough, or not being enough in certain areas – with relationships being one of them. Throughout history, society has created stifling definitions of womanhood and reinforced heteronormative ideals on us – so resisting all of this, especially when we’re with our family and friends, is an ongoing process. 

“We can’t expect things to happen on a schedule that perfectly aligns with anyone else”

So, how do I feel about spending another cuffing season uncuffed? 

Fine, honestly. Maybe it’s because the chaos of 2020 forced us to reassess the flawed ways many of us have been prioritising our lives, but dating suddenly feels way less urgent. I’ve still been pretty active in chatting to and meeting new people, but the stakes don’t seem so high. After a year spent at home and with the threat of uncertainty still looming over us, it’s just been nice to be out, chatting and flirting regardless of what comes next. 

Even before my pandemic induced-dating epiphany, the only season I’d be thinking about at this time of year was the festive one. The balancing act of being able to revel in extra time with friends and family while trying to squeeze in moments alone to unwind and reset for the New Year often keeps me busy (sometimes too busy) and content. 

It also helps to remember that the concept of ‘cuffing season’, like most things you see on social media, isn’t really a thing. While yes, some people will be quick to secure a more permanent fuck buddy the second the temperature drops, plenty of others go about their winters happily single or otherwise, as they do every other time of year. Perhaps one thing that we can take from the lore of cuffing season though, is the benefits of comfort and convenience – two small joys we have countless ways to tap into, regardless of our relationship status.