About a week ago someone introduced me to the phrase "cuffing season." (Honestly, I've known of the concept for quite a while, but felt silly, like I'd been living under a rock, for not knowing the phrase itself—which is apparently popular enough to have plenty of memes and urban dictionary entries.) For anyone else who has been living under that rock with me, cuffing season is the time of year — you know, those fall/winter months when the temperature outside gets colder and the inside gets cozier — when all the single people suddenly rush to be in relationships. I get it, not only are you spending way more time inside this time of year, but the added holidays can make it seem like a much more lonely time to be single than the carefree, sunny days of summer. (Wait... if cuffing season is associated with colder weather, does that mean people living in warmer climates like Hawaii or LA don't experience it?)

As someone who has many years of experience being single, this whole thing has made me start to question: Do I subconsciously cuff during the fall/winter months?

I'll be the first to admit that being single during the holidays can be rough, particularly if you are newly single, or find yourself constantly having to answer questions about your love life (or lack there of), or end up stuck eating at the kids table, or are the person who always has to sleep on the couch instead of getting an actual bed and a room ("but it's only you..." they say as if being single means you don't deserve a bed or privacy). Nevertheless, I've never explicitly felt a need to be in a couple during the holidays. I have been in relationships during the holidays and had a great time, and I've been single during the holidays and had an equally great time. (I kind of really like being single at Christmas sometimes because it means that instead of hinting to someone and hoping they get me a gift I've had my eye on, I can spend the money I would have spent getting him a gift on myself instead. And I've never miss the mark. I'm fantastic at knowing exactly what I want to get myself.) But when I took a long hard look at my past dating habits, I did notice I happen to be more likely to be seeing someone, officially or casually, during the winter months.

Is this timing just a coincidence or have I unwittingly fallen into this trend to buddy-up with another human for those colder months? Let's look:

  • The very first time I was a single adult during fall/winter was just a few months after my breakup with the last guy I was in an actual relationship with, as I define relationship (you can read all about my views on this in a previous blog post). I actually had a great time being single that year. I had a solid group of friends to celebrate the holidays with and didn't really feel that alone. There was definitely no "cuffing" happening that year.

  • I had stayed super single until about the end of summer the following year. Around Halloween, I'd split with a guy whom I'd been having a fling with. Though we didn't consider ourselves together technically, we didn't really split those ties until after New Years. Perhaps a little bit of cuffing going on on both our ends.

  • Again, I found myself staying happily single that year through summer. I'd started casually seeing someone towards the end of that summer; dumped him for a guy I met at a Halloween party a week or so into November; had a fun, couple-y holiday season; and then split with that guy around Valentines Day. While the timing seems a bit "cuffing-ish," nothing about that "relationship" felt cuffing to me. It was simply happenstance that we met in fall and ran our course by February.

  • Once again, I stayed single until the end of summer. Unlike the previous years, I was super single again by the first week of December.

  • True to form, I remained single for the rest of winter and the following spring and summer. I kind of secretly started seeing someone a little before Christmas but we didn't officially or openly start seeing each other until February. (We later split towards the end of spring). That was the winter when I was living abroad so it would be hard to say if anything I did that fall/winter was in the vain of "cuffing" or just trying to build my social network so I wasn't so alone in a totally foreign place.

  • I'll admit the following fall and winter, I was "cuffing" hardcore. I'm talking, Tinder guy for my date to the office holiday party and a boyfriend stand-in for everything else that season. I never gave up my single status (in fact, I still haven't), but I definitely didn't let myself just enjoy being single that winter either. (I attribute this to trying to jump right into feeling normal living stateside instead of taking the time to really settle-in, reestablish myself, and just let reverse culture shock run its corse. I'd do it differently if I could turn back time, but no harm done regardless. I've spent pretty much an entire year since then doing a better job of normalizing and focusing on myself.)

Looking at the evidence, it's hard to argue that my pension for being single during the warmer months and couple-y during the cold months is completely unintentional; however, I may never have put 1 and 2 together and noticed a pattern developing in my life if I hadn't been writing this blog post. Truth be told, after avoiding dating for a while, I have actually just reopened myself up to the possibility of dating again for the first time in almost a year (and have indeed gone on more than one date with a guy, whom will remain nameless as to protect his right to privacy). My excuse for the timing this time is that I didn't want to be dating while on my recently-ended 100 Days Sober Project. I'm also just way more settled in my career than I've been in a while and for the first time in about 3 years, don't feel like I could end up leaving the country anytime soon. I guess the real test for if I'm influenced by the season will be if I break my 7-year streak. One of these days, I may actually find myself in a relationship (by my definition). You know, the type that survives the summer months.

For anyone unhappily facing singleton this fall and winter, I don't have any specific advice for having a fabulous solo holiday season. Except for maybe this:

Don't forget that inviting a friend as your plus one to a holiday party can be way more fun than bringing some rando off Tinder (no offense to any of the lovely people on dating apps). Buy yourself a holiday present. Have a movie marathon, bake cookies, and go all out on the holiday cheer (I actually send out Christmas cards every year that poke fun at my single-ness). I personally think it's important to find ways to enjoy the coziness of the season without relying on "cuffing." For me, being mindful of this pattern in my dating life while also making a list of things to look forward to in fall/winter that are totally enjoyable while solo is an important aspect of creating a mind set that is more conducive for making better decisions in my love life. But you do you boo.

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash