It's almost October and you know what that means -- happy cuffing season, everyone! We did some digging around to find out whether or not cuffing season is a real phenomenon, and here's what we found...
So what exactly is this "cuffing season"?
Urban Dictionary has a pretty accurate definition of the term:
During the fall and winter months people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves, along with the rest of the world, desiring to be "cuffed" or tied down by a serious relationship. The cold weather and prolonged indoor activity causes singles to become lonely and desperate to be cuffed.
In other words, cuffing season is that time of year when it's too cold to go out, it's too cold to meet new people, it's too cold to do anything but lounge in bed binge-watching Netflix -- and having a hottie to cuddle with just makes "Breaking Bad" even better.
"In the summertime, people are wearing less clothes and everyone's out and everyone's social ... It's a great time to meet as many people as possible," dating coach Tracey Steinberg told us. "When things get cold in November to March, everyone is in ten layers and most people don't want to be running around outside. So it's nice to have someone to snuggle [and] drink hot chocolate with."
Fabolous gets it in his song "Cuffin' Season": "Been naughty all year trying to end it nicely / Summer [girls] turning into winter wifeys."
Eh, I don't know about that. Is cuffing season really a thing that happens?
Thousands of years of evolution say yes!
"[Cuffing season] has happened in our evolutionary history every time the days get darker," said Dr. Wendy Walsh, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the psychology of love, sex and gender roles. "We're walking around in DNA that's hundred of thousands of years old. In our anthropological past, there was less food and resources [available], and hunter-gatherers' survival happened better if you were in a pack, if you were coupled up ... [This] increased survival of any offspring that came out of it."
Think back to your high school science class. Remember learning about Charles Darwin's classic "survival of the fittest" theory? According to Darwin, individuals with maladaptive behaviors -- like walking around alone in the dead of winter -- were less likely to survive the cold and have kids, so their genes didn't pass on to the next generation. Meanwhile, people who coupled up in the winter had better survival rates and, as a result, had more babies than single people did. Over time, all humans evolved to couple up in the winter because it was a behavior that ensured the species' continued survival and successful reproduction in future generations.
I'm still not so sure about this...
There's plenty of data that roughly correlate with cuffing season. Dr. Walsh told us that most babies are born in July and August, which means that these couples are getting their groove on during the fall and winter. In 2013, December was the most popular month for getting engaged. And according to the online dating website Zoosk, New York City residents send 56% more messages and view 38% more profiles when it's snowing outside. None of these statistics definitively prove or disprove the existence of a cuffing season, of course, but they do suggest that the weather influences people's dating behavior.
It's not just Mother Nature, though. The social pressure to have an S.O. is at an all-time high in the winter. You're often expected to bring a date to holiday parties, and nobody wants to be that person with no one to kiss on New Year's. Maybe that's why January 2nd is Match.com's busiest day of the year -- in 2013 there was a whopping 55% increase in new members on that day alone. Similarly, there was also a 20% increase in new members during the week after Valentine's Day.
Peer pressure is rough, man.
OK, but when exactly is cuffing season?
There's no precise answer to this. Cuffing season is typically in full effect by the end of December -- probably because of those social pressures I just mentioned -- and goes until March-ish. The internet is home to many different cuffing season calendars, all with different cutoff dates. This one is particularly fun because it compares cuffing to sports:
But the truth is, there's no set start or end dates for cuffing season. A lot of it depends on the weather. If it's 80 degrees out on November 1st and everyone's still running around outside, there's not much motivation to stay indoors and snuggle.
But if cuffing season is so dependent on the weather, what happens in places where it doesn't snow?
Isadora Alman, a psychotherapist and sexologist based in California, hasn't heard of cuffing season in her work. She believes that the dating behavior of kids on the West Coast is dictated by their school calendar.
"Younger people, they're going to be regulated by the school calendar, which generally begins in September," Alman told us. "Even if [someone's recently] out of school, they still have the same schedule where September means new things. The cold nights wouldn't apply to us here on the west coast, but the school calendar mindset of course does."
So how do you find a cuffing partner? I'm asking for a friend, of course.
It's all about communication, guys.
"It's really important to always be honest about your intentions," Steinberg told us. "You don't want your cuffing partner to be under the impression that this is going somewhere seriously if you're not [thinking that way] because (1) It's not nice and (2) It's going to set you up for drama. Be open and let the other person know you're looking at this relationship as a temporary enjoyable relationship, not misleading them."
Alternatively, you can circulate a cuffing season application like the one below and hope someone responds:
Craigslist is also an option. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Well what happens when cuffing season is over?
"There's no easy easy way to get out of cuffing season," Mack Wilds told us in an interview last April. Watch him give his end-of-cuffing-season advice below:
I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
Dr. Walsh explained a common post-cuffing situation to us. "Because we are in a high supply sexual economy where there is an oversupply of successful young women and an undersupply of successful young men -- and women have a fertility window that men, frankly, don't -- you will see that women become more invested in their relationships and more focused on commitment than men," she said.
In other words, someone's bound to get attached and -- according to evolution -- it's gonna be the female.
Think about how reproduction worked back when we were all still cavemen and cavewomen. Males wanted to produce as many offspring as possible in order to increase the chance of their DNA carrying on to future generations. Females had the same ultimate goal, but they couldn't reproduce as quickly as males could thanks to that whole nine-months-of-pregnancy thing. Once a female finally gave birth, she needed that infant to survive -- otherwise, her genes wouldn't carry on to the next generation until she got pregnant again. Having a partner around to help raise the baby meant the child had a greater chance of surviving.
It's in a women's best evolutionary interests to find a mate who will stick around and care for his child. So to all the guys who whine about girls wanting more than just a hookup -- women evolved that way! They can't help it.
Similarly, some people can't help but get sucked into cuffing season. These individuals probably aren't specifically looking for a cuffing partner or a serious relationship -- it just happens when they're not thinking too hard about it.
"I think [cuffing season] is subconscious. I've never had anyone say to me, 'I want a cuffing relationship this winter,'" Steinberg told us. "I think you never really know how a relationship is going to evolve ... You can have whatever intentions you want, but the reality is you won't know what it's like to be a relationship with this person until you're in a relationship with them."
"I think any season is a season to find love and good sex if you're lucky enough to find it," Alman said.
Fabolous Talks About Cuffing Season