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I’ve long resisted cuffing season—the unofficial period of coupling that begins with the first post-Labor Day chill and wraps up in the thaw of early spring. Urban Dictionary describes this ritual as when “cold weather and prolonged indoor activity causes singles to become lonely and desperate to be cuffed.” My therapist would refer to this as a coping mechanism. This year, amid constant chaos and government-mandated distance, I’ve have struggled to discern: Do I want a boyfriend or am I just cold?
It was a query I first posed last winter, while on a brisk walk with my roommate, each of us stuffing our hands into pockets and shielding our faces in scarves. While we immediately burst out laughing, it became clear that this wasn’t an isolated thought. That theory was confirmed whenever I pitched this story to a number of my friends and co-workers: Everyone inevitably felt attacked, as if I was calling out their particular methods of coping in the cold.
The inability to decipher whether we’re seeking a partner or a pashmina has only gotten stronger over a year of social distancing, existential doom, and too many nights rewatching When Harry Met Sally. I truly cannot make the distinction between wanting to spoon or be swaddled in a chunky sweater. When I rewatch Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal’s love story, I think, No wonder it took them the whole 90 minutes to finally end up together—they had plenty of layers to keep them warm at night!! Their leafy Central Park walks were non-distanced and they didn’t have to show negative COVID-19 test results to hook up in the heat of the moment!
In the warmer months, we proudly denounced underwires and real pants. We swiped through phases of quarantine like matches on Hinge—bread baking, then tie-dye, followed by Zoom cast reunions from that show you loved in 2003. But with the first sign of a chill and ongoing confusion about how to date safely, we’ve sobered up and realized none of those things filled the void like we’d hoped they would.
Inevitably, there’s a pang of regret—maybe I wouldn’t be padding around my apartment in a nap dress or Googling “Harry…