Cuffin season is a changing of the guard. It’s the moment when you say goodbye to all your sleek summer boos and start looking for a cuddle bear, somebody to fill your inbox with cashmere nudes and iMessage ellipses when you’re horny. Cuffin season is a fling in the form of shared winter hibernation.
I have no idea who came up with the term “cuffin season” exactly—likely, no one does—but whoever came up with the term was probably the first person to realize you can’t keep chasing sex in the snow, and that you’re not so stoked on spending tons of time inside with the same end-of-summer boo who tried holding hands, in public, on Labor Day.
Back when I was in school, the season was highlighted by the fall semester boyfriend: a declaration that your summer tan was the plug. You’d bag that kid with the fly sweaters who showed up on the first day of school with the shoe du jour, the one who you managed to sit next to in homeroom. It’s not that you didn’t like your summer boos—or the rigorous regimen of maintaining them—but maybe they were a neighborhood scoop, and now you both go to different schools, and you can’t be bothered to check up on them all day without guaranteed reward.
As an adult, however, cuffin season is an anxiety marathon. Many times you don’t get to choose the hottest counterpart, and instead have to spring for whatever is the most convenient. Your best-case scenario is that the cuff is someone you really want to build with, but mostly, they’re just a temporary emotional blanket for the cold temps—a prescription for seasonal sex disorder. The mad scramble of the season and uneven ratios of availability mean your participation in the cuff is a knee-jerk reaction rather than the calculated stunt it was back when. Worse, you have a longer attention span than you did when you were younger. It’s not as easy to accept a person as a limited time commitment you might have to get rid of come spring.
It’s unclear who came up with “cuffin season” officially. We know it wasn’t Fabolous in 2013, as a recent New York Times piece tried to claim; the rapper’s specific highlight was probably the result of the ever-growing popularity of the Cuffin Season Calendar, which dropped in 2011 thanks to Dennis Joseph of the now-defunct ToySldrs Tumblr.
When the calendar was first released, it felt like an inside joke that had already spread among everyone I knew. Cuffin season participation had been ongoing for years, but nobody had ever put such precise math on it; to see the shit that we knew spelled out so precisely on the calendar kept whole offices laughing for hours. As each year went by, Joseph would add “new developments”—additions reflecting the media’s influence on the cuff (i.e. “Marvin’s Week,” a tribute to Drake, the “gatekeeper of loneliness himself”). The calendar stayed viral.
Cuffin season is regional, barely alive in warmer climates like Los Angeles. It’s predicated, after all, on the human race’s dying need to never have cold feet in bed; the need to keep warm with lust and body heat. The colder it gets, the more intense the fight, which in bad winters can seem like warfare, to be quite honest. It’s a competition to boo up quick, plain and simple, and we’re all just going full Hunger Games in the name of our libidos.
The truly troubling thing about cuffin season are those times it feels compulsory. It’s not really about whether or not you actually want a partner: you’re just cold as fuck and bored as hell sitting in your house all the time. Furthermore, when you look at your coupled friends, they seem to be on a finesse wave that is unfair. Couples opt out of activities all winter because they have the perfect excuse: each other. A quick “Oh it’s date/movie/Netflix/we’re-just-tryina-have-sex-don’t-need-no-excuse night” uttered, and it’s quiet for going outside.
Fuck them! Yeah sure, you’re an adult and you don’t have to go outside either. But your lonely night doesn’t end in sex—at least not two-party sex—unless you make the right arrangements. So now winter approaches, and if you’re going for one-off encounters, you still haven’t solved the impending problem of three months later when the chance of snow is only at 36 percent and you’ve already watched every episode of The Good Wife.
You need a cuff: A tethering pole to warmth and, hopefully, orgasm. You want to find one. As a matter of last resort, you might try falling back in love with your summer boo (the ultimate cheat code). It’s late, already: seasoned veterans already have fall/winter options by Labor Day. The downfall is that an early cuff requires you to put all your eggs in one basket—and that is when most people lose in the game. Even if you don’t wanna cuff, you’re screwed because all your options are trying to.
So to cuff, you first have to catch, and to catch, you deal with the fact that dating in 2015 and forevermore is digital: like anything else, full of read receipts and tears. Outside of sundress weather, shit is like doing taxes. If you don’t lock it down, you’re trapped in a vortex of sending random “hey” texts while diligently counting hours in between—or, even worse, on the receiving end of “how you been” and “you sleep”s that make you wonder how sex was ever worth it. And let’s be honest, everyone is watching everyone else’s progress. Your very sanity depends on it. The effects of seasonal affective disorder, general loneliness and depression are exactly what cuffin season is meant to alleviate. Your loneliness will show.
Being cuffed up still won’t save you from sadness—but it doesn’t mean you’d trade it. You don’t want to be uncuffed. Shit is facts. Everybody wants to play footsie in wool socks. So when the winners ask the rest of us, “Oh how’s it going with so and so,” you know the sip they took while you explained that Lover X flaked on your plans and suddenly put up one daytime couch hang photo with someone hella attractive. You know they were trying not to give you the, “Whew, that’s rough my G!” face. You know it and you hate them because you agree.
You can opt out of cuffin season, usually in bitterness. I opted out vocally two years running because I was preoccupied with freelancer survival and in no state to connect. My winter felt like I was doing a shift on The Wall and by the end of it, I never wanted to see my vibrator again.
Cuffin season is like any sport. It has its dizzying climaxes; it turns over a whole new roster in the spring. I hate it. I think we all do. We wish we were above needing a big/little spoon, someone to say that it’s ok to watch Planet Earth on Saturday night. We wish we were above the side texts, the snapchats, the whiskey-shot-Irish-goodbye maneuver in the fourth quarter of a Friday night. The rare people who love cuffin season are sexual champions: their thirst is savage, and the source of their thrive.
These “career” cuffers are able to handle what turns into low-key serial monogamy. Career cuffs can smell one’s need to get under a blanket, and are ready with all the chess moves and dinner plans to remind you that sometimes you do prefer having one single number to call. They don’t even need the calendar—this shit is innate. Champion cuffers can wander into the labyrinth of connection and make it temporary; they respond to the cold gusts of autumn with Super Saiyan abilities to maintain chill romance.
Don’t be jealous. This is their time to shine, just like it was yours in the Hamptons hot tub on the Fourth of July. You should only hate them because every Henny & Cranberry you buy during holiday season is an expense they don’t have. And don’t try to be above being mad either. It’s just a side effect.
Cuffing season is just a suss ass season that basically turns everyone into feds out here counting texts, hours, dates, nudes and likes. It’s a numbers game, full of joy, pain and backstabbing that can only culminate in abandonment. So why do it? Because science is unfuckwittable. You will always have free will and the choice to heaux through the snow. But come January when you don’t have someone rubbing the tips of your buttcheeks to ease the frost, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. The cuff waits for nobody—but at least you know it will always come back around.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby
Judnick Mayard is from Brooklyn, lives in Brooklyn and talks too much on twitter @judnikki.