It’s raining and I’m longing for someone who hasn’t thought about me in weeks. This is where I’m comfortable. In the tolerable melancholy, that sweet familiar ache. I don’t want everything because half the fun is in that wanting. Yearning is a fading art. Why flesh our dramatic scenes with them in your mind, first kisses and fights, and quiet scenes, morning coffee and movie night – when someone who will want you back, right now, right there, is just a few taps away? I’m all for convenience but there’s just something about the rain, washing away the grime and small indignities of everyday life, makes you more idealistic, maybe hopeful. Maybe the temporary and artificial darkening of the sky tells your heart it’s night – it’s always easier to feel these things in the dark. Maybe today is the day they text you, how are you, how have you been, may I be allowed to be in your life again. And you will smile because you knew this moment would come, have written pages and pages about in your diary. But somehow it is always sweeter here in the real world, hand in hair, hand on heart, breath on cheek, cheek curving over jaw, lips tucked there, all those nice and disappearing things.
I. I was Bambi for Halloween freshman year. Simple costume, elaborate face makeup gleaned from Halloween makeup tutorials that 18 year old boys still somehow found a way to sexualize. Sexy cartoon characters exist (hello Danny Phantom) but Bambi is not one of them. There’s a feminist analysis here about the infantilization of women but that’s the story I want to tell right now.
We got drunk in my best friend’s dorm room at a neighboring college. For the life of me, I can’t remember what we drank. Only that it was enough to make me warm and giggly and content to lie on the rug of her floor rather than go to the gay bar.
I let a stranger walk me home, he was a bassist at Berklee and we had the same glasses. In retrospect, this was one of the many times I should have been murdered in the Fens for my implicit trust in the universe. It was 3 am and our phones were dead so he wrote his phone number on a scrap torn from sheet music. I couldn’t find it the next morning, and I’m still not sure if it was a dream.
II. The next year I painted my face like a Roy Lichenstein painting and drank wine at a Groupmuse – which is essentially a classical house party. Have I ever mentioned that I’m a really hip and cool person?
The Groupmuse was held in a three story house in a corner of Jamaica Plains, it’s rooms emptied out in preparation of a move, and festooned with the entire Halloween section of Party City. We wandered from room to room, refilling our cups from the communal bottles of wine on various surfaces, getting tipsy and loose-limbed as the music swelled and filled the small spaces.
Costumed musicians performed like Disney float characters – including a trio that played a rousing repertoire of Brazilian folk music. I sat cross legged a few feet away, eyes fixed on the violinist. He was not handsome – it wasn’t that kind of draw – but I know it feels to draw a bow across strings and I knew that what I felt then was on a different plane compared to what he felt. There are people that play adequately, with their fingers and their brain. And there are those that play with their bodies – every cell in their body contributing. Watching them – you almost forget to breathe because you want to be held captive in that same way.
III. Another year, and I modeled my face after a painting from an Indian female artist. Halloween was my chance to be art. Macabre and glitter dusted, but always art. It was a party thrown by an on-campus group I had been a part of. I drank hot toddies the whole night – mint tea with vodka and danced to bachata in a kitchen lit only by fairy lights. I was home by 1 am and woke up early the next day, clean of makeup, but still glinting in the morning sun.
Despite the fact that there’s a high of 92 today in DC, it is the first day of fall. And with the crunchy leaves and pumpkin spice lattes comes another important marker of the changing weather: cuffing season.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with cuffing season (aka the above 30s and the happily partnered): according to Urban Dictionary, Cuffing Season is defined as: “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.”
Some may say that cuffing season is a myth, it’s simply the result of summer flings becoming permanent. However, I think it is simply human nature. There’s something about the first bite of fall weather that makes the effort of going to a bar to meet someone new simply not worth it. Fall is also rife with activities that are meant for the coupled: apple picking, pumpkin picking, ABC’s Halloween countdown thing that none of us have access to because who has cable anymore, hiking to see the foliage because that’s what grownups do, etc. Sure, you can do those things with your friends, but if they have SOs? You’re SOL.
Cuffing season is brutal. It is a dog-eat-dog gladiator special, but never fear. I, your Lizzo worshipping, somewhat cynical, eternally single, Fairy Godmother has come to the rescue with some ESSENTIAL tips on surviving this difficult time. Please note that this advice is really only valid for the ladies, enbys and gays. Results not guaranteed for cis men. My thoughts and prayers are with you though.
1. Don’t settle for the first viable option, but you might have to settle
Let’s be real, we’re on a time crunch here. The prices of apples have already dropped in stores, it’s prime apple picking time. You need to have someone viable locked down in time to a couple’s costume for Halloween. WHO is going to be the Jim to your Pam? (Obviously, this is the only couple’s costume Chad from Tinder is willing to participate in.) However, do not hitch your wagon to the first dude to come along because it’s going to be the middle of Thanksgiving dinner and you suddenly find out that he thinks Medicare for all “is ridiculous” and that the Iraq war was “smart foreign policy.”
2. Diversify your portfolio:
Like that finance bro Brad who keeps replying to your Instagram stories would say, you gotta diversify that portfolio. Just like I definitely encourage stocks over bonds for us 401k newbies (please do not blame me if you gamble away your retirement money), dating requires risky bets. Firstly, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. By that I mean, don’t just stick to boring old Tinder. There’s Bumble! Hinge! OkCupid! Maybe go out on a limb and try Farmer’s Only! To get the best fish possible, you have to cast a wide net. As Jesus said, “Follow these tips, and I will make you fishers of men.”
The other way you can broaden your horizons is to try dating outside your type. Are you a serial monogamist who dates blondes who love sweater-vests? Ezra, the polyamarous urban farmer who lives in a co-op with 9 other men who all only use natural deodorant might be for you. Do you always go for the leather jacket wearing, cigarette smoking, artsy softboi? Put down the David Foster Wallace and try out William James Wallace III. He has an Amex Black card, a trust fund, and a completely out of touch perspective on social issues!
3. Keep the Hot Girl energy.
While Hot Girl Summer hath come to a bitter end, you can still keep that same energy in the fall. You are gorgeous, you are brilliant, you are deeply empathetic, an excellent friend, and have the best sense of personal style.
Dating men can wear a bit on the self-worth, but remember, the only people whose opinion of you matters is the gaggle of drunk girls in the bar bathroom complimenting the heck out of you. No one else.
Just because you’re deigning to temporarily tie yourself to a mere male mortal does not make you any less of a goddess. Know your worth.
4. Don’t fear the alternative.
Is it the end of the world if you strike out this cuffing season? Absolutely not. You just bought yourself a one-way ticket into cozy solo autumnal fun. Cuddling? Who needs it when you have a heated, weighted blanket. Romance? What is more romantic than a family size box of Easy Mac and a one person viewing of Hocus Pocus?
If you’re single there’s no one that can judge you about the fact that you bought 5 Pumpkin Spice cold brews this week.
5. Have fun and be safe.
In all of your autumn activities (*wink wink*), safety should come first. Men are out here using body wash, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, hair gel 9 in one products. Verify their definition of “clean.” Tell someone where you’re going, always have a first date in a public spot, and definitely stalk their Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn first.
Whether you’re staying single and making an attempt at monogamy, the most important thing to remember is to enjoy yourself. Human connection is the spice of life but also if you are a person who dating a cis man you most likely should dump him. It’s what Megan (thee Stallion) would want.
I don’t know if you’ll read this,
and I hope you don’t.
Just know that this isn’t for you, none of these words ever are. It’s not about the last pair of hands that spelled safety. Or how grateful I was for the dark, even the moon dimmed, when the truth came.
Maybe this will make you think about the last time we spoke. Me quiet (for once), knowing that something irrevocable had shifted, that we burned through whatever starlight we had. You talked more than usual, filling up the space, trying to not leave room for me to shrink away. Are you thinking about it? Sleepworn, slow, early morning disaster? I think this is what’s called projecting.
You might think that this is for you. Maybe you’ll smile, maybe you’ll be grateful, maybe you’ll cringe at the obvious want in these words. You know that I leave my love letters unaddressed, but in a way, everything I write is a love letter. Except this, this doesn’t know what love means, has never met it, they live in different towns on opposite ends of the globe.
After all, you cannot miss someone you never really knew.
There is the bittersweet milky blue skin of your neck,
Flesh and stone at the same time.
The dark hair curling its fingers down the nape of your neck, the corners of your body.
I always thought of you as more beautiful than I.
My graceless form, a resting place, a stopover,
A tangent from the straight line of where you were meant to be.
Oh, I tried to make you stay,
Lost sleep building anchors,
Whispering the word home into the seashell curve of your ear at night.
I even let you taste the sour, rotting parts of me.
Hopeful, even then, my honesty would earn me something.
But you spit me out and wiped your mouth and never looked at me the same.
I came down with the flu and never saw you again.
I made myself sick with knowing
That this was more of a goodbye than either of us knew.
Need becomes a dirty word when you grow up.
Edged in knives and desperation,
it tastes of everything “woman”.
It is the unsightly mess you should have shoved underneath your bed.
Were you born like this or were you taught to be incomplete,
Apologizing for a phantom absence, a make-believe missing.
But now here it is, rooted, halfway between inner child and what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up.
Hungrier than you remember with keen teeth and eyes and lips exactly like the first ones you kissed.
Doesn’t everything need nurturing,
even this fracturing desire,
even this runaway want.
*based off of/inspired by Olivia Gatwood’s “An Alternate Universe in Which I am Unfazed by the Men Who Do Not Love Me”
I ask him if we are friends, sober, in the morning, and I keep asking questions until I am sure of the way he sees me in his head. I never romance myself into believing things are different than they are. I tell a boy “good luck” and mean it when he texts me that he has met the love of his life. I am wise enough to tell him that he doesn’t really love me, he just thinks he does, and I sleep in my own bed that night. I let him go. I let him go. I let him go. I never think of him again. I do not hold the elevator for the man who didn’t hold the door for me. Without a word, I trip the man that pushed past me on the escalator. I say that she is cool and beautiful, and maybe in another life, I would probably be friends with her. I am not jealous and I never lie to myself. Casual is cool, casual is fun, casual will keep me safe. I tell him secrets about myself because it is a warm summer night and not because I want to bind him to me. I never text first. I don’t even save their number. I am able to tell my father that I love him without expecting him to be able to say it in a way I understand. I introduce him too soon to my parents because he should be more afraid. I do not worry if this lipstick suits me, if they think I am beautiful, if they think I am worth anything. I do not worry that I am too fat to be so loud, too fat to have the kind of opinions I do. I do not worry about the parts of me that are unpalatable – I’m not safe for consumption anyways. I am fine and I am free.