A Guide to Surviving Cuffing Season

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.

 

 

 

 

 

This is not a poem for you/a poem that lies

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.

 

 

lost points in time

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. 

halfsies

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.

I’m Fine

*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. 

 

Self Improvement vs Self Acceptance

In your 20s, the drive to improve yourself seems to reach a fever pitch. You’re young, you’re hungry, you’ve been taught that this decade is the *most* important one. And in the age of instagrammable wellness, lifestyle virtue signalling, the classism and consumerism that drives it all, “getting your shit together” has become more of a rat race than anything else.

For most of us, social media has allowed us to put our lives on display in an unprecedented way. I can let all 793 of my instagram followers know what my room looks like, how great my hair looks on any given day, what social cause I care about, the particular brand of workout leggings I’ve been #obsessed with. The only thing stopping us from sharing the minutiae of our existence with the world is our own common sense (which sometimes fails). Let’s just say there’s a good reason I deleted my entire Twitter account.

Because of our self-constructed virtual fishbowl, we spend a lot of time constructing a life that looks good. Especially in our early 20s as we venture out into the world and try out new identities. Our social media is more than just a curated slice of our lives, it’s an extension of our public image. It’s our personal brand. Even if we’re not selling anything, we’re selling ourselves. We post our gym selfies, candid laughing pictures with our friends, cocktail glass boomerangs, etc. as a shout into the digital void: “HEY ISN’T MY LIFE GREAT!”

But we’re not satisfied. It’s more than just our social media. We’re stuck in a loop that the next job, the next apartment, that new romantic partner, losing those last 10 pounds, will be what makes our lives happy and perfect. We self-medicate with with self-improvement packaged for the millennial generation: “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”, “You are a Badass: How to stop doubting your greatness” etc. I have read both of those books and honestly, they don’t have anything new to say. We buy fiddle leaf fig plants and rose quartz crystals and try to meditate into a better version of ourselves.

This is not to demonize self improvement. I think your 20s are a great time to take a cold, hard look at yourself and take concrete steps to becoming the person you want to be. For example: I am a terrible listener, a tad self-centered, an oversharer, lack discipline and consistently sabotage my romantic relationships! But my diary contains an action plan for how to combat these less than awesome qualities, and I’m on the lookout for a new therapist. But there’s a difference between the difficult and necessary work of an emotional and spiritual glow-up and the easily packaged, available for purchase vision of a person that quite frankly, you’re never going to be. Meanwhile, you still have a ton of baggage, deep insecurities, and the corporations that speak to those unhealed emotional wounds are turning a tidy profit.

I mean, come on. Did you really think I was going to talk about an issue plaguing my generation and not blame it on capitalism?

So much of the idealized version of ourselves that we’re trying to project into the world is based on capitalistic norms around success, merit, and self-worth. Capitalism teaches us that we are worthy when we’re productive and “grown up” when we’re able to spend big. Spending big on products that subtly signal certain values and a certain class. I feel like we’ve gotten to the point where self-improvement is its own cottage industry. 

But accepting who you are and working on yourself in meaningful ways costs a lot less money. Even if you’re the only person that gets anything out of it. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to actually tangible incorporate this into my life. A couple of thoughts/free, unqualified possibly terrible advice: 

    • Stop having faith that something material could change your life: I’m especially guilty of this when it comes to home goods and clothing. Yes, that pair of black ankle boots is calling my name, BUT I will not be a radically changed person if I buy them. Just slightly more poor and more fashionable. 

 

  • Get honest about your ugly bits: I’m not talking about the tummy roll that makes an appearance when you sit down. Or stand up. Actually, it’s just a permanent fixture of your appearance now. In fact, it would do all of us some good if we thought less about how our bodies look. I mean those uncomfortable truths about yourself that very, very few people will ever to say your face? Yeah. It’s icky. Now deal with it. Write it down in your dream journal or whatever. 
  • Sometimes you have to prioritize self acceptance over self improvement: Not to get all woo woo with you but I truly believe that genuine, healthy self improvement has to come from a place of self-love. And the first step to loving yourself is accepting yourself. Even the aforementioned icky bits. Accept that this is who you are in this moment in time. There’s lots to be proud of and maybe there are a couple of things you’d like to work on. And that’s okay! Worth is intrinsic and not dependent on how many perceived flaws we have. 
  • Lizzo: That’s it. That’s the advice.  

 

Go forth and love yourself folks. And I don’t know who needs to hear this, but stop texting him. He’s not coming with you on the glow-up.