A-Z of cuffing season during coronavirus illustration
Illustration: Esme Blegvad

The A to Z of Coronavirus Cuffing Season

A handy guide to navigating the most chaotic time of year during the most chaotic year on record.
illustrated by Esme Blegvad
October 22, 2020, 11:07am

We’re now well into autumn, and 2020’s grim, bleak and yet still inexplicably horny answer to Cuffing Season has arrived. Pre-Covid, this time of year would bring a gentle end to the marginally increased levels of sexual promiscuity that you find in the summer (it’s a scientific fact that you are 200 times more likely to spontaneously shag someone if they are wearing shorts and eating a Cornetto).

The VICE Guide to Cuffing

October arrives, bearing a Pumpkin Spiced Latte in one hand and seasonal affective disorder in the other, and says “Look, I realise and appreciate the fun you’ve had this summer. You finally (finally!) got over that breakup, and have for the last three months been juggling between 4-12 sexual partners, and it’s been great, but listen: Winter Is Coming, and it’s going to be horrible, and you need to find someone to tackle it with.” And so, Cuffing Season begins, each year a more brutal showdown to find a winter partner than the last.

This year it’s all still happening, except, obviously, everything is horrible. Those who faced the first lockdown in March alone – and I salute these people, for I was one of them, and let’s all just take a moment to be proud of the fact that we lived through a solid three months of almost exclusively binge-watching Normal People and crying – are now facing the prospect of a second single lockdown, and it’s not pretty. Dating apps are a chaotic hellscape right now, and the dates themselves are almost, somehow, worse?


To help you try and navigate this cold and confusing dating era, we have created a handy A-Z of everything you need to know, incorporating your answers from you, the thirsty public.

A - Ambivalence

Ryan, 25, thinks that the idea of dating in a second lockdown is simply “not worth the hassle”. His response was one of many equally apathetic statements, serving as a sobering reminder to the romantics of this world: yes, a partner would be nice, but it’s also not very feasible in the current climate, is it, so it’s probably a better idea to cut your losses and give up whilst your tiny heart remains clean and unbroken.

B - Boundaries

“I started dating my now-boyfriend during the first lockdown, and it was a really good litmus test of how respectful he was with social distancing and being respectful of boundaries”, says Annie, 24. A good method of character assessment is to clearly set out these boundaries early on and judge their response. If a potential cuff harbours vastly different views to you re: limiting the spread of Covid-19, it’s unlikely the pair of you will make it through the season together.

C - Commitment

Commitment comes early this cuffing season. Christie, 30, has been trying to convince the guy she’s been seeing to move in: “I don’t want to be lonely!”, she says. Whether it’s out of love or loneliness, the likelihood of you having to move in with someone you don’t actually know that well has increased dramatically this year.

D - Drinking (Alcohol)

“I think I gave up the moment I had a virtual date and the dude still drank himself to the point of passing out,” says Ameera, 26, speaking about dating during the first lockdown. Whilst this is an undeniably funny thing to have happened, it is also a sad signifier of a potential virtual-dating future.

E - E-Flirting

If this lockdown is anything like the last, you will be speaking virtually to potential partners for a long time before meeting, relying on your texting skills far more than usual. Some people prefer it this way: Kaina, 20, says that talking online “is so much more natural and better in a way, as it eases any anxieties that you normally get on a date, because you already know them”.

Remember all those skills you learned when you were 16 and absolutely rinsing Hot Or Not (2012’s alternative to Tinder), matching with every single other teenager within a 40-mile radius and trying desperately to figure out whether sending “Wuu2 aha Xxxxxxx” or “Wubu2 lmao Xxxxx” was a more effective method of pinning down a lifelong romantic partner? Well, it’s time to put those skills to good use.

F - Friends

“The standards are getting lower,” says Emily, 17, “because it’s easier to get close with people you already know.” When it comes to cuffing your friends, proceed with caution.

G - Ghosting

Take proper precautions to prepare yourself for the least fun side-effect of Cuffing Season, which will rear its non-committal head every single year, pandemic or not.

H - Hibernating

Zara, 18, has secured her fairytale ending during the first lockdown, telling me how “I didn’t expect anything [during lockdown], but I now have a boyfriend! It’s kind of cosy in this state because we just sit inside and watch movies”. Whether you like the idea of hibernating Moomin-slash-hedgehog-style with your partner – just the two of you living in your own filth, endless crisp packets and shared boxers, so much sex you start to wonder if you’re breaking some kind of law – the chances of it happening to you this year are statistically much higher, so get those Deliveroo codes and incense holders ready.

I - Isolation

The nature of isolation means that you will inevitably have more time to hone in and really focus on your Tinder chat. Instead of matching with someone, going out, getting smashed and drunkenly sending them five consecutive typo-filled messages about your cat, you will find yourself at home, distraction-free, staring out the window like a loungewear-clad Brontë sister, thinking about literally nothing except your dating app conversations and how best to play them. Which is worse? Only time will tell.

J - Johnson, Boris

Feels a bit weird to have your dating life being essentially controlled by a man with one of the most chaotic love lives on public record, doesn’t it, but this is 2020, and as mentioned, everything is horrible.

K - K Cider

Whether the last lockdown put you into the half of the population claiming that they “actually cut down drinking a lot”, or into the other half of people who all committed themselves to getting pissed in their room 3-5 days a week, just trust me: you are going to need cider, preferably eight percent or higher. It is cold, it is dark, you are alone, and you will want and need it to warm you up and facilitate poor decision making.

L - Love

Even though you might genuinely go into winter looking for a partner to cast aside once spring rolls back around, there is another, often unexpected (though arguably more fun than ghosting) side-effect to Cuffing Season, and it is love, and it might happen to you, and you need to be prepared.

M - Masks

A potential solitary win for this feral and desperate Cuffing Season: everyone is almost constantly wearing a mask, giving off undeniably sexy undercover-paid-assassin vibes and showcasing everyone’s favourite and nicest feature: the eyes.

N - Netflix

So, things are going well for you, cuffing-wise. You’ve reached December, and after a hefty two months of Zoom dates and socially distanced winter walks you’ve reached the “fuck it, let’s just watch something” stage. They open up their Netflix, and you can’t resist giving a cursory glance to the fateful “Continue Watching” section, just to check, and, oh god, Oh My Fucking God, It’s The Big Bang Theory. You glance again, this time to another title, unsure whether or not to believe it, and there it is, staring back at you: Taylor Swift’s Reputation: A Stadium Tour Movie. You shouldn’t have looked, but you did, didn’t you, and now everything is ruined. Make your courteous excuses and leave.

O - Online Dating

“It’s awful!”, claims Sadiqa, 18, speaking about trying to find a partner on an online dating app in this Covid-riddled era. “The apps are repulsive.”

Sadiqa is not alone in her alarm; many singletons have complained about the sudden lack of variety on dating apps as a result of the pandemic. Scroll, scroll through the infinite and bleak Tinder wasteland, and idly wonder which is worse: walking through a supermarket unable to find a single tin of baked beans/ roll of toilet paper, or swiping through a dating app unable to find a single person you’d let see you naked.

P - Plants

For an invigorating and heartbreak-free alternative to dating this lockdown, try purchasing a set of eight indoor plants from Etsy and getting so obscenely, weirdly into their upkeep and wellbeing that your friends have to stage an intervention on Zoom.

Q - “Quarenfuckboys”

The A to Z of Fuckboys

Fine, this isn’t strictly, technically a word, but it is an excellent term coined by Miriam, 18, who says: “I’m just not going to [date]. I’m tired of quarenfuckboys trying to manipulate me into linking during a pandemic - just gonna wait this out and be a single pringle for a while.”

She has a point. If the idea of attempting Cuffing Season, and dealing with Quarenfuckboys, during a pandemic is too stressful for you to comprehend right now, consider skipping it out. Although tackling these dark times alone may seem intimidating, it’s a great opportunity to finally finish The Wire / buy those resistance bands / reorganise your make-up storage / call your nan / read an actual book / etc.

R - Relationships

Many people brought up the strain of beginning a relationship during the March lockdown. For Ella, 19, the intensity of starting a relationship then almost instantly spending all her time with her boyfriend proved to be too much. “We had to take a little break because we were with each other 24/7 and I became too reliant on him”, she says. “I think lockdown can be pretty unhealthy for some couples. That’s why communication is important.”

S - Sexting

To those who enjoy sexting: now is your time to shine. Go the whole hog – set up a photography studio in your bed, type an entire erotic novel into WhatsApp, invest in a darkroom to develop your bed photography, look into publishing your erotic novel, very nearly take out a £9k loan to self-publish your erotic novel. If not now, when?

To those who aren’t already prone to sexting: it’s time to brush up on those skills. 

T - Test & Trace

Do you, on the whole, enjoy dating? Do you, for example, enjoy the preparation of it, spending hours switching outfits, knowing that one wrong outfit combination could leave you not only pathetic and loveless but also poorly dressed? Well, have you considered: adding to this smorgasbord of anxiety by being on constant alert for that dreaded notification, telling you that your table service waiter from last week has tested positive, and we’re really sorry, but now you have to isolate too?

U - University

If you’re attempting Cuffing Season whilst at university, a stern warning: the horrendous state of dating apps combined with the ease and proximity of sleeping with your flat/housemates is going to make you genuinely consider sleeping with your flat/housemates. I am begging you not to do this.

V - Vodka

See: K.

W - Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland – the setting of the most awful, heinous dates in Cuffing Season memory (you always, somehow, end up paying for their mulled wine only to hear them complain about their ex, who they “used to come here with literally every year”, for a solid hour and a half) – is, thankfully, not happening this year. Merry Christmas, one and all.

X - eXes

Look, I know that cuffing an ex might seem like the easy option, but just, please: don’t.

Z - Zoom Dating

Ah, Zoom. I hate it so, so much. Never has a single web app been more universally necessary or despised than Zoom. Brace yourselves for its return, set up your background to look as alluring and sophisticated as possible, and try to remember to mute yourself if you’re bitching about someone you’re speaking to.