The leaves turn orange and begin to fall from the trees. A chill drifts down the back of your neck as you pull your coat tighter around your body on the way to work. Something feels different, but you're not sure what or why. Change is in the air; vague, impulsive, exciting. That change, friends, is a phenomenon known as "thirst". It descends upon us every October like a sexy fog – nature's way of imploring humans to attach themselves to other humans like erotic limpets so we don't have to spend winter alone eating Pot Noodles in a snood.
We are now at the start of "cuffing season". Urban Dictionary defines cuffing as the moment when "people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves, along with the rest of the world, desiring to be tied down by a serious relationship". But another way of putting it is: "Going outside is horrible now because it is freezing and gets dark at 5PM, so who wants to eat me out while I watch Blue Planet?"
According to Hello Giggles, cuffing season lasts from November to March, but culturally it begins in tandem with Starbucks changing their menu to "pumpkin spice and also some coffee". And this isn't some bullshit millennial trend; it's evolutionary history. When the days got darker and there was less food and firewood available, we had to shack up and start shagging for a) body warmth, and b) hopes of reproducing so offspring could look after us. We're not trying to have kids now, please god, but we do want someone to mutually masturbate with all the same.
Here's a handy guide on how to plough through the cuffing months with the sexual energy and seasonal enthusiasm of Santa and all his elves combined.
EVERYONE IS A CUFFER
Cuffing doesn't recognise any of your pre-existing sexual patterns. It doesn't care if you're usually the chaser or the chasee, the bottom or the top, the choker or the choked; cuffing season is all about throwing shit at a wall and seeing what sticks. Except the shit is sloppy DMs at 2AM and the wall is literally anybody you're friends with on social media. We're all in this together to ensure our genitals don't get frostbite, so don't believe sentiments such as this Urban Dictionary entry on cuffing season:
"It's a despicable practice and I don't suggest anyone doing the aforementioned, especially since, during this time of year, emotions are extremely high and you risk getting your tires slashed (men)."
Sounds like someone got their dick burned because our guide wasn't around last cuffing season.
It's time to get your sonar on; you're going to need it to navigate through all those wet-lads. The preseason runs from the 20th of September to the 31st of October, and during this period your past lays come creeping out of the woodwork and, fair is fair, you consider them all. All bets are off – that laissez-faire, shagging-work-people-at-the-summer-party-just-cuz attitude to banging is over. You will find yourself anxiously whatsapping people back three months after the conversation dried up and reconsidering those who didn't make the summer cut because of some awkward sexist banter you uncovered while scrolling through their tweets. By the end of pre-season, you'll have consciously or subconsciously vetted your line-up more aggressively than border control at JFK.
Guys sending you photos of cute puppers, being nicer, more chatty, offering to do distinctly bae things such as lending you jumpers or meeting you with a take-away coffee: This Is Cuffing Season.
You're thinking to yourself, 'Oh, that's kinda weird – that guy who sent me a zoomed in, bird's-eye picture of his log last year is now putting kisses at the end of his DMs and saying "awww" unironically.' But that's the deal now, baby. Men want to be cuffed, make no mistake.
Alternatively, you can forget all that borderline relationshippy stuff and just restrict your engagement with them to getting an unsolicited Uber to their house at 11PM, alerting them with a raunchy selfie and the semi-threatening words: "I'm outside."
If there is anyone who is primed to suck you into that relationship zone it is the ex who will no doubt be peacocking over the next few months to remind you of their existence. They know how to make you orgasm in the least amount of time with the least amount of movement. They already know how demanding you are and just how much oral sex and food you need. You already know their bad bits so can make an informed decision about diving back in. And there's no shame in that: exes are a reliable source of winter heat.
Historians, Pagans and Christians around the world will tell you All Hallow's Eve is a festival dedicated to remembering the dead. They are all wrong. Halloween is a cuffing season ritual where participants wear a costume that accentuates their best parts, flaunts their awareness of pop culture and demonstrates their ability to put together an ensemble that isn't just a bin liner and some plastic teeth. As midnight approaches, people will pair off based on whether their costumes revolve around David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick or Harambe. This will dictate if you'll spend the next four months fucking to German art house films or two-star romcoms on Netflix.
By the 30th of November you will have a serious choice to make. Which out of the [redacted] number of people you've been chirpsing are you going to force to put up with you all cuffing season? Will it be the one who's popped up on Whatsapp every time you've uploaded a selfie for the last six months but still doesn't know how to pronounce your surname? Will it be someone you know from uni and enjoyed a decade-long platonic friendship with? Will it be someone who read an article about cuffing season that you wrote for VICE, thus indicating how painfully single you are? Either way, you have no idea what you're actually in for. It's basically Deal Or No Deal but with a cock and balls. Choose wisely.
Why are there so many kids born between August and October? Cuffing season. Your work productivity will be dropping to abysmal levels, even for you, because all day will be spent sending filth back and forth and taking pictures of your boobs in the bathroom. You'll be shagging in every mildly uncomfortable position written about in Cosmo. You'll finish fucking and then do it again and maybe even again if you haven't already got thrush. Even then, maybe you'll have another go.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
The thing about chirpsing is there's only so far you can go until someone catches the extremely common and deadly disease called feelings. Christmas is a fucking minefield, so just don't bother. You've been dating for, what, a maximum of eight weeks? There is food that lasts longer than that. Just buy yourself some fancy lingerie and claim it's for them, otherwise one of you will end up being more sentimental and making the other person want to cough up their appendix by gifting them tickets for a gig that doesn't happen for another five months.
Winter is horrible enough without dragging yourself out the house to go to some acquaintance's birthday drinks when you don't have the guaranteed promise of a bang. Have you ever seen anyone enter a pub between the months of December and March alone? No, I don't think so. This is where cuffing season comes into play: if anything, at least you'll have someone to get drunk with.
THE MOMENT WHEN ONE PERSON, WHO WAS PREVIOUSLY OBLIVIOUS TO THE FACT THIS IS A CUFFING SEASON RELATIONSHIP, GETS THEIR HEART AND SEXUAL EGO BRUTALLY CRUSHED AS IT ALL BECOMES CLEAR
What? You didn't know that cuffing season existed and the true reality of millennial hook-up culture has come crushing down on you as quickly as it took for their unattended phone to voice a series of soft chimes of Tinder matches? This is brutal. This is cuffing season.
IT MIGHT NOT BE FOR YOU
Do you know how much shit you can get done when you're not having sex and navigating someone else's ego? I know it's almost a faux pas to suggest this in a culture where we scroll through Instagram on the toilet so we don't have to shit alone, but spending some time with yourself is also an option. Learn a language, start crafting or whatever, spend your winter nights trying out new masturbatory tactics. Emerge from cuffing season victorious and self-improved while everyone around you crumbles into a non-functioning puddle of emotional drama and UTIs.
Spring is here! Lambs are bleating, buds are opening, you feel moderately enthused about life again! The ideal conclusion of a successful cuffing season relationship would be you both amicably allowing your hook-ups to fizzle out before going off your separate ways with freedom in your heart and a skip in your step. The grand release from cuffing season and time to hoe again.
However. However. There is, also, the chance you tried and failed. You didn't manage to cuff anyone successfully so spent the entire winter alone just like the winter before, and the winter before that, and your whole adult life. You're smiling along with this article, aren't you, but you haven't had sex for six months or more. Sometimes you find yourself wondering if you've forgotten how to actually have sex and start Googling it only to laugh it off nervously. Sometimes you'll experience a moment of cold horror when you realise that it's 1AM and you've been masturbating endlessly – just, endlessly – because there is literally nothing going on in your life.
But then you remember that there was last year, and there's always next year, and Jesus is this how we live now? In sex cycles? Forever? Cuffing and fucking and fucking and cuffing? And then you masturbate again.
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