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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

To Cuff or Not To Cuff – A Conversation With @drinks.first

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FIT chapter.

Beautiful green leaves that once filled the sky have suddenly turned to a crisp orange, red, or yellow. They litter the sidewalks, crushed below the feet of people bustling by. New Yorkers don sweaters and scarves that were pulled from the back of closets or from storage bins shoved under their bed. In one hand, they hold white paper cups filled with hot lattes and coffees that used to be iced. And in the other hand, they walk confidently holding the best accessory of the season, a partner. Surprise, it’s cuffing season.

As the weather chills there comes an urgent desire to settle down. Dating gears up in the hopes that one might find that perfect person to snuggle up inside with. Some might even return to prior engagements, scrolling back through the graveyard of exes that might provide comfort from the cold. But, is this search for a cold weather partner something we should all be participating in, or is cuffing season more of a myth created on social media?

To answer this question, I talked with Ariana Nathani, founder of Drinks First, a dating podcast and event series where NYC’s eligible singles can meet. Nathani talks about all things dating, Drinks First, cuffing season, and the challenge of meeting new people in one of the biggest cities in the world.

Q: Drinks First is the name of podcast and events, which I think has a lot of meaning with the way that we date today — what was the idea behind the name and also the podcast/event series?

A: “I had come up with this idea for a podcast to interview anonymous singles so my listeners could match with them. And that was kind of born out of the frustration of current dating channels back in 2019, pre-pandemic and pre all of us being forced to be online. I had this idea and I pitched it to a few friends to see what they thought. I had no background in podcasting, in my 9-5 I am a designer, so, I work doing product and digital experience designs. So, I kinda came up with the branding and just went with it. And then one of my friends was like, oh Drinks First would be a good name. The intention behind it is when you date, you are getting drinks first. At the time I didn’t know what it would become but I knew that I didn’t want to be quick to pigeon hole it in NYC or even in dating. I think the name was vague enough that it implied dating, but it could also be a way to meet anyone. Drinks could be coffee or it could be alcoholic drinks. It was more to signify just meeting people.”

Q: How do you think that this platform and this format of dating can help boost the confidence of New York’s singles? How might this improve from dating apps?

“So what I say with the podcast is that it’s not a perfect solution to what the problem is. But, it’s just a different channel for people to meet and express themselves and also to highlight other people’s stories. When I started the podcast I didn’t want it to be about me. I was like 22 and I didn’t want to be this 22 year old with a microphone giving dating advice. So I was like how can I provide value to my listeners and how can I address some of the problems that I see with dating today. One of them being that it’s super visual and gamified. The way that we make decisions when we are swiping on dating apps is in a matter of seconds. And that is not how attraction works. You very well could be somewhere and talk to someone and not have swiped right on them on a dating app but be attracted to them in person. So, I was trying to do something slightly more holistic and more inclusive. There are so many people who are at a disadvantage when they are on dating apps, whether they are people of color, they are queer people, they are plus size people – all sorts of people experience some level of disadvantage in terms of the weird hierarchy on dating apps that determines who does better and does worse. This [podcast] was kind of a way to level the playing field and provide a different channel for people to listen to other peoples stories and decide without this physical element, that they might be interested in meeting this person.”

Q: Besides through your podcast and also in person events, where would you suggest that singles go to meet people in person and not just swipe right and left?

A: “I think there is a mix of answers to this that depends what kind of person you are. With drinks first events it’s a good opportunity for people to come and just meet people. I think that is what makes all the difference because Drinks First is synonymous with that. Through the community that we have created with the podcast and on social media, people know that when they come to a Drinks First event they are going to meet people. That mindset shift is so imperative to the success of Drinks First events because when you go to a bar or you go to a nightclub it’s much harder to approach people without that sort of social permission already in place. You don’t know if someones single or if they are with their friends or if they even want to talk to people. With a drinks first event you have something in common and you already have something to talk about. So, when it comes to meeting people outside of that setting, I think the best way to meet people generally is through a shared interest. Whether you are interested in a sport or like doing art classes, that is a great way to go and meet somebody. I wouldn’t say just romantically but also friendship wise.”

Q: Making the first move can be really hard, what tips and tricks would you give for flirting and talking to new people in the wild (bars/coffee shops/ or even parks in the city).

A: “I think in person, like I said, having something shared to talk about is already a win. Even if you are at a club or something like that, maybe you went because you knew the DJ, you could go up to someone and start a conversation about that. It’s different for guys versus girls and also if we are talking about a heterosexual landscape. For a girl approaching a guy you might have more leeway in what you say because it doesn’t happen as often and for guys approaching girls they might be more on guard because like “oh is this creepy that this guy is coming up to me at a bar”. So it’s kind of a catch 22 but I think going up to someone and asking them a question about some sort of shared experience, whether you are at a concert or if there’s a Dj or even just what they are drinking.”

Q: Talking more specifically about cuffing season, do you believe cuffing season is a real thing or is it just a social media fad?

A: “I think there is some truth to it where people are more chronically outside during the summer and then in the winter, especially in New York, it’s cold so you don’t want to be as social. You’re not as quick to say, ‘Okay in 30 degree weather I’m going to step outside and go to a bar or club’. So I think that makes it circumstantially just kind of true. People would rather be at home with friends or with a partner than be going outside all the time cause it’s a hassle. So, I think there is some truth to it, but, do I believe that everyone is settling down this time of year just because the weather is changing, no. I think people just have less motivation to be outside in the winter.”

Q: As we head into this tumultuous season, what would be the most important advice you would give to singles in NYC whether they are looking to settle down or stay in the dating scene?

A: “It’s not about finding a partner, it’s not a race to being in a relationship with someone. I think it’s more about companionship, this idea of cuffing season, so that might be spending time with a good group of friends that you made in the neighborhood or maybe it’s spending time with your family or it might be spending time with a partner.  There shouldn’t be any pressure on succumbing to this idea of cuffing season, I think a lot of people in NYC feel the pressure to date because, one, we live in one of the largest cities in the world so you should take advantage of dating, you should be going on dates, there’s so many people on apps. But, I don’t think there’s any right answer of what you should be doing at a certain time, listen to yourself, if you are tired of the apps then dont be on the apps, you’re not missing out on anyone or anything just because you’re not swiping. I think when you are ready to date you will be in the right mindset so you might be more willing to give it a shot on the apps or put yourself out there in person or join a club or join an activity if you are really motivated to meet people. But it’s okay if you’re not, it’s okay to be comfortable in the time or space you exist in and there shouldn’t be any pressure to do one thing over the other.”

Q: In terms of motivation/not giving up, do you have any great success stories from the podcast or the events that stand out for you?

A: “I think the idea of success is different for everyone. When I started this podcast, my idea of success at the time was not getting married, but it was more meeting as many people and going on dates. Now, closer to 27, my idea of success might be meeting a long term partner. So I think with Drinks First, the idea of success has shifted over time depending on who the demographic is. There have been so many success stories. Tons of people making very good friends. There are people who have hooked up with people for multiple months, that to me is a success. Even if it’s just a connection for one night, that to me is success. Now it’s been four years and about two years of me doing the events. We’ve had couples who have moved in together, we have couples who have been dating that amount of time. No marriage or babies yet, but there is definitely success and like I said success is defined in multiple ways. To me, even people coming out as friends or business partners or something is a success.”

Q: What are some of the best lessons that you might have learned from starting this podcast and hosting events? Also any lessons about dating or life in general from interviewing and connecting with so many people in the city?

A: “I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that communication is key. It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship, it could be with your parents, with your best friends, with your romantic partner, or with the person you’re dating. Communication is the most important thing, and if most relationships had a healthy level of communication, we would be avoiding a lot of the issues that we see. Whether that be frustration with a friend or a partner, wanting to see someone again, texting somebody back if you are not interested in seeing someone again, it’s fine to communicate that, but don’t leave someone hanging. Like when people talk about getting ghosted or say, ‘It’s really hard, what do I text this person back?’ All of these kinds of normal anxieties with dating can be solved with upfront and honest communication. It’s an annoying answer because it’s so simple and kind of a blanket response, but it’s so true and it doesn’t matter what kind of relationship you are in. Communication is a pillar of any kind of successful relationship. Other tips, if you are looking to date, you can’t expect to keep doing the same things over and over again and see results. So, if you complain about being so single but everyday you go to work and you go to the same workout class and you take the same bus home, the chances of change happening in a routine situation is minimal. It’s unlikely that there is an anomaly one day that would happen that would make that happen for you. I really believe that there has to be some level of effort if you are interested in dating and meeting people. That could be being open to going on a date off of an app or going to a friend’s house warming party even if you don’t really know the person. You need to be open to making slight shifts to your routine to be able to see any change. ”

So no, cuffing season is not something we should all be worried about. Yes, the weather is getting colder, but that doesn’t mean that you magically need to find a partner. If you are not in a place to go on dates or settle down with a romantic partner, you don’t need to be alone in the cold. Meaningful relationships with friends and family are just as important. Take the time to try new things, talk to new people, spend time with old friends, and make connections without the pressure of finding one romantic connection that you can clutch onto for the winter. If we open up society’s definition of cuffing season to fit all different kinds of relationships, we can find even more comfort in the cold.

Clara is a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology studying Advertising and Marketing Communications. She loves reading, writing, drinking coffee, and exploring the city.