Getting Cuffed in College?

As leaves fall off the trees and swimsuits are tucked away, there’s only one season that can thrive during the cold weather: cuffing season. Being “cuffed” indicates two people getting tied down into a relationship; thus, cuffing season is the time of year when many casual relationships blossom into something more, and this usually happens when the air gets a bit chillier. But what accounts for the intense effect that cuffing season has on friends-with-benefits and singles? Why is it that cuffing season seems to be the driving force in the increase in relationships during this seasonal transition?

My theory is the weather. Once you trade in shorts and sundresses for joggers and crewnecks, the urge to hold someone’s hand down Locust Walk or snuggle during those cold Saturday nights becomes a lot stronger. Stronger to the point where commitment issues get pushed down. Lots of times, people who are not ready for a relationship get forced to think about exclusivity and commitment because of cuffing season. Yes, there could be other factors that cause people with commitment issues to enter relationships. But from personal experience, these feelings arise due to cuffing season. For example, one of my friends last year was having a casual relationship with a sophomore. Yet once the cold of October hit, she changed gears and made the transition from a casual to a committed relationship. 

What makes cuffing season so intriguing at a university like Penn is actually its origin — hookup culture. With hookup culture being so prevalent among the student body, it’s no wonder so many people start dating after first hooking up for a period of time. It’s normal to start “talking” to a boy and make plans to “watch a movie.” However, looking back at the semester, I can't recall the last time a "movie" wasn't a poorly-masked booty-call. Although the point of hookups is quite clear, the moment cuffing season begins on campus, those casual relationships slowly morph into exclusivity...and eventually dating. While being in a relationship in college is fairly common and there is something to be appreciated about how Penn’s hookup culture can somehow put two people you’ve never imagined together in a relationship, I can’t help but scrutinize the transition from casual to serious dating.

Casual hookups seem like the right decision in the summer, but as the weather gets colder, many of these types of relationships get pressured into changing their status. So, should cuffing season make you change the way you view casual hookups? My answer is no. I’ve had my time with committed relationships and casual hookups, and from what I know, if there wasn’t any romantic or personal connection before the physical attraction, it can be hard to decide whether to legitimize a casual relationship. However, due to my feminist ideals, I strongly believe there are more important goals in life than getting the approval or comfort of a man. 

If you are in a casual relationship, there are usually two paths from which you can choose during cuffing season — dating or ghosting. Friends-with-benefits are more likely to date or at least using the term “exclusive” during cuffing season. And while I’ve seen relationships flourish after becoming official during cuffing season, many hookups that make that transitional jump still lack a strong foundation due to the fact that they were initially based on physical attraction. Thus, the notion of compatibility comes into play. In regards to hook-up culture, it begs the question: can two people be truly compatible with one another, despite their unconventional start? Physical attraction of the partner is important, yet it is not the only factor in a healthy, committed relationship. Therefore, it causes some instances where two people find themselves lacking the emotional connection of a committed relationship because their partnership was simply one ignited by the commencement of cuffing season. Thus, the compatibility of two people — or lack thereof — will show whether the relationship should be worth saving or worth dumping. 

Hook-ups can end in various different ways, but the most common way is ghosting, i.e. when  you suddenly end contact with the other person without explanation. This is the second path you can choose during cuffing season if you’re in a casual relationship. Not opening snapchats or answering texts are indicative of cutting (or being cut from) a connection with a person. To reference my personal history once again, I’ve both ghosted quite a few people in my time, and been ghosted myself. In my case, my fear of commitment causes me to be unbothered by the fact that my hookups are simply just starts of casual relationships and don’t always work out. 

If you find yourself unbothered by ghosting, clearly your casual relationship was meant to end eventually, and there’s no need to think about it for any longer. However, if ghosting is hurtful to you, then perhaps you are more invested in the relationship than you had thought. That being said, ghosting might be a common occurrence for these sort of instances, but it’s not the kindest way of ending these types of relationships. Even with casual relationships, there is still some sort of connection between the two parties, even if that connection is physical attraction. Yet, ghosting someone with no explanation can cause harm for the other party. Either way, be careful in determining whether these feelings are a result from cuffing season or true attraction. 

Perhaps it’s wanting to cozy up to a personal human pillow that causes casual hookups to transition into commitment relationships, or maybe it’s just the culture of Penn or college in general. But, if you want to make a change in your life — whether it be diet, fitness, or dating — ensure your reasons to make that change are valid. I have seen some of those transitioned relationships flourish, yet I have also seen others cause harm for both parties involved. That being said, cuffing season is a blessing and a curse for those in casual relationships at Penn. Therefore, making any change should be a decision based on both parties and not purely due to the effects of the weather.