Bill and Melinda Gates, J.Lo and A-Rod, and Kimye?! It’s only about halfway through 2021 and the laundry list of popular celebrity breakups continues to grow. Is anyone else wondering what’s in the water these days? It seems like no one is entering summer with genuine romance. I’ve been asking myself “what’s the deal?” now more than ever. The more I take a step back and look at the current state of love, dating, and sex, the more I come to realize the massive elephant in the room: Corona Cuffing season.
It’s possible that the country’s ongoing recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic may have played a role in these iconic splits, and potentially yours, too. Did you plan for what the reopening of the U.S. would mean for dating and relationships? Yeah, me neither. Is this the hot girl summer everyone’s been talking about? If so, I’m not sure how I feel about it.
It was all fun and games — you know, people partying and hooking up again, it seemed the whole world wanted to start off this summer single. My humble opinion? As it inches closer and closer to fall, I think people are going to approach their love lives cautiously, as the whole country bites their nails waiting to see what happens with COVID moving forward.
During the onset of the pandemic — when no one really knew what was happening around the world — there was a wave of extreme panic. Not only did you have to worry about a deadly virus, but you were also concerned with the uncertainty, isolation, and loneliness that would come with it. A report conducted by Harvard surveyed about 950 Americans in October 2020, looking at how feelings of loneliness that existed even before the pandemic were made worse after the fact at an alarming rate, especially for younger adults. About half of survey respondents reported that, for several weeks, no one had “taken more than just a few minutes” to ask how they were doing, making them feel like no one actually cared about their wellbeing.
Given that the regular cuffing season that you know essentially didn’t exist, what was anyone to do? The answer: Corona Cuffing. Otherwise known as artificial cuffing season, Corona Cuffing was the practice of coupling up with someone new during lockdown — mostly to stave off the loneliness, boredom, and uncertainty that came with the changes brought by the pandemic.
I chatted with Jenna, 23, about her recent Corona Cuffing experience with a guy she met on the popular dating app, Hinge. “We started talking at the tail end of summer and were exclusively together during ‘cuffing season.' There was practically nothing to do besides go out to restaurants and drink, so we went out on a lot of dates and did a lot of couple-y stuff,” Jenna tells Her Campus. “It definitely felt pretty serious. I mean, I even met all of his family and friends. We were together during the holidays (including Valentine's Day), and even celebrated his birthday together.”
The ambiguity of Corona Cuffing made DTRing particularly difficult. “We never put a label on things, but I felt like it went without saying that we were definitely dating.” Then, boom. Jenna experienced what many can relate to as the seasons changed and COVID restrictions lightened. “Randomly at the beginning of April, he broke up with me. Out of nowhere. He told me that even before we met he knew he didn’t want a relationship. I was super blindsided at the time, but looking back, I don’t think the timing was random at all — the world was about to reopen, summer was around the corner, and the man wanted to be single for all that,” she explains. “I feel like we were the textbook definition of a COVID relationship. We met on a dating app and both didn’t want to be alone during a pandemic, but broke up abruptly when vaccines started rolling out!”
In the times of COVID-19, the lines between being single versus being lonely were completely blurred, leading us to the concept of Corona Cuffing. To avoid heavy feelings of complete isolation, people jumped into relationships, maybe even situationships, that they’d typically take a bit more time to feel out. Dating during the pandemic led to many key relational steps being missed in the early stages of the relationship. In the case of Corona Cuffing, though, people hit the ground running when they realized the dark storm cloud called “loneliness” was on their tail.
However, as we get closer to a “normal” summer with increased vaccination rates and states lifting their restrictions, aren’t many twentysomethings going to want to go wild? Being cooped up for more than a year now is a recipe for some young adults to let loose (and potentially go harder than ever before). NPR reports that the post-pandemic years (whatever they may look like) will likely resemble the 1920s. Although the TikTok dances will be no match to the iconic jazz hands and dancing from the 1920s, you can really only hope that we bounce back from a pandemic in the way the country did after the Spanish Flu a hundred years ago. In a time of great technological advancement, economic prosperity, socialization (and lavish parties), I can’t help but wonder, does history always repeat itself?
I don’t know about you, but I’d love to relive days where twentysomethings meet up at the bars (our modern version of dance halls) and are able to make up for the lost time. Plus, I’m still looking for the day I get my Great Gatsby flapper girl moment in the Hamptons.
Granted, not all relationships that sprouted from the pandemic are set up for failure, of course. My friend Rachel,* 23, remained in a situationship with someone while still partying her way through senior year of college. After being told that they had to move out of the dorms immediately and couldn’t come back to campus, all she heard was complete radio silence from them.
“It was devastating that my time with this guy had to be cut short. More than anything, it was frustrating because it was completely out of my control. We had a really good thing going, but once the pandemic started, we were forced to move back home, which in our case meant moving across the country from each other,” she tells Her Campus.
But later on, they rekindled their flame once the anxieties of COVID-19 became more manageable. “If I’ve learned anything from this situation, it’s that good things really do come back around if they’re meant to be, and everything always works out the way it’s supposed to," she says.
They’ve been together since celebrating the northeast’s reopening and lighter restrictions, but she still feels the lingering effects of those months they were forced apart. “I had, and still have, so many ‘what ifs’ about the situation — mostly surrounding how we would’ve worked out without the sudden four-month break.”
Do I believe this is the norm for COVID relationships? Absolutely not. It’s refreshing to see there are still people out there continuing to look for genuine connections, though, and steering away from the post-COVID hookup culture that seems to be as hot and heavy as ever (making up for lost time, perhaps?).
2020 completely uprooted everything and anything that anyone thought they knew about dating, and that’s okay (it was all getting a little stale anyway, if you ask me). However, this doesn’t mean dating someone for the sake of it and ending things on a dime is okay, either. What troubles me the most about this Corona Cuffing phenomenon is the lack of respect I’ve seen with the breaker-upper to the breakup-ee.
While the outcomes of these various Corona Cuffing relationships are different for each couple, it seems like Corona Cuffing is another extension of the regular cuffing season we're used to. Just as people look for someone to ride out the holidays and cold weather with in normal years (only to break things off right around the time spring and summer come around), vax season seems to have signaled the end for most of these lockdown love stories. For the most part, it doesn't seem like everyone found their soulmate in quarantine — but maybe they weren't looking for them, either.
As the U.S. still sits in this slowly-but-surely-transitioning-out-of-a-pandemic phase, try looking at it as a time of great opportunity. Date around (following your state’s CDC guidelines, of course), download some of the various dating apps, and always remember to treat people with the respect they deserve! You never know what can happen.
*Name has been changed.
Weissbourd, R., et. al. (2021). Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It. Making Caring Common Project.