February 03, 2023
My family gets together for a weekly call to discuss the exciting (or lack thereof) things that are going on in our lives. This began with the onset of the pandemic lockdowns as we were dutifully trying to stay home. We also live scattered across 2000 miles (3200 km) in four different cities. While we had previously tried to stay connected, this became impossible during the pandemic years. On this week’s call my brother brought up the term throwing shade. This was used for what I generally called insulting, or disrespecting, or even dissing. We all laughed when several minutes later he used the word in a sentence. This is cited by linguists as a proven way to infuse a new word into your vocabulary. When I looked inside the back pages of what I thought was the sports section of our local newspaper today, I came across an article that referred to “cuffing season,” another phrase which was not familiar.
When I looked online, I found cuffing season refers to a period where single people begin looking for short term partnerships to pass the colder months of the year. Cuffing season usually begins in October and lasts until just after Valentine’s Day. The use of the word cuff refers to handcuffs but is slang in the same vein as “hooking up” or “getting hitched.” The act of seeking out casual romantic relationships is not new, but cuffing season might be original in ascribing that desire to the weather. The earliest recorded print uses of cuffing season date from college newspapers in 2011, with cuff preceding that as a verb with origins in African-American vernacular as something close in meaning to hook up. The term saw significant use as college jargon before ever seeing print. The use of cuff in the title of a 2013 song by the rapper Fabolous may have helped to introduce the phrase to the public at large. The popularity of dating apps like Tinder gave cuffing season a platform.
When I scanned my newspaper’s USA Today article, I found it was not about cuffing, but referred to a more recent (in name) phenomenon called snow storming. Snow storming is the opposite of cuffing and involves ending your relationship in favor of a fresh start in the new year. This could happen because the old relationship was toxic (?), but it often occurs without an obvious reason. Many people use snow storming rather than choosing to stay in a dissatisfying relationship during the season characterized by loneliness. Some couples stay in dead-end relationships because it is comfortable and saying goodbye feels too hard. A new year can prompt a reevaluation to see if your current romance fits your long term goals, or if it is time for snow storming your partner.
THOUGHTS: The more I read, it seemed cuffing was used to provide a short-term relationship during the cold, lonely nights of winter. In contrast, snow storming was used to break an old relationship during these same cold, lonely nights to give freedom to prepare for something new. Relationship coaches warn both approaches should be handled with caution. Years ago, I read we tend to get in relationships with those who are at the same emotional level as we are, at times a scary thought. Both cuffing and snow storming can be ways to avoid intimacy and may result in throwing shade (I used it in a sentence). Emotional maturity is a life-long goal we can never stop working to achieve. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.