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  • Jacob Snyder and Gi Ferrigine

Are We a Thing?

Updated: Sep 4, 2021


Tell me one thing: when it’s a cold Saturday night in late January, who’s going to join you in opening a bottle of wine, turning on Netflix’s Dogs, and having a violent, convulsive cry?

Not your stupid friends. Trust me, they won’t feel eager to strap on pounds of clothes and trudge through the gray slush flows lining Broadway, all while struggling to breathe air that isn’t even a real temperature. Neither is any fuck buddy or FWB or whatever going to make that journey. Unless you promise them sex, which we all know doesn’t pair very nicely with sobbing.

What to do? Obviously, you could do the whole drinking-and-crying thing alone. But that’s what the whole month of October is for. Better to share a special moment like this one with an adoring sweetheart; misery loves company, according to my therapist. That’s what cuffing season is all about at Columbia, and it’s something we can all get behind. Yet you hear the same thing every year, as soon as the last leaf turns red:

“I don’t get cuffing season. I’m a strong, self-caring, independent, etc. person. I don’t need some flanneled schmuck with a savior-complex to help me through a couple of flurries. Besides, a relationship would just distract me from developing my career.”

Illustration by Jennifer Bi

I think I know what the problem is. The term ‘cuffing season’ was invented by Big Pharma and Big Data to coerce college students, ripe for recruitment, into prioritizing their professional ambitions by making winter romance sound like incarceration. By putting the term into use, all of us are unwittingly contributing to a stress culture that disdains intimacy and esteems workaholism. Either way, there’s no good reason to think of shackles when considering a perfectly healthy, basic human need to become sexually and emotionally dependent on someone (anyone!) when the weather gets chilly.

We’ll need an alternative, then. Here’s my proposal: instead of using ‘cuffing season’ to identify the desire for snowbound romance, how about ‘Annual Season Stimulating Thermoregulatory Instincts for Mammalian Engagement?’ This term has the distinct advantage of being scientifically precise enough to preclude any associations with handcuffs, imprisonment, or the justice system in general. I’ve been warned by skeptics that my term is unwieldy, and as such will never catch on with this pithy, meme-fluent generation of Columbians. The solution is to use the corresponding acronym, ASSTIME.

Now that we have a more precise way of capturing the spirit of cuffing season, it’s easy to see that there’s nothing especially unhealthy about a wintry fling. Even the most independent-minded of us could use someone who can act as a temporary distraction from the Truth made apparent by winter—namely, that all things, all of us, must someday wither and expire in the cold void, alone.

So I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a short list of ASSTIME activities you can enjoy around campus with your sweetheart:

1. Share some gossip over hot cocoa.

2. Take a walk together in Riverside. Turn back immediately after the first gust of wind.

3. Pretend to feel confident about a shared future.

4. Shit on a mutual friend.

5. Fight recurrently over the lack of a shared future.

6. Take a class together. Regret it when you breakup bitterly as the weather warms and now have to see each other regularly.

7. Volunteer to write a piece in The Blue and White about ‘cuffing season.’ Feel guilty when you realize in the process of writing that your fear of commitment crippled the relationship. Please come back, Laura. I’m so sorry.

—Jacob Snyder


Hot take: No.

The first snow falls and as if on cue, couples are cropping up faster than a line in Ferris on buffalo-chicken-wrap Thursday. I mean, it’s basically a scientific fact that cold weather is directly correlated with monogamy. The temperature dips below 50 degrees just once, and what do we see? Yet another slew of suckers, mired not in the snowy blanket January drapes around the shoulders of the East Coast, but in the layers of a new fling’s paisley print duvet on some lazy Saturday morning. Sure, the warmth of that bed is alluring, but whatever happened to cable-knit sweaters and fuzzy socks? Isn’t college supposed to be about intellectual pursuits and sexual freedom (or vice-versa), not popping the meeting-the-parents question? I thought Columbia was infamous for its hookup culture, but the amount of hand-in-hand action I’ve seen on my daily runs through Riverside has me skeptical.

Sure, I suppose we can admire the gumption of the schmuck who manages to scale Mt. Friendzone, reaching high enough to find that the view from the summit brings only lesser autonomy.

“Sorry guys, I know I said I would go to Trader Joe’s to get the seafood risotto ingredients for our suite dinner, but she really wants to take a trip to the subway grate on Lexington and52nd where Marilyn Monroe took that one photo!”

Illustration by Jennifer Bi

As you ponder the absurdity of the excuse you’ve just been dealt (and whether or not Westside carries scallops in bulk), you find yourself shivering a bit, wishing you had worn a scarf.

Cuffing season does not and can not exist—not on this campus anyway, which is widely renowned as a breeding ground for the most emotionally void 20-somethings in all of collegiate America. This bastion of booty calls, this stronghold of sexual prowess will never fall to a few relationships that won’t even live to see the tarps removed from the lawns outside Butler. Fortified by each 1am “wanna hang?” text, we date-dodging few will stand tall against cuffing season and the notion that love of anything other than the girth of a Milano’s sandwich exists.

Do you really want to spend your winter months shackled to someone when you could be out in the game being the libidinous dog you were born to be? Aren’t we, as Columbians, all about waking up not to the chiming of an alarm, but to a polite smile and a quick, awkward exit?Isn’t the provisional panacea for any lingering high-school insecurities to hookup with as many people as possible as a form of self-validation? We cannot give in. We’re at Columbia, after all—grab some glitter glue and poster board, let’s start a damn protest.

So the next time your distraught friend comes crying to you at some odd hour of the night because her boyfriend told her he’d rather she not keep a toothbrush in his EC suite (which means he’s totally hooking up with that NYU girl he interned with in FiDi this past summer, and you knew it all along), consider yourself lucky, my friend, to be a sexual nomad. Chilly, yes, and in need of that scarf, but unfettered by the manacles of some significant other’s neediness, poorly hidden in the guise of dental hygiene.

*phone buzzes*

Ohmygod! He just texted me asking to get dinner! How long should I wait to answer??? You think I’m the only girl he’s talking to, right???

—Gi Ferrigine


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