According to Google, we're entering what is known as "Cuffing Season."
Starting around October and lasting until March, Cuffing Season is named for that desire to enter into a serious relationship compared to summer flings or the notorious springbreaker hookup.
It's almost synonymous with pumpkin spice-flavored everything imaginable and curling up by the fire with a soft blanket, maybe with someone as the weather turns colder.
That desire for companionship in this time of year, at least to me, has a societal aspect to it.
With major holidays on the horizon like Halloween where you might be surrounded by couples' costumes, Thanksgiving dinners where your folks may ask if you're seeing anyone, the frankly strange customs surrounding mistletoe, and New Year's Eve and its traditional kiss at midnight (*NSYNC's Christmas album features a track devoted to this and it's honestly one of my favorites in their entire discography) there is a pressure to be coupling up and getting cozy.
After all, how many Christmas songs are there celebrating (or at least being okay with) being single around the holiday compared to those pining for a loved one? Hallmark's seemingly endless marathon of Christmas movies all ending up with a happy couple?
It might be something of a digression, but for the context of this post I think it is worth mentioning: I have never been in a serious relationship.
Not necessarily something you'd expect to hear from a budding romance novelist, right?
I've had my fair share of crushes over the years, sure, but romance is not something I've actively pursued.
A high school classmate offered to set me up on a dating site amid the likelihood I would be going to our senior prom solo as I did junior year. I declined, mostly out of the general concerns drilled into our heads as far back as D.A.R.E. classes in the fifth grade touching on how you shouldn't engage with people online if you do not know them and the dangers of giving out your personal information to strangers.
In recent years, the online landscape has seen some drastic changes between social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter where nearly anything goes, job hunting sites like Indeed and Snagajob, and of course dating sites.
It's reminiscent of those personal ads that would appear in the newspaper back in the day, something along the lines of, "I am a woman seeking a man who likes dogs, long walks on the beach, and diving into a good book. If you like pina coladas..."
Between eHarmony, Tinder, Match, Bumble, OkCupid, ChristianMingle, FarmersOnly and so many more, there is an endless supply of options depending on what kind of relationship you're interested in and your specific interests.
Advertisements for these seem to rev up at the start of cuffing season and go on full blast as we get closer to Valentine's Day, and it's admittedly an endeavor I've considered more often in recent years but haven't explored. I will confess I did (for some reason) give it more thought towards the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, especially since Facebook kept shoving its own dating app on me, but didn't jump in.
I know plenty of folks who were introduced to their significant other or even now-spouse via a dating website or app or some other method like being added to a group chat by a mutual friend. There a number of pros about creating a profile on one or more of these outlets, and each platform with have some more specific to them, there are also cons to online dating that make me more hesitant, as well as my own longing for a real-life meet-cute.
Online dating comes with an ease of access, expanding the "dating pool" beyond your local region and connecting you with people who share similar interests. It's convenient because you can do it via your computer or phone in the comfort of your own home and whenever you want to log on, compared to something like a speed-dating event that happens at a specific time. Bios can give you a sense of who the other person is, giving you an overview of what they're into both hobby-wise and partner-wise.
Many platforms will steer you in the direction of potentially good matches for you, but you also have option of selecting certain criteria in your sources.
This is one of the things that makes me hesitant to create a profile on one or more of these sites. Even though it gives a better chance of connecting you with someone you're more likely to click with, it almost feels too limited, and I wonder if filtering my searches or recommendations would keep me from meeting someone I would be compatible with because we don't have the same things listed or prioritized on our profile.
Do I like horror films? Yeah.
But I wouldn't necessarily put that on my profile.
The filtering can go beyond the search bar or checking off a few boxes.
One aspect of the dating profile is the pictures. People can spend hours trying to get that perfect shot, and with valid reason. You want to make sure to get our "good side" because this will be the first impression you make.
And while there's always the chance a filter is applied to the photo, there is always the chance that the person appearing on the screen isn't the same one behind it.
One girl I follow on Twitter, let's call her Carly, posted a screenshot of a dating profile and captioned it "Breaking News: My name is Pamela now."
As it turns out, someone stole Carly's image for Pamela's profile.
Catfishing, or luring someone into a relationship with a fictional persona, has been a notorious problem pretty much since the dawn of the internet, and while I want to believe people signing onto these dating sites have good intentions I know that there might still be a little bit of doubt in my mind, whereas the Charlie you meet offline will still be that same Charlie when you meet up for the first date rather than a Tyler.
Granted, this is coming from me who writes under and intends to publish with a pen name, but I think there's a difference between this and not using a photo of myself on social media.
I also worry that these photos will limit who I match or choose to interact with. Assuming everyone uses their own photo and isn't an aforementioned Pamela, I wonder if my own preferences will come into play.
Do I have a type? Sure.
People have asked me in the past if my type influences the characters I write. It can, especially in the love interests. Zach of Bound to the Heart is a fair example of this, particularly in some of his physical features. And I won't deny I have a thing for rough-around-the-edges bad boys fiction, the guys who have just the *right* amount of stubble and favor leather jackets and ripped jeans over three-piece suits.
But this could also impact the direction of my swipe (assuming I'm on Tinder).
Would I be more inclined to swipe one way because the guy has brown eyes, or less likely because he is blond? Am I going to get more nitpicky as time goes on, say swiping one way or another based on what shade of brown a guy's eyes are?
And of course, there's the dread of wondering why people might swipe one way or the other one my pic, or what about my appearance determines that.
I don't want to engage in this sort of objectification.
Sometimes having too many options can be overwhelming, so we try to establish some sort of criteria to narrow them down even on some subconscious level.
On the whole, I think the thing keeping me out of the online dating scene is my own longing for a meet-cute.
Meet-cute is a term used to describe the moment where the love interests meet that kicks off the romance. The spark that ignites the flame.
Among my favorite things to plan out for a new WIP is how my characters will come into each other's lives, usually happening in a simple way.
Between reading and writing romance and the countless romcoms I've seen over the years, it's all imparted that ideal meeting of "the one."
But it's not just who that is, but how we meet them. Bumping into them in the library. Maybe stepping in after a not-so-nice-dude gets a little too friendly and walking her to the nightclub exit. Working the register at a retail job and having him slip his phone number with his cash when he pays. Tangled up in leashes at the dog park. Maybe they're at a convention where she's cosplaying as Ariel from The Little Mermaid and he's dressed as Prince Eric. Heck, maybe he's attending a concert and she's in the band.
These kind of scenarios are often the fuel for relationships in romance novels, including my own.
That example of bumping into "the one" in a library? That's how Zach and Eve meet in Bound to the Heart.
I guess it's almost an element of wish-fulfillment in it, writing these scenes because we want to experience them for ourselves. We might just love the idea of seeing the drummer from our favorite band seeing us in the crowd and asking us for a drink after the show or the hunk of a barista calling off a jerk waiting in line behind us before things escalate too far. Even though I'm certain this is getting in the way at times or that it raises my expectations a bit too high, I'm reluctant to let go of that daydream.
As a romantic. As a writer. As a girl who grew up on Disney movies and is still waiting for her Prince Charming.
Is this my way of saying that I will never take the plunge into the online dating pool? Well, no. I'm not ruling it out entirely. Maybe when the world gets back to "normal" after the mess that has been 2020, I'll give it a shot. I don't know if I'll devote a blog post to the experience because it's a little more personal and involves people other than myself.
Are there benefits to online dating, especially in this day and age? Sure.
But part of me is still holding out for the meet-cute. Still imagining myself sitting in a little coffee shop working on, and having some dashing gent walking in, buying my next latte, and introducing himself.