Cuffing season, for serious coupling

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Mark Jackson and Riana Mitchell met on Instagram during "cuffing season" and have been together for a year. "Cuffing Season" is the new term to described the period in which individuals tend to get in relationships more frequently, the winter. (David Swanson/Staff Photographer)

It's that time of year. Not for turkey and stocking stuffers, but for giving and getting some good lovin'.

We've entered cuffing season.

Like many trends starting in hip-hop and black culture, the term cuffing season has become the latest not-so-new phenomenon to hit the mainstream - defined by urbandictionary.com as the fall and winter months, when the normally single or promiscuous suddenly want a serious relationship. It rose to Twitter hashtag fame about three years ago.

But now it seems everyone else is realizing that rapper Fabolous' 2013 "Cuffin' Season" is the real deal.

Good Morning America embraced its validity last month, while at the same time, the Champs Sports brand tweeted "Welcome to #CuffingSeason. Don't hate the player," and the British lingerie company Ann Summers sent out "Need a teddy for #CuffingSeason?" with a photo of its newest slinky apparel. (Why "cuffing"? You're tied down with the holding power of handcuffs.)

Studies show that as the weather gets colder, if an overpriced latte isn't enough to warm you, the arms of another might be the next best thing.

"It might make evolutionary sense," said Villanova University psychology professor Patrick Markey, "that we have adapted to mate during the winter season."

Though Markey says there is no clear explanation for the pairing off, he says it may be possible that cold weather meant people were forced to be together and "were more likely to mate." The gene may have been passed down over time.

It seems that as the leaves fall, so do inhibitions.

"All of a sudden, I get texts," said Neke Obedekah, 36, a single nurse and stylist from Olney. "In the summertime, no one's available; when it's cold, [guys] start calling."

At Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar, Brice Lonotte, 22, discussed the concept with friends over drinks.

"Now that I think about it, I do get into relationships during the winter," he said. "They end around spring."

Lonotte admitted he wasn't sure why.

But the phenomenon is particularly noticeable to people who work at places where couples gather.

"The past few Saturday nights, since weather has changed, there have been more couples," said Peter Mooradian, general manager at Chima Brazilian Steakhouse.

Kimberly Solis, a Chima hostess, also witnesses more first dates in November, and especially: "In the winter we have more engagements. In the summer I haven't seen one."

Kathleen Bogle, sociology professor at La Salle University and author of Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus, found that, among singles, "it was known that people are more inclined to be more serious in the fall and winter," because indoor activities increase, and singles are less likely to meet new people and more likely to focus on those nearby.

Psychologist Markey speculates the holiday season "has memories of loving times, and it may transfer to new relationships."

In his study "Seasonal Variation in Internet Keyword Searches: A Proxy Assessment of Sex Mating Behaviors," he also found that condom sales, conception, and sexually transmitted infections peak during winter - and summer (darn those summer flings).

Even Match.com sees almost a 40 percent increase in new members registering from Dec. 26 to Valentine's Day.

Dating coach Kevin Carr, author of If All Men Are Dogs Then Women You Hold the Leash, believes the mentality that creates cuffing season is more prevalent than it was 10 years ago: "People are more open to having relationships without going through the process or work to build healthy relationships."

Carr says today's need for instant gratification is reflected in these "microwave relationships," and because they now have a new term for an age-old ritual, younger people are more likely to embrace a seasonal relationship.

At the Gallery mall, where high schoolers say they go "fishing" for boyfriends or girlfriends after school, some students acknowledge the sport gets more intense come fall.

During winter, Kwaddy Mack, 17, says, "Girls start getting emotional and into their feelings."

Destiny Williams, 18, says she doesn't buy into cuffing season.

"It's an excuse for people to jump in and out of relationships," she said.

For others, it can be a jump-start for a longer commitment.

Although Riana Mitchell, 21, met Mark Jackson, 23, during last year's cuffing season, the relationship continued long after warm weather rolled in. They have been together a year, after Mitchell's Instagram photos reeled him in. Though, during their first winter, one of the region's worst, Mitchell spent a lot of time at Jackson's house - which he says helped them get closer.

"We were always together at that time," said Jackson.

In the meantime, those seeking companionship continue to marvel at the cuffing behaviors of others.

At Vango Lounge and Skybar, the ladies room is crowded with women in high heels, paired with high expectations.

"Guys who acted like they were single in the summer," says Sydney Rogers, 23, "now that it's fall they want a girlfriend."

The other women back her up, in unison: "Yes!"

After the women reapply makeup like war paint, they head back out to the bar.

"Once winter starts," says Silver Houser, 21, "it's going to get real."

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