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Video dating can keep cuffing season alive this fall and winter as COVID-19 lingers


CHICAGO -The weather has turned cold, officially kicking off cuffing season, the time of year when singles look for short-term relationships to get through the chilly months.

Chicago had a landscape ripe for cuffing season last fall, ranking fourth on the list of top 10 cities in the nation that were having the most sex and looking to casually date.

But this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has tilted just about every aspect of life on its head, how will dating continue to be impacted, especially during a time when it typically soars?

Bela Gandhi, founder and president of Smart Dating Academy in Chicago, said she doesn’t see any “significant detriments” coming to the dating space this fall and winter. In fact, she thinks there will be an increase in singles searching for relationships, keeping cuffing season alive and well.

“I don’t see why (cuffing season will be) any different this year, and in fact, it may be even greater because so many people aren’t going to be travelling to see family during the holidays,” she said, “so it’s going to be even more pointed, like ‘Jeez, I don’t want to be alone for the holidays.’”

The desire for a relationship — whether temporary or long term — likely hit singles harder once the busyness of life halted, explained Gandhi.

“We can normally shroud ourselves from that (desire) with lots of friends and happy hours and work events, and all of a sudden when the music stops, you’re like, ‘Wow, it’s me, myself and I,’ and humans are wired to have a partner.”

Video dating, now a larger part of dating culture, could be a reason why cuffing season may not be too impacted this fall and winter.

According to the annual Singles in America survey by dating app Match, 1 in 5 singles have gone on a video date since the pandemic started.

The survey, in its 10th year, questioned more than 5,000 singles throughout the United States who varied in age, ethnicity, income and background.

Major nuisances in typical dating are some of the stressors like wondering who pays for the date, what to wear, a good neutral location to meet and safety. But with video dates, it’s an even playing field; a lot of the pressure is off, but there is still a unique feeling of intimacy you don’t usually get, Gandhi said.

“Everybody comes to (dating) from a different space,” said Gandhi, “and now you’re doing it from the comfort of your own home. … In a sense it’s a more intimate date because you’re in someone’s space, you’re in their house with them.”

She said you can see what they look like on FaceTime, and if they respect the dating process. “Are they going to get ready a little bit, and look nice, or do they look like they haven’t showered in a few days?”

It’s almost no surprise, then, that of the singles who were surveyed, 65% said that video chatting made them like their date more. Additionally, 59% reported having more meaningful conversations during their video chat.

If you’re going to partake in cuffing season via video dates, Gandhi recommends putting time constraints around the video call, like doing a half-hour happy hour or coffee date, instead of a 2-hour chat.

If the video dates continue, then they can be longer and consist of things like house tours, playing games, or making a meal together.

“You can see someone in their own element then,” said Gandhi. “I don’t have clients going to each other’s houses until they’re exclusive … but here on date three or four, you can be in someone’s kitchen and watch what their temperament is like when they’re cooking or something doesn’t come out right — it’s like an insider glimpse.”

In-person dates aren’t completely off the table in the winter, even though options are more limited and dependent on people’s comfort levels.

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Gandhi suggests still going for a walk, especially since talking shoulder-to-shoulder can help foster intimacy and relieves some of the tension and awkwardness that comes with sitting face-to-face. Also, she says you might be more protected on an outdoor date since you’ll be bundled up and can use a scarf as a face covering.

But yet, video dates may be the safest way toward love this cuffing season. According to the survey, 56% of respondents said they felt romantic chemistry while video chatting with someone, and 50% said they fell in love through the medium. There really doesn’t seem like there’s much to lose.

“You’re way better off in front of your screen, masks off, talking to people,” Gandhi said. “Why not just kick back, have some coffee or a glass of wine, and chat with somebody in their house? It’s better, faster, cheaper, more efficient.”





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