Christmas in a land of strangers.
“It’s cuffing season”, my roommate informs me over brownies and wine, snow swirling outside our window.
“It’s when you lock someone down for the winter because it’s too cold to to go outside and hunt.”
This is how Urban Dictionary defines Cuffing Season - “During the Fall and Winter months people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves along with the rest of the world desiring to be "Cuffed" or tied down by a serious relationship. The cold weather and prolonged indoor activity causes singles to become lonely and desperate to be cuffed."
Yes, keep calm ‘tis the season to be “cuffed”. Image source: themash.com
This year I happen to be living in a country where winter goes down to -30 degrees, thigh high boots, a beanie, gloves, and a massive coat more a form of function than fashion. You no longer pick someone up at a bar and head home to quickly, desperately take your clothes off. Now courting is planned and pre-empted - putting on and taking off clothes a slow arduous process. It’s that time of the year where cuddling is a national sport and smashing and dashing turns into an episode of “You vs Snowstorm” - an early morning battle nobody wants to fight. So we millennials do something older than time itself; we connect and we commit.
Cuffing season starts around Nov 1st and goes on till Feb 14th. Image source: canimintaaici.tumblr
Yesterday my Facebook throwback of “this day, that year” hit me hard, I was grinning at the camera whilst sitting in the middle of the most beautiful fountain in Bordeaux, guarded by majestic centaurs, my own French boy taking the picture. We’d met a month ago and minutes before that picture was taken he’d invited me to spend Christmas with his family in the South of France. Too soon, right? But we liked each other, I was homesick, and the French are actually very hospitable people, magicians at turning everything into an art - love, food and even Christmas. I said yes.
I spend the week before Christmas furiously Googling appropriate presents for the family of someone you’ve just started dating, feeling like an idiot when I realize the answer to everything in France is wine, always wine. The closer we get to his parents house, the bigger the panic in the pit of my stomach grows. “My parents don’t really speak English”, he casually drops in, fifteen minutes away from their house. Fuck me. I think.
“Did you tell them I’m Indian?”
“Yes”, he says, then laughs so hard the car swerves, “They thought you were Indian like Red Indian and started calling you ‘Petit Bougie’ because you’re so tiny. You now officially have your own Red Indian name”
“What does that mean?”
Christmas throwback amidst the beautiful fountain in Bordeaux, France
I had one of my best Christmases that year, his family welcoming me with hugs and kisses and presents and no questions (Indian parents, take note). I spend the better part of Christmas lunch staring at the lobster on my plate until he looks over, smirks and cuts it up for me. His mother makes an ‘aww’ face - Mothers all over the world unite. That week the boy and I take his dog to the beach everyday, I borrow his mother’s bike and we go exploring, Houston running by our side, sunshine lighting up our faces. And we eat oh we eat so much - at boardwalk cafes and Chinese buffets, on a boat and on a beach, at massive family dinners - French meals with bread and cheese and ham that leave you feeling like a fat lazy cat. Our coupledom plays out like a time-lapse video complete with beer on the boardwalk, blonde rosy cheeked little girls that reach out to touch my skin, chess games with his dad, sifting through old photo albums for pictures of him as a boy. He acts as a translator when the conversation is too fast for me to keep up with and watching him spin words in ways I understand feels a little like falling in love.
Now two years later the deja vu is intense.
‘Petit Bougie’ (me) enjoying a traditional French meal. Image source: artsfon.com
“Being snowed in escalates intimacy”, I tell a boy I met only weeks ago, as we reverently survey our successful Sunday pot roast. “Unless we can’t stand each other”, he says smiling. Our third date lasts four days, we Netflix and cook and work intently on different sides of the bed, the magic of Narnia time enveloping us like Christmas dust. We have our first fight, we get drunk with his best friend, I Snapchat his daily ritual of cracking ice off the car, we go shopping for socks and sweaters, we fit an entire relationship montage in four days and the fear of not having my own space doesn’t find me.
Being whole all on my own. Image source: mnn.com
In the two years since France I’ve gotten increasingly more independent preferring to have short explosive experiences while I focus on myself, often inadvertently moving countries at the start of something real. I’ve gotten used to having my day go my way where it’s okay for me to go off the grid without being answerable to someone, I’ve gotten used to doing the dishes for one and starfishing on a duvet for two. I’m whole all on my own. I’ve lived in four countries all on my own. And now here I am surrendering my space over to this boy, like a gift. And this boy too - older, independent, with scar stories scratched into his skin, gifts me his space back.
It’s Christmas season and the belief that there is still good in the world sprinkles on to my skin like snow. My present to myself turns out to be a realization, I realize that the whole point of life is to give affection and to get affection and when you are in neither state you feel the weight of your mortality. I know now that I’m not better off alone, none of us are. With all the cruelty and madness happening in the world real human connection is all we have left. So I choose to connect and to commit, I choose to let this boy in.
None of us are better off alone. Image source: yourhomewizards.com
And that, my lovely Indian comrades, is the magic of Christmas and cuffing season - these powers combine to align your fate so effortlessly that you aren’t playing strategic hide and seek games anymore. I don’t believe in serendipity. But I want to. And something about why I’m in this country, in this season, something about how I found this boy who shows me the light and dark makes me believe this is serendipitous. Everyone thought I was crazy. Who moves to Canada in winter, they said. They weren’t wrong. But what we always fail to take into account while making big decisions is the things we can’t predict.
The magic of Christmas and cuffing season
I owe Christmas and her snow elves for helping me fall into my future with someone I don’t want to murder after being stuck in the same house with for over 24 hours. You know what they say, anyone who massages the warmth back into your cold feet is a keeper.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
Cover photo credit: pinterest.com