Do Canadians relax their dating standards during the summer months?
What should we call the opposite of cuffing season?
Winter is called "cuffing season" because the elements lead people to seek a partner to "cuff up" with through the long dark months. Summer is cuffing season's flirty contrary. The dawn of spring heralds more energy and abundance, from the plants all the way up the food chain, and an all around twitterpated atmosphere leading into summer — the season of romantic possibility, holiday romance and flings. But if everyone is more open and anything can happen, does this mean that people are relaxing their dating standards during the summer months?
Maybe. But maybe not. According to a study by Facebook summer is a relationship wrecking ball. Their data shows that May through August are the top months of the year for breakups, suggesting summer makes people tighten their standards, and notice their partners aren't living up to them. What's going on here? How do the changing seasons affect Canadian dating habits? We asked some Canadian singles about their perspectives and practices and here's what we learned.
Point one: summer changes the entire incentive structure of dating. Snow drifts, howling winds, lethal cold, all the things that make you think twice about leaving the house in the winter are gone. Summer takes us out of our usual social pathways (or ruts) that lead from our homes to our workplaces to our closest friends. Plus, there are way more reasons to leave the house. Beaches, cottages and travel are all in play. So are patios, parties, picnics, and that's just the Ps. The glut of tempting activity options and the pent up energy from winter tends to make people more likely to just get out there and make things happen. The meteorological gates are open, and a warm wide world awaits. Barriers are down, incentives are up. This all tips things towards the casual and the new.
Brandon, an engineer, told me "Summertime begets meeting many new people, while many of your usual friends may be away travelling or cottaging. More new people = more dating around and summer flings, and less long-term dating."
Hot weather also changes what all those new people look like. It's not just that there are more people out. It's that those people are wearing less clothing than any other time of year. Even off-beach, summer is the season of short shorts, mesh tops, and low hanging muscle-tees. For some, however, hotter isn't always hotter. Leanne, who works in fashion, told me "Between 20-27 degrees I'm flirting with everyone and everything. 28, I'm sweating and do not even look my way."
This general state of opportunity and arousal doesn't mean that people are necessarily willing to go for anyone. Instead, many said that all this exposure makes physical attraction a more important factor. Zachary, an actor, told me that in the summer "You're seeing your date in their bathing suit, in skirts and tanks. Bonus for cool tattoos which we can finally see!" Piera, a lawyer, told me that appearance is more important in the summer because "In the summer, the person I'm seeing is more likely to meet my friends, because we're all out together. So he has to be at, you know, a respectable level. In the winter, I can just kind of stash them away in my room so it matters less."
In addition to all the changes to dating opportunities and to others, the summer weather can also have an effect on your psychology and outlook. Michael Holick of the University of Michigan says "being outside readjusts your outlook. The sun represses melatonin levels, making you feel alert, open to new ideas, and willing to put yourself in unfamiliar territory."
My interviewees confirmed this. Better weather seemed to put them in a better overall mood, making them more optimistic, more confident, which could lead them to taking a dating plunge where they might not during the dark season. Colleen, an artist, says "Not only am I more likely to be open to whatever, I feel like people are just a little nicer to be around. More chill, open, happy, positive… so going on dates is just generally a bit more fun." She adds, "I am less likely to want an actual boyfriend in the summer…. summer is not time to hibernate so I'm probably just in a state of mind that is less invested in dating - which is the perfect time to date."
So how do we sum up all these different factors that determine the season of love? Are standards tighter or more relaxed during the summer? Most people I spoke to told me that summer dating is much more casual. It's a time of year for trying new things with new people. None of them, however, thought of this openness as a matter of "lower standards". Instead, they told me that, overall, dating in summer is just more fun, and so there are more good options. Summer, and all the tempting opportunities it brings, is a pull factor. It draws people out of their houses and their normal habits. People still want to date in the winter, but the cold season exerts more of a push factor. The anxiety of spending a cold winter alone, or facing a lot of "still single?" questions over the holidays makes people more eager to couple up. When I asked Chloe, a musician, if her dating standards are more flexible in the summer, she said "No way. I'm happy in the summer, I don't need anyone. In the winter, I'm depressed; I'll take anyone."
What to call this flirty time of year? Drew, a comedian, suggested "roaming season". It captures the casual and far-ranging spirit of summer dating in which people follow their geographical and romantic wanderlust. Also, it's more passive, representing the go-with-the-flow spirit of the season. Darian, a dancer is partial to "grazing season", whereas Brandon suggested "sampling season", as in "sample sale" and "sample platter". All evoke the idea of trying lots of different things without committing all one's resources or appetites to one option. Others evoke agricultural metaphors. Joanna, a director, suggested "sowing season" and "oating season" before settling on the more direct "ploughing season". Whatever we call it, summer is a great time to get out there and try new things with new people. Happy grazing season everyone!
Clifton Mark is a former academic with more interests than make sense in academia. He writes about philosophy, psychology, politics, and pastimes. If it matters to you, his PhD is in political theory. Find him @Clifton_Mark on Twitter.