Tell me if this sounds familiar: When Jan. 1 rolled around, you woke up and patted yourself on the back for having dodged every cuff that came your way. Everyone else around you was joined at the hip under a tandem Snuggie, but you remained the very essence of "single by choice and loving it." But then, something happened — subtle at first, but growing steadily. It was a sense of unease. A feeling of something you could only express to yourself in hushed tones: loneliness. Without realizing it, you had entered clearing season. Wait, what is "clearing season,” you ask? Well, it's apparently that super awk time during the winter months, where, once cuffing season has come and gone and once your raging free-and-single mind quieted, you experience a strong desire for simple human contact.
While that experience is nothing new to serial commitment avoiders, thanks to Hannah Ewens and Emma Garland of Vice, it now has a name. As the authors explained, we've all been laboring under the misunderstanding that cuffing season runs from late fall all the way into spring. However, in truth, it’s actually broken into two phases. The theory is that "clearing season" is the second half of the season, characterized by "a last ditch attempt to fill time before the start of the summer." In other words, it's a time "when those single people who — whether by circumstance or choice — did not successfully cuff before the end of the year begin to twitch," according to Vice.
Cuffing season is borne of optimism, the desire to connect, and to find a nesting partner — even temporarily — to endure the cold (read: boring) winter months. Clearing season, on the other hand, is inspired by a more primal drive. “Clearing season is definitive, urgent, dark. It’s DM or die. Plough or perish," the authors wrote. "The most weathered shaggers breeze through Sept-Dec evading what they thought was cuffing season, only to come face to face with clearing season, which in turn feels a lot like facing their very humanity."
The conditions for this annual existential clearing crisis are twofold, according to Vice: the acute thinning of the eligible herd due to cuffing season and the mind-numbing surplus of free time on your hands, during which you contemplate the dating world and if you will ever find your place in it. Like, ever. These two emotional storm fronts collide, creating a super storm of desperation that suddenly makes everyone previously undatable — strangers, exes, social media creepers — suddenly take on a new glow of possibility... which is exactly how you end up in a classic clearing relationship. According to Vice, this will fall into one of two types:
1. One person knows or suspects it’s clearing and the other has secretly been waiting for this moment for three years.
2. Both of you know deep down it’s a load of shite.
And this ushers in the final clearing tradition: the immediate regret phase. "You think you want it, the relationship, but you don’t really, you fickle little prick; all you'll end up doing is shacking up, feeling instantly trapped, leveraging a minor political disagreement as a reason to break it off and then getting a full STI check in time for summer,” the authors wrote. Are you completely shook by the realness of that situation? Let's all marvel at the essential truth of that statement for a moment.
Fortunately, according to Vice, the fog of clearing madness tends to lift by mid-February, just in time for Valentine's Day. So even if you do find yourself trapped in a clearing-coupling of your own creation, there is light at the end of this particular romantic tunnel. Well, until next January, of course.
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