Among all the family get-togethers and seasonal snacking, there is something romantic about the holiday season.
Maybe it’s the cinnamon, overabundance of cheer, or simply the chillier air that makes us want to snuggle up to the nearest attractive person with similar (enough) interests.
This time of year, affectionately known as “cuffing season,” will often spark anything from a serious relationship to fun, short-lived “winter clings.”
Regardless of which path you’re on, once people start decking the halls, it’s easy to conflate a new relationship with the cozy romance of a long-term one. Here’s how to deal with the sticky situations that surround dating during the holidays.
1. Dealing With, “Oh, You Guys Look So In Love.”
“Why, thank you, kind stranger! We haven’t even said that to each other, but your projection of affection will make us thoroughly uncomfortable throughout the rest of our dinner.”
Resist the urge to say that to the middle-aged/elderly/24-year-old-person who just recently rewatched *Love, Actually *for the Nth time and decided to interrupt your date.
We’re not sure what it is about the holiday season that gives people wild assumptions. Everything from a good first date to a casual relationship can get misconstrued as some serious love affair, particularly by over ambitious family members who remember being married with children by the time they hit 25.
Focus on defusing the tension by cracking a joke that goes even further up the commitment scale, a la “By the look on your face, I guess I’ll have to postpone the hot-air balloon proposal I scheduled after this.”
2. Walking The Holiday Parties Tightrope
Navigated the holiday party scene can be something of a tightrope act. If you are flying solo, the world is full of possibilities, particularly if it’s a friends party. If it’s a work function nine times out of ten it’s wise to keep that office crush strictly that. But it’s your gamble.
If you are just starting to date, taking them to a work party or friend’s shindig can go any number of ways. You’ll likely have to introduce them to nearly everyone while keeping them entertained, you might drink too much and let that PDA flag fly higher than it should, or you’ll accidentally end up ignoring them for three hours.
If you’re not Facebook official, fly solo to any parties. These gatherings are more likely to showcase how intimate you two aren’t.
3. Don’t Panick About Gift Exchanges
When a festive box shows up next to your coffee instead of the blueberry muffin you politely requested, you don’t want to be empty-handed. Sadly there is no rule book for when dating moves to gift giving. Is it a couple of weeks? A month? When?
The easiest way to avoid any gift-giving debacles is to talk about it with your cuddle-snow-bunny in advance. While not the most romantic of conversations, together, you can decide whether you should exchange gifts at all, and if so, what spending limit you’re placing on each other.
4. How To Handle Low-Hanging Mistletoe
Mistletoe has been a symbol of fertility and vitality going back thousands of years, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward today.
We’re not sure who finds pleasure in making people awkwardly kiss, but they are a certain level of mischevious. Keep an eye out and hope there aren’t any mistletoe purists around.
It may also be wise to avoid certain restaurants. T.G.I. Friday’s took this tradition a bit too far last year with their mistletoe-toting drones (with one clipping off part of a customer’s nose), but many other modestly priced eateries have been guilty of coercing new lovers to kiss in public.
Avoid these places, if possible. (We know how enticing their Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos can be). If you can’t escape the smooch superstition, tell your host or server you just don’t want to be bothered by holiday shtick.
5. Snagging A New Year’s Kiss
The coveted New Year’s kiss is arguably the main reason cuffing season exists, followed closely by Valentine’s Day. If you haven’t made plans for New Year’s Eve by Christmas, however, you might need to shop around for events with some friends.
If you find yourself solo at a party, it may be wise to tread lightly. There is no greater pressure to find someone to kiss than on New Year’s Eve. While you could just enjoy yourself and the holiday on your terms, if you truly feel you must kiss someone, maybe jokingly ask ahead of time. If it hits, well done, if not – it was a joke – an awkward joke.
For those just beginning to date, don’t try to force your significant other into a romantic interlude if they just want to kick it with friends or family; there will be plenty of time to Netflix and chill next year.