The first few times that I came home from college during my first year, the question I was asked immediately after “How’s school?” was, “Well, how are the guys there? Do you have a boyfriend yet?” My answer? “They’re underwhelming, and no … by choice.” I felt the need to add the last qualifier to somehow validate my own self-worth — that I wasn’t weird for not having found a single person with whom I wanted to go on a first date, let alone have a meaningful relationship.
Granted, many of my neighbors and mother’s friends were poking fun at me, but I was surprised by how eager they were to hear about my “illustrious” romantic life. These questions often came in isolation, too. Why didn’t they ask about my friends? My professors? My classes? I had plenty to say about them. When I asked my guy friends about this phenomenon, I found that while they were asked similar questions about romance, it was never the first, second or even third question.
There is this idea that as college students, we’re never going to be surrounded by so many single, high-achieving people our age. If we don’t engage in dating culture now — whether it be a romantic relationship or a hookup — then we are, in a sense, “wasting” our time here.
I’ve been asked for romantic advice plenty of times, whether that be after an underwhelming Woads or on courtyard benches or at 1 a.m. in my common room when we all should have been sleeping. This is baffling to me, considering that I didn’t even date in high school, claiming that I was too busy and that it wasn’t worth the hassle. My friends would tease, “You’ll peak in college.” It stung a bit, as a 17-year-old who felt good at everything — academics, extracurriculars — but not courtship, much less romantic love. When I got to college, I felt like an anomaly, wholly inexperienced. I also felt as if few others felt the same way.
Over the course of my college years, I was surprised to find that the most common question to come up in conversation is, “Everyone’s found someone. I haven’t had my *insert first relationship, first coffee date or some other variation here.* Am I weird?”
First of all, no, you’re not. Love and relationships don’t ascribe to a set schedule — their beauty is in their irrationality, their unexpectedness. Few of my friends who are in relationships have had a real-life “meet-cute.” You know, where the girl drops her books and Prince Charming swoops in to help, all the while admiring her taste in literature? Most of us just happened to have mutual friends or classes, with no particular rhyme or reason to it.
This concern seems to span social circles, majors and schools. As apps like Tinder and Bumble rise in popularity, many of us wonder where we fall in this romantic mess of a campus. Therefore, when we haven’t had much dating experience, we’re extremely reluctant to admit it. There seems to be this illusion of experience stemming from our tendency to appear good at everything, even if it means masking our insecurities.
Whether you’ve had a long line of hookups or just one bad coffee date, several meaningful relationships or a monthlong fling, you do you. If you feel like you haven’t met a person worth committing to, don’t feel obligated to settle. If you feel like you’re ready to go on a coffee date, but have never asked someone out, go for it. We should reserve our judgments on people’s dating pasts and realize that at the end of the day, most of us are simply trying to navigate the confusing world that is romantic interest.
To date or not to date? That is the question. My answer? Totally up to you. That choice is yours, and only yours, to make. We’re all deserving of love, and a romantic partner doesn’t make that any more or less true.
Hala El Solh is a junior in Berkeley College. Her column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .