If you were the kid who wasn’t much of a looker in high school — congratulations. You’ve now reached the land where simply having that one unique chromosome means someone will give you attention. In high school, this attention it was a hybrid of both kinds — you had someone who thought you were decently good-looking and might do well in the sack (or at least, in the future in the sack), and they would be nice-ish and perhaps even sweet to you depending on on what occasion they weren’t playing games. The angst was more real, but the feelings weren’t necessarily.
But in college, relationships do not often come with the connotation of ‘settling’. So when one does come along… it’s real. That’s what they don’t tell you about college romance.
On many occasions in college, you’ll run into people who think you’re attractive. At parties, the lights are low, the dancing’s loose, and both qualities are applicable to standards and morals respectively. If you want an ego boost, all you have to do is tap someone on the shoulder and start it off by asking to dance. If you offer to enough people, you’ll end up feeling satisfied that you’re desirable by the end of the evening.
But when you’re trudging home, when the smirk of satisfaction slips off your face and you enter your dorm to empty, silent, lonely hallways, sometimes it’s not enough to know you’re desirable. Sometimes you want to know you’re desired.
There may be someone you’ve gone out to meals with on many occasions now. Movie dates don’t count in college. No one who is going to take you that seriously will just drop 13 bucks on a movie. No, there will be face to face interaction. And there’ll be sparks, or maybe not. The time it takes to gauge if there are any — or if there are, if they’ll last — is way longer. But it makes the wait even more worth it.
But before you can even begin that test of time, they are the people you see but have no idea how to talk to. The one who always stands in line at the food place downstairs, whose grin and demeanor intrigue you. The one who almost singlehandedly runs student leadership who you pass by on your way to class every day, but can never muster up the courage to say hi to. The one who’s a friend of a friend, but who you haven’t had the chance to formally meet. They frustrate you because they’re inaccessible, and you want to know if, somehow, you two could ever become anything more than just a glance in the hallway.
And they are also the people you’re already acquainted with. The one you once met through a friend at that concert, who you’ll say hi to in the dining halls three times a week and secretly wish you saw more often. The one you always saw as just a friend to joke with, whose jokes suddenly seem funnier and more relatable than they were before. The one you sit down and have a deep conversation with when you happen upon them alone in the student center, and they always know what to say to provoke you to think more deeply.
But these aren’t the people you chase down at parties. How come chasing them will turn into a casual gait or saunter as soon as they turn their heads to look curiously your way? Why are these types of hit-or-miss scenarios ‘hard to find’? How do people get away with saying, “it’s college, romance is dead,” when there are hundreds, if not thousands, of couples swarming around campus?
How they’ll infuriate you with their held hands, their giggled secrets, their exclusive smiles. When you know that you have someone like that, that someone looks and sees you for everything you are, it’s valuable. It’s honest. It’s rare. It’s real.
By all accounts, romance in college cannot be whittled down to a mere formula. So while settling for one night’s kiss or a superficial exchange of expectations isn’t enough, it sometimes will “just do” when you’re tired out from waiting. But the only way to cure all lovesickness is to simply not think about it. That’s also what they don’t tell you about college romance.
What they don’t tell you about college romance is romance is now only a small part of your identity. You start to yearn for more than being a half. You start to set goals, muse over dreams, for the whole person that you are. If given a choice between the men of my dreams and the publications of my dreams, I would still choose the dreams I can hold in my hand over the ones I hold hands with. If given a choice between a relationship and an internship, I would choose to go for a ship that’s less prone to sail at any minute, one that will take me out of a room rather than into it.
Whatever your passion is, you can channel that and be a lover of hobbies and skills. You can throw all you have into self-betterment, rather than the self-effacement that seems to always come with being single, and restless.
That’s what they don’t tell you about college romance. Maybe sometimes it will be worth it, but the only thing that’s constant is how you make the wait worth it.