Life after college can be a swamp. It can be rife with confusion, hard choices, and uncertainty. It can also be a fairyland filled with unexpected unicorns and lots of adorable succulents.
It most definitely will offer its own parade of boyfriends, hookups, and casual (or not casual enough) encounters.
To some this is disheartening; to others, post-college dating can be amongst the most memorable, disappointing, and reflective experiences of our lives.
If you don’t date the fellas on this list, your friends might. Or your neighbor. Maybe even your mom (ew?).
It is my hope that you walk into each one of these—if the mood strikes—with an open heart. Open hearts remember things better, after all. They hold stories best.
That’s where this article comes from: an open heart and way too many journals.
1. The Lone Wolf
You likely encountered several lone wolves in college. Now that you’re stepping into the “real” world, you’re about to encounter many more.
The Lone Wolf is restless and independent. He’s a wanderer of the night who creates his own tracks. He may have his own community, but he’s always finding a way to dance between social circles, establish his own rhythm, and clean his paws.
Lone Wolves are attractive. They hang out at the fringe of parties, looking broody. They are often gaunt in that way we love, and their eyes are full of other stories and other worlds. Think of an edgy Mr. Darcy, a party-fiend Heathcliff (for all of you Anglophiles out there).
When you date a Lone Wolf, you may feel as if you’re dating only his skin. He’ll give you parts of his heart, but his eyes will always be on the horizon. Lone Wolves may seem like they’re easy to leave, but they can actually be maddeningly attractive for all their elusiveness.
They can often be forgetful, but they love you in a cigarette-between-the-teeth kind of way.
Many are artists or great thinkers. They may say things that sound like poetry.
But they will always be Lone Wolves in the end—they’re keener for mountains and (maybe) multiple casual relationships at once rather than commitment.
I hate to say it, but lone wolves are most often guilty of cheating. Yet it will not be “cheating” in their eyes—they’re lone wolves! They live outside the rules.
2. The Readymade
Step aside, bachelors. Your throne is about to be dethroned. A far more urgent state of prospective companionship beckons.
The Readymade Husband is here to put the Punch in the Bachelor Pad (and by “punch” I mean the kind you serve at adult birthday parties).
Mr. Readymade is the guy who starts visualizing your future on the second date. He’s probably going to be a bit older than you, feeling the pressure of bachelorhood, or a guy who loves the idea of concrete progression (college, job, wife, kids).
He may simply like the idea of not having to date anymore. He’s not going to be “settling” for you, but he’s ready for the LifeLong.
There are many things about Mr. Readymade that will be pleasant, even predictable. He’ll shop at generic clothing stores, like JCPenney. He will smell neatly of magazine cologne. He will be sure to hold the door open for you, and everyone will say that “he’s such a nice guy.”
All of these qualities will likely be endearing, especially at the beginning. ReadyMades are, after all, the most adorable shade of earnest.
But when it comes to talking about the future of the relationship?
You think that you’re planning the wedding. Sorry, chica. Mr. Readymade will be scouting out bridesmaid dresses himself. He may even remind you that the bride and groom are responsible for tasteful gifts (why not succulents??) for the parents of the newlyweds.
This may happen within a reasonable timeline, but it most likely will happen shockingly soon. Your Readymade boyfriend may not have the rest of his shit figured out (emotions? Oxford commas? Hummus recipes?) but he will know how many kids he’ll want, how to save for college, and whether or not he wants you to wear a veil at the wedding.
It can be hard to drop a ReadyMade, but thankfully, it’s easy to recognize one. Look for a goofy grin over an open PBR.
3. The Cougar-ee
Let’s face it. College can be yummy because it’s full of young, smart, attractive bodies all trying to figure out what comes next.
It can be hard to leave this environment of like-begets-like when you leave college behind you.
Cougar-ees, luckily, are here to fill the gap. I’m talking high school graduates or college freshmen, the guys who are just young enough to make you show your cougar claws.
You know, the guys you dreamed about in high school, standing by poolsides or crushing it on the soccer field.
Enough said. The Cougar-ee is often the guilty Cabana-boy prelude to a Readymade, a Lone Wolf, or maybe even the boyfriend that becomes The One.
4. The Confusing Fuckbuddy
You will definitely have that one fuckbuddy that becomes a boyfriend, then goes back to being a fuckbuddy, then briefly looks like Your Person. At best, this guy is your Almost.
You may find him on Tinder. You may meet him in an elevator. The Confusing Fuckbuddy isn’t predictable or easy to spot. He’ll be excellent in bed, but his communication skills may remind you of middle school.
The beauty of the Confusing, Post-College Fuckbuddy is that all of your encounters will be near misses—besides, naturally, sex—but they will be oh-so-adult near-misses.
There will, therefore, be something profound and even instructive about your experience together. You will feel skilled and practical around this guy. You’ll feel empowered in your own right.
But it will always just be confusing.
5. The Narcissist
I wish this guy wasn’t on the list, but he’s out there, and he’s far more likely to appear after college than during.
The narcissist wears many masks. He is charming and light of foot. He is a fantastic lover, a weaver of words, smooth with his hands. Narcissists will bring you in slowly and you will gladly play along.
I hate to say it, but time spent with a narcissist rarely ends well. Their crafty ways often lead to abuse or emotional manipulation. If you think you’re with a narcissist, run for the fields. Find a Cougar-ee or a ReadyMade in the meantime.
6. The One Who Dates You For Your Brother
Well, that’s awkward.
You may not get so far as to date this guy. He may already know where his sexuality lies. Or he may not, and he may be fooling around with you while he figures it out.
Let’s face it. Falling for a gay guy is comforting. There’s no easier letdown, right?
Just choose to have that conversation with your brother now rather than later. Trust me.
7. Mr. Bland
Oh, dear. You thought vanilla only referred to those candles your mom keeps sending you to “purify” your apartment.
Apparently, it can also apply to a certain class of men whose spice cabinets are completely at odds with their ideas of love. The Bland Men may at first be eye-catching for their jawlines or simple, minimalist attire.
They may also seem impressively put together with their careers and scheduled calls with the family. In fact, that’s how these poor, bland boyfriends get their girlfriends in the first place—with the sharp, steely seduction of normality.
Unfortunately, Mr. Bland will be no more exciting than a bowl of wet noodles. You can toss him in olive oil and some really good organic Pecorino, but, at the end of the day, he is as predictable as a telephone pole.
Just be easy with this one. Bland boyfriends take a while to recover from heartbreak.
8. The Guy Who is Still Figuring it Out
I wish I could say that this boyfriend is rare, but, alas, we are all figuring it out in the end.
You will inevitably date someone who feels perfectly normal and shares your toothbrush stand but, at the end of the day, has no idea what love means or how good moonlight feels on your arms.
Guys still figuring it out are as tender as you. They can be the easiest and best to love. They can be honest even if they are still forming. They can be utterly harmless and the softest of landings.
I do not regret my time with my Figurers. They gave me more grace for my own self-crafting. I also have some excellent postcards and some poetry.
Keep your postcards and that poetry. You’ll want to remember these, in the end.
9. The One Who Gets Away
You will date the guy you want to spend all of your twilights and dawns with. He will be more than you thought you could imagine. And he will get away. And you will be sad.
When this happens, hold that open heart. Don’t let it close. It’s the best thing you have. It’s what will beat you on to the next one, and the next one, until it lands where it feels warmest and brightest.
You’ll know when you’re there. That’s the best part about the One Who Gets Away. He shows you what you really want.