Those of us who are not married or coupled up face the thrilling and daunting prospect of dating while doing a postgraduate degree. You get a lot of ambitious types here (and I don’t mean grabby undergrads). As one good friend put it, “we are all automatically overachievers – a regular degree wasn’t enough for us, we had to come back for more.” This drive and workaholism bodes both well and ill for the potential dating pool, as the most talented and disciplined (i.e. most attractive) probably won’t have time for you. I am familiar with that internal cattle prod, constantly urging us to achieve more and do better – nay, be the best. Nothing is ever good enough, and we are hardest on ourselves. This perfectionism bleeds into our extracurriculars, and everything else we do – we drive ourselves to exhaustion and I’ve got the souvenir shin splints to prove it. While this attitude has certainly helped me to achieve, I think we ought also make time for a little lovin’…
But it’s not easy trying to keep on top of a demanding degree programme, whilst finding time for friends, sports, part-time work, plus dating. I’m not going to pretend I have the hardest degree going. The term “mickey mouse” degree has been bandied about, though I think that’s a bit mean. In some ways, we have the hardest job of all – to create something out of nothing. But it’s true that reading novels and practising what we love best – writing – is probably not as arduous as what some of my friends in Law or Neuroscience have to do. Then again, just living life is research for us creative writers, and according to my coursemates, artists have to be fucked up to create, so the harder and more miserable and loveless our lives, the better for our work, really.
At the same time, dating as a student is one of the easiest things in the world. Some of my housemates were complaining that their lives have narrowed down to two peer groups: school and residence. But trust me, when you work full-time, it gets even narrower. As I see it, meeting new people has never been easier. We just need to step outside and we are met with thousands of people around our own age, in a similar/the same life situation, guaranteed to be similarly qualified and likely a similar level of intelligence, and open (on the whole) to talking to you, while not yet jaded by the various disappointments of life. There are any number of societies, parties and events going on every week. With people from all over the planet, you’re sure to find someone that’s your type. You don’t even need to worry about opening lines – your standard “what’s your name/where are you from/what are you studying?” takes care of that for you.
Then again I have a friend so bowed down with work (academic and paid) that I would never see him if he were not obliged to eat, and therefore appear in the kitchen sometimes, so dating is pretty much the last thing on his mind right now. Which is a shame, because he’s a looker, and university should always be fun as well as hard work, and dating is always fun when it’s not hard work. When I look back on the romances that my friends and I embarked on over our uni years, I wonder how many of them would have even happened if they hadn’t been cultivated in the fertile, close-quarters romance petri dish that is student living. They do say that repeated exposure can make you like what you might otherwise not (explains a lot…)
As with most things in life, it’s about a balancing of priorities. I mean, I’m the girl who said (kind-of jokingly) that I’d commit suicide if I didn’t get a 1st Class BA, but I’m not gonna tell you what we were told when we were teenagers – “focus on your studies, forget about boys/girls”. Because the work is not going to magically let up when we complete our studies, as puberty magically completed itself once we were out of secondary school. If we continue with our ambitious streaks, the work will if anything only intensify, minus the nubile pool of peers on your doorstep. To earn your Master of Dating, you need to decide what kind of life you want to lead.
But don’t worry my dears, there’s always tinder.