Are all university romances awkward mistakes?

Rianna Croxford 23 May 2014

Awkwardness’ is inevitable; the word is ingrained in our lingo, our go-to response in the face of any situation that raises a blush or two, not to mention that we’re at an ‘awkward’ transition in our lives: ‘hormonal’, some might say, as we try and discover who we are. Yet, calling all ‘university romances’ ‘mistakes’ doesn’t seem right; it puts too much pressure on us to make sure everything works out, that everything must be ‘perfect’, lest we become romantic failures. Instead of forever, why shouldn’t we just enjoy the whirlwind of for now?

Over the last year my idealism has slowly been replaced with realism; not even fiction can fill the void of my hopeless romanticism. My rose-tinted spectacles, a joint present from my mum and the media, convinced me that I was going to meet my ‘other half’ at university (and 25% do*), and if the shrills of ‘only two more years left to find a husband’ at the end of my last swap are anything to go by, this seems to be the consensus.  

Say you do meet ‘the one’ – then what? You’d think that the concept of fidelity would be easy to grasp, but many relationships have already succumbed to the temptation of the greener grass of someone else’s hooha. I could easily throw in a few banal analogies of swap situations of  ‘x’ sleeping with ‘y’ while ‘z’ fancied ‘y,’ so now ‘z’ thinks ‘x’ is an ‘f+u’ and ‘xyz’ will never speak again without that looming presence of ‘awkwardness’. It’s only a by-product of romantic interaction. After all, who could ever keep a straight face knowing they’d not only slept with their college wife and sister, but their grandchildren too?

Shared moments of intimacy inevitably result in some kind of discomfort. That’s not to say, however, that my dating history hasn’t been extensive: Donne, Hardy, Dickens, good ol’ Shakespeare, even dabbling in a bit of Nietzsche and Freud (…), but alas!- things become ‘awkward’ when work mixes with play as relationships can apparently be graded too: I remember being told that I’d ‘gone from a 2.1 to a fail in terms of communication’. This sort of low-blow would naturally result in tears, and it was the end of another relationship. Yet when the only emotion you feel is limited to the appreciation of their wit (who doesn’t love an educational pun, eh), mixed with the stress of a deadline, you know something was off anyway, and that awkwardness is not far behind.

It’s a typical conundrum: people outside of the ‘bubble’ can’t relate to our university experience; terms are intense and relationships either fail or flourish with the distance. As a third year law student at Homerton put it, ‘relationships at Cambridge are merely a matter of convenience’, and so we are pushed into assessing if they’re worth the extra effort.

Having said this, I still wouldn’t call past romances ‘mistakes.’ I choose to view them as misunderstandings rather than errors; every date, or relationship is just another step in the process of figuring out what it is that I want and value in a relationship, and so it becomes a ‘learning curve’ of sorts. Of course, mistakes can also lead to pessimism but cynicism aside, I’m too young to dwell on all the negatives. I’ve learnt that Tinder is shit, and have decided to jump off the virtual bandwagon before things get out of hand. I’ve learnt that with the right person, I can be selfless, but that I want a best friend, a like mind. More so, that rocking up to your 9am supervision workless and teary because of ‘heartbreak’ doesn’t quite tick the box in terms of excuses: you learn to deal with it and move on.

So the question remains: ‘when and where?’ College is a no-go hunting ground (warning to upcoming freshers/third years),  in first year you’re supposedly meant to go ‘wild’, in second year you’re bogged down with a doubled workload, and in third year you flee the bubble; any chance of establishing a meaningful relationship seems futile from the outset.

This would, however, be a prime example of overthinking; also known as romantic sabotage. It doesn’t matter if you’ve met them, if you haven’t, if they’re next door, or at Girton; these experiences should be seen as positive, if only a few months (or years) down the line- as a part of growing up and the university experience. With that in mind, perhaps there’s a stronger claim to my Dad’s argument, expressed whilst hacking into a steak, that I ‘won’t meet the one during three years as an undergraduate, but at a reunion, ten years later’.

Guess I’ll see you then.