Tinder in a university city as small as Bath is, in fact, unnervingly ‘real life’ and thus awful.
You walk into the library and sit down on floor 2, opposite the boy who charmed you to swipe right on him last night because he was holding two sausage dogs in his first photo. Off you nip for a 4W coffee break and walking towards you down the aisle is James, 20, who loves ‘travel, vintage cars, and Biceps’ and, apparently, cappuccinos. In the queue for Fresh you’re overcome with a wave of hot embarrassment as you clock that you’re standing behind that girl you matched the other week but unmatched after realising she spoke only through the medium of GIF.
In my final months at the University of Bath, here are a few lessons I’ve learnt in navigating sex, love, and being yourself. There have been risottos at 3am, TED Talk-ers, self-proclaimed DJs, girls who played the saxophone, and guys who brought toothbrushes on the first date. These are the lessons they don’t teach this in Chancellor’s Building.
First of all, if you’re a fresher, get off of Tinder.
You don’t need it yet. If you’re in second year or above I recommend setting your age limits to avoid freshers (sorry, but if life hasn’t worn you down to the point that you don’t feel the pangs of an impending existential crisis each time you spend more than one minute choosing your meal deal, I’m not interested). Instead, catch a few new PhD students before the stress of their life choices has caught up with them. Placements are really where Tinder comes into its own; the evenings get a bit dull after your fifth episode of The Santa Clarita Diet, and Tinder could be the hobby you need to meet people who aren’t your, albeit lovely, 45-year-old co-workers. If you’re in final year, try Hinge.
My next piece of advice is to exist as your damn self (read: spicing it up with ‘sexy lingerie’ is not necessary).
I had a terrible experience when a red ASOS lingerie body met a booty call one Tuesday evening last year; incredibly nervous, I was persuaded to wear this monstrosity by my band of hypemen (group chat) and, despite changing my mind, it was too late to manoeuvre myself out of the lace booby trap when he sent the critical “I’m outside xx” text.
I couldn’t get out of it and it made my boobs contort into terrible scarring shapes as he and I struggled to pull it off. “I’m a lot less drunk and a lot more turned on than last time” he said. Nice, I thought, considering he just saw my fleshy body trapped, squeezed, bulging in a red elastic ASOS cage like a piece of string tied tightly around a raw pink cut of ham. He let out a groan that will haunt me for years to come, and that was the two minutes over.
Afterwards I wondered quietly what I was so worried about. I told him a funny story and he didn’t laugh at it and then he explained why currency values fluctuate as I rested my head on his chest and smelt his sweaty armpit. I never saw him again. The moral of the story is to remember that you’re more than adequate. You are impressive (and super spicy) just as you are, and the majority of the time – the hook-up isn’t worth doing something that’s not very you.
Expect the unexpected.
Sometimes people are baffling and do stuff you don’t see coming. I once met up with a funny charming poet from Tinder who seemed to obsess over me with almost the same fervour and warmth that he obsessed over Tom Misch. The next day I, convinced of a connection, snapchatted asking if he wanted to go for a beer at that jazz night we had discussed. He politely made his excuses, then within fifteen minutes had deleted me from Snapchat, Tinder, Whatsapp, and everything else. I wasn’t able to listen to Tom Misch for at least two months without feeling sour. He never got around to writing me a poem.
“You’ll never be enough for someone who doesn’t know what they want”
On her episode of ‘The Power Hour’ podcast, Chidera Eggerue said “you’ll never be enough for someone who doesn’t know what they want” and it relieved me. Gently, if someone wants to be with you, they’ll be with you. Shouldn’t be complicated or make you second guess yourself. It’s reasonable to set basic boundaries for yourself and ask for what you deserve (respect).
I’ve recently come to appreciate the idea that from a very young age, you’ve probably been fed a slightly insidious romantic narrative; unless you’re a massive weirdo, you should be in the throes of love and passion, and if not, you should be active in the pursuit to find one person to spend forever with. Once aware and cynical of this story and your swallowing of it, that’s great, but nipping it in the bud isn’t easy. The realisation alone won’t instantaneously dissolve this ossified luuuurrrve skeleton that your emotions and thoughts and dreams for the future have been carefully growing around for 22 years. You can still sometimes feel inadequate, the ugliest, most immature person in a room of your best friends, hyper aware of your one-ness, even when you know in the depths of your nervous tummy that your one-ness is perfect and valid too.
You were made to be loved but romance isn’t the only thing this whole shebang is about. The kindest, purest relationships are the ones with the friends who you know have your back until the bitter end. Uni is a chance for your friends to teach you how to perfectly scramble eggs, how to strawpedo things, how to run a half marathon, how to do the Fortnite dances, and what it feels like to find people who you love.
In the end we can only accept that we do not know everything about romance. This is, excitingly, a learning curve, which we are all on for the foreseeable future. As Ronan Keating says, ‘life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it”. And ride it we will, Ronan. Leave Bath in June with a new knowledge of your self-worth and understanding of what and who really matters. Have a good summer and good life, don’t bother with ASOS lingerie, and if you’re going on placement, swipe responsibly.