The first in a new series looking at different romantic outlooks from various students.
To put it simply, my love life is non-existent. I didn’t think that at 22, in my final year of university, I would be in the same place most people are at 14: a couple of sloppy kisses filling my romantic and sexual portfolio. As a pre-teen I would devour books with titles such as Kisses for Lula and Girls in Love, where the 15-year-old protagonists would dream about boys, and the whole book would revolve around them obtaining their first kiss from the captain of the football team with the heart-stopping dimples. Then 15 came and went, and there had been no earth-shattering kiss. I moved onto more brooding teen romances like Soulmates where the characters in their last year of high school, predictably, find their soulmate. This made sense – what was I thinking? I had to wait out the end of high school; that’s when everyone gets together. And most of my friends did. I, on the other hand, packed up the YA fiction, having outgrown it. We all know real life doesn’t work like that anyway, the time will come when it does… at university, obviously.
What was less obvious to me was how nervous I would feel around guys. This was constant during school, when I was sure guys just saw me as “the geek who doesn’t drink” (a clear indication that the YA novels had seeped too deep into my psyche). I thought this would change at university. After all, I started drinking, and who isn’t “cool” then? But I would constantly worry about what guys thought of me, if I was boring or dull. I wanted to be funny, but didn’t know how. “Just be yourself,” I was told over and over, only to not understand who else I was being.
In first year, I was asked out for drinks or a coffee by a couple of guys, and this would send me into a wild panic. I was convinced they’d run a mile when they found out that it would’ve been my first date and that not only was I a virgin, but I hadn’t even had my first kiss. It was easier to just not go. To politely turn them down and carry on as I had. Needless to say, these were missed opportunities – I didn’t have to find the love of my life on one of these dates, simply had to get to know someone. But even that seemed too daunting.
Thankfully, my mind-set has now changed; I enjoy meeting new people and would not turn down a date (although offers have been scarce). However, I find myself occasionally reversing to my old ways when I am intimidated by a guy or when I desperately want them to like me. Especially when it is a seemingly normal interaction: a chat at a party or bumping into your flatmate’s friends. Are we flirting? Do I even know how to flirt? How do I let him know I am interested without being obvious? Reading “signals” has always been a struggle for me, with my friends often asking why I didn’t get with the guy who was flirting with me. He was flirting?!
It doesn’t help that my limited dating experience (if you can even call it that) has been somewhat underwhelming. From having my first kiss in Viper (legend) towards the end of first year (because “you can’t turn 19 and not have kissed ANYONE!”), to my awkward set of two dates in second year, it is far from a stellar record. On the first of these awkward dates, we went for drinks on Ashton Lane and occupied ourselves in semi-engaging small talk. All relatively pleasant… until he kissed me in the middle of the bar. I was taken aback and felt slightly uneasy with the PDA. I wasn’t sure if it was a normal move, but it was a date after all, so I stopped over analyzing and just shook off my discomfort. We carried on chatting but ended up leaving soon after. I was relieved that I made it through without many qualms or hiccups. It gave me confidence to go forth and conquer more dates.
We walked the same way home, down University Avenue. He took hold of my hand, which perplexed me slightly. It was December, my hands were freezing, surely it would be more effective if they were in each of our respective pockets? Roughly halfway down University Avenue, I felt myself being pulled backwards – he had stopped walking and since our hands were linked, pulled me towards him. And kissed me. Full on. In the middle of University Avenue. I cringed: date or no date, this was too intense. I shyly broke away with the excuse of needing to get home. He insisted on walking me home, despite my assurance that there was no need. If he was happy for us to make out on University Avenue, then sure enough he had no issue outside my flat door. Does he want me to invite him up? Not happening – regardless of how much he tries to kiss my neck.
After a swift departure, I was in the easy realms of my flat and conveniently my flatmate saw the whole thing from the window. She reassured me that it was excessive. I am quite a tactile person, growing up with four sisters (it was rare if you didn’t have someone’s arm on your head or someone’s foot in your armpit), which made me question why I felt so uncomfortable with the physical aspects of the date. But thankfully the Christmas break was coming up, so I didn’t have to worry about him for a while. As if right on cue, on the last weekend of the holidays, the merriment was cut short when he asked if we could see each other when I got back. I didn’t particularly want to, nor feel the need; the first date was mediocre at best and we had barely messaged over the break. But I convinced myself that I couldn’t reliably complain about my lack of love life if I didn’t even give an interested guy a chance. All that needs said about our second date is that, on our way home, we were parting ways at Kelvingrove subway station and he went in for another inappropriately placed kiss, which I politely declined this time. He responded with a handshake. And with that, our transaction was complete.
Interestingly though, I wouldn’t consider myself an insecure person in my day to day life. I am rather confident and sure of myself for the most part. It has made me think that a person is neither “secure” nor “insecure” overall, but just at ease in certain situations more than others. I don’t look for constant reassurance when it comes to my interaction with guys. Sure, it’s nice to be told that I could get with someone if I “went for it” (how?!), or that a friend’s friend at a party said I was pretty, but I don’t seek it out or need it to justify my actions. What I do need is to realise that not everyone is some super-confident, smooth-talking, rom-com protagonist, and that everyone is nervous or awkward at some point.
And even if I do make a move but completely misread the situation… so what? I am in no different a position than I started out in, and the other person would be flattered. Being asked out, or liked (if done in the right way) is flattering, the worst I will have done is pay someone a compliment. At least that is what I tell myself, but am rarely able to act on it. I did ask someone out at Christmas which was a big achievement for me. He was someone I hadn’t seen in five years so, even if he turned me down, I wouldn’t have been put out. Naturally the “date” itself was a blur of trying to keep the conversation going, and I got so worked up over whether he thought it was a date or just a catch-up with an old friend that I basically ran away at the end so that I would never find out. Baby steps.
I am probably not what comes to mind when you think of the term “happily single”. I am not the girl who got out of a relationship six months ago and is now ready to “get back out there”; I was never “out there” to begin with. But just because I don’t sleep with people or chat on Tinder doesn’t mean I’m not happy – simply that I’m still at the starting line whilst others are halfway through the race. I guess you can’t miss what you never had. Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice, and I do think about having a boyfriend or even getting past that stage where I can be “happily single”. I just have to blow the whistle first.
I’m not sure how I got into the position I am in. I certainly didn’t think this is where I would be when I was 13 and reading Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging. My friends all have their own theories, mostly centred on the fact that I haven’t found the right person yet: “Don’t settle for any less than you deserve”. The problem is that my standards might be set too high, the rugged prince charming of romance novels still not completely erased from the back of my mind. And Covid-19 surely doesn’t make the situation any easier; I have now convinced myself I need to get onto the plethora of dating apps if I have any hope of meeting someone this year. I have barely gotten past the first hurdle of creating a profile for the fear of what people will think when they see it, let alone trying to have a conversation with someone with whom I have barely any connection. A conversation that has to be witty and funny whilst getting to know each other, but in a light-hearted way. Yet also deep, with a bit of flirting sprinkled in.
I may not be “in love”, but I take back what I said at the beginning – I definitely do have a love life. As cheesy as it is, I have a great circle of friends who I can rely on at all times and a family who support me no matter what. My life is pretty full of love, and if ever I want a little piece of nostalgia or romanticism in my life, I have a kindle full of novels to choose from. I may be alone, but I’m definitely not lonely.