The Sharples Valentine: How to master dates at Swarthmore


Allegedly, there is an expression in Japan that describes the state in which one should be when addressing the Emperor: “stupor and trembling.” To me, this phrase encompasses many people’s attitudes toward dating. If you’ve ever tried to help a shaking (sometimes nearly convulsing) friend choose between “hi,” “hey” and “yo” to start a text message ask-out, or attempt to make an empirical decision about location based off of the current intimacy of the relationship, then you’re certainly familiar with this phenomenon. And as much as I’d like to, I can’t brush off this attitude as extreme having been in similar dilemmas myself. So what would the best call be in these situations? And why such a frenzy?

Let’s consider motivations for going on dates in the first place. I can think of two general scenarios: either an attempt to explore an uncharted romantic interest, or a ritualistic “we fucked after the Olde Club show and I should probably learn your name” meeting. The latter has the most potential to be uncomfortable or even hilarious in retrospect, depending on how bad of a decision picking up that person last night was. However, the worst thing to come out of that bad decision would probably be the shock of waking up next to the individual, and it’s not a huge deal if nothing comes out of the experience. For these reasons, I’ll focus primarily on the first motivation, the cutesy tingly rosy one.

So the first step is the ever-awkward request. Don’t ever email because that’s probably how their grandmother gets in touch with them. Text if you got their number for the distinct purpose of meeting up at some point, as opposed to “X gave me your number, sorry this is creepy haha lol wanna grab coffee.” Organize in person ideally, for that extra special human touch (after all, if anything’s going to work you’ll need to speak to the person). In response to my own query about texting, I always start with “Hi” or “Hi there” except for those bad days I accidentally type “Howdy” and feel like I’ve shot myself in the foot with a cowboy’s revolver. I like to keep things short and simple, and minimize sentences like “Hope you had a great end to your evening after I saw you at pub nite picking up some lucky little shit.”

Location is always tricky; it communicates a lot of your intention. As a rule of thumb, I’d avoid anything ostentatious in Philly for a first date because needing a fancy distraction from your partner doesn’t bode well for the future. Hobbs is, of course, the most appropriate date location near campus, with its couches and pretty lattes and ambient music. There are bonus date vibes if both parties have friends “working” on site, i.e. intently glaring at the meeting to the great discomfort of those involved. Hobbs isn’t the only option though: the Sharples date can have some appeal. Between the booths, which provide for a surprisingly pleasant and secluded dining experience, and the struggle of the main room, which can have a rustic (read: mundane and mediocre) charm, it can prove to be quite a rewarding experience if the conversation is flowing.

So once everything’s set, nothing remains to halter the big event. D-day – or in this case V-day – finally comes: you gulp, gasp and gurgle out some semblance of a hello upon meeting the individual (no more hesitation over greetings, anything will do) and attempt to enjoy each other’s company. The date ends, and you leave feeling anywhere on a spectrum of delighted to ghastly. Your friends will then ask you about the experience, what it was like, and if you’re anything like me you’ll be somewhat at a loss: it’s easy to say how much you liked the person, but how did the actual date go? Did it serve its purpose? In what ways was the whole interaction different than a conversation?

In most ways, it wasn’t. You and your date mate got to know each other in an informal setting. So why do we attach such reverence to this label?

Personally, I reckon that going to an institution pet-named “the Quaker Matchbox” must instill some sort of romantic frenzy in its students, due to the implicit message that one should be able to find a partner here. This school’s fetishized, costumed and farcical celebration of blind dating, the notorious Screw Your Roommate event, exemplifies this. Campus can feel lonely at times, but that isn’t a reason to go index all cute potentials you can think of and individually audition them for the role of Prince Charming. Maybe it’s time to forget our fantasies of a snowy first kiss (minus the chapped lips) that would conclude that fateful first date. Instead, accept that regardless of how strong your dating game is, it might turn out useless when you meet someone well suited to you in an unlikely situation.

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