I’m sorry, babe, but you’ll probably stay single at Swarthmore

Illustration by Ditiya Ferdous.

Cuffing season is coming to a close. The snow has melted; we can begin to expect warmish spring days, meaning that all those couples that unbeknownst to themselves were really just hitched for the winter months have begun to splinter apart. In my surroundings at least, the end of spring break has indicated the end — or supposed end — of a fair few relationships. People are becoming single again, and are either sticking to celibacy for now or are already looking for something better, something fresh for the new season. But can they really expect something novel, better, longer-lasting? Can we realistically expect to find stable, long-term relationships at Swarthmore?

The logistics of this school, in my opinion, make this relatively unfeasible. Unless you’re one of those few who hitch up during orientation and makes it work (I hate you all) or who met this great partner their freshman year that they’re still going steady with, you probably spent your first couple semesters on this campus bouncing between mediocre hookups and intermittently hobbling to Hobbs the morning after to no avail.  If like me, you were too busy for most of your sophomore year complaining about freshman year mistakes and current freshman crushes, you’ll have realized by now that it’s too late to really start anything serious this academic year. For many, part of junior year is spent getting wasted abroad, which means you’ll be too hungover to remember the name of anybody you meet. And, from talking to seniors, the final year in this school is too busy worrying about jobs and trying to distance oneself from this institution to actually care about healthy emotional commitment. Of course, this is a very summary overview and I’m sure many people will disagree, but I can’t help but feel like in the last quarter of my sophomore year, time’s pretty much run out for me. Not to mention, this place is fucking tiny: there’s a puddle worth of fish for us to chose from, and if none of them are right, we’re out.

So I’ve readjusted my expectations. Admittedly, I haven’t done too good a job, but at least I’ve gotten used to the idea that nothing here is guaranteed. After all, it’s one of the implicit messages of this school and college life in general: you might never be around so many like minded people your age again, so make the most of it. The quaker matchbox isn’t just an admissions ploy, it’s an internalized expectation. In that case, it’s the perfect match to that sometimes crippling fear of being alone that I picked up some time in kindergarten — you never forget those birthday parties you didn’t get invited to. It also complements something I was always told as an insecure queer kid:

“It gets better. High school sucks balls, but soon you’ll be in college and everyone else will suck balls so that’s ok. You’ll meet someone there! Heteronormative hegemony is within reach.” Dan Savage, maybe. By the way, fuck him.

In short, I’ve been told on all fronts that these four years are my best shot at achieving the holy grail of a stable-healthy-monogamous-loving-but-not-too-dependent-perfect-relationship. I’m reminded of a comic we published initially a year ago: there’s nothing particularly romantic about pasta bar.

College also frames that uneasy transition from some hotshot kid to an aimless twentysomething “adult.” All the more reason to have an adult, serious relationship! Of course, we aren’t there yet, but on some level I use romantic track record as a means of judging maturity, which is fucked up. As we try to prove to ourselves that we’re ready to pay taxes, I wouldn’t be surprised if successful relationships are an element of this process. This reality is maybe more staggering elsewhere; my best friend from home goes to Cambridge, where every relationship is dissected to decide whether friends think the pair is fit to marry. If that isn’t daunting I don’t know what is.

So if such a large part of why we want to be in relationships isn’t for ourselves, how realistic is it for us to actually achieve this goal? This isn’t to say that there aren’t perfectly valid reasons to want to be in one — I’ve heard emotional intimacy and regular sex are pretty decent, but don’t take my word for it — but that our (my) obsession isn’t just due to these factors. And if that’s the case, is it that reasonable to expect for us to fall into something real, genuine and film-worthy, if we aren’t always doing it for us?

I don’t mean to be prescriptive and fatalistic. The same way I believe in life after love, there’s always a chance that this place might be the one where we find something meaningful, although even typing that word made me feel a bit ill. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I still hope to find someone, but I acknowledge the possibility of it, at least enough to keep analyzing my crush’s actions, going slightly mad when the right person stares a bit too long, and ranting about assholes past, present and future. After all, there’s no harm in that, right?

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