Dating at Swarthmore — is it possible? Given the degree to which most of our student body is either emotionally stunted, triple-booked until 2025, and/or prone to fits of insecurity, you’d think that romantic relationships at Swat would be about as endangered as empty McCabe study rooms on the weekend. And yet, against all odds, Swarthmore students continue to venture into the shark-infested waters of the contemporary dating scene! So whether it’s for the sake of maintaining the rate of Quaker Matchbox marriages (13 percent), whether it’s because you love to overcommit yourself and romance is just another way to do it (albeit one that can’t count for academic credit), or whether you genuinely care for people and are invested in being intimate with them, if you’re going to date at Swat you may as well be prepared.
To guide you through the perilous landscape of trying to spend time with someone in a less-than-platonic sort of way, I’ve assembled a list of possible date locations below. Feel free to pick and choose depending on your whim, or to supplement with dorm room hangouts and coffee bar trips for a more lowkey feel. I’m a sophomore with an exciting cocktail of social anxieties and a level of dating experience that can be most accurately summed up as “eh,” so feel free to take my opinions with a handful of salt, if not the whole shaker.
A couple tips, before you get started: Make your intentions clear! Asking someone to “get a meal sometime” can, for Swarthmore students, mean anything from “you said something smart in class yesterday and I need help with my homework” to “I want to have sex with you but feel like we should talk first” to “I need to reassure myself that we’re still friends, so eating in Sharples together once this semester should take care of that,” or all of the above! So try and be specific, if you can — you don’t want your date to have any misgivings about whether or not they’re actually your date.
This list only contains places within the campus and village of Swarthmore, but venturing off-campus can be a great way to make a date feel special! The Media shuttle is free and will take you to a town with more than two main streets, Bryn Mawr’s dining halls are exceptional, Haverford is … not Swarthmore, and Philadelphia has everything from bakeries to tattoo parlors to an orange, eldritch horror masquerading as a hockey mascot. If, however, you’re already feeling a bit allergic to commitment and leaving campus feels like a step too far, below are listed plenty of hot spots that require no more than a seven-minute walk, at most:
The Co-op: A solid choice! The ambience leaves something to be desired, sure, but you can wow your date with the extensive fruit selection (fresh berries? blood oranges? incredible) and even buy them a bouquet of flowers right there, if that’s your thing.
Hobbs: Good for seeing ten people you know and five others you want to avoid. The pierogies and tea sodas? Excellent. The overwhelming visibility of this date to everyone from your old lab partner to a three-year-old in pink snowpants to, quite possibly, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon? Less so.
The Rose Garden: Classically beautiful in the late spring, sort of interestingly morbid in the winter, and uncomfortably close to the roundabout and its rotating array of shuttles, student tours, Lyfts, and Ubers. A place to share a set of earbuds and listen to Boygenius, cry, or both.
Cunningham Field: Perpetually muddy, right next to the road, and often populated with club sports players — what’s not to love about this hot date spot? Take your date to a rugby game on the weekend and watch sweaty people yell and bleed on each other, or catch one of the elementary school’s soccer practices on a weekday for the same essential experience.
Sharples: I mean, you’ll have to get this one over with at some point.
Bamboo Bistro: This is a tough one. It’s probably the best place for a dinner date, not too fancy but definitely cute and boasting sushi that’s perpetually 50 percent off; said benefits, however, mean that Bamboo is nearly impossible to get a table at on the weekends. You can try to get in early, sure, but prepare to be within eavesdropping distance of at least four other awkward dates over the course of your meal.
The Crum: What can I say, I like trees! Take your date on a hike and get your shoes far too muddy, check out that weird hut behind D’well, watch the trains go by, and feel like you’re in some low-budget collegiate ripoff of a Studio Ghibli movie. This is also one of your best chances to have complete privacy on your date, unless you count deer and the occasional dog-walker.
The Crumb: The same level of social trial-by-fire as Hobbs, but populated entirely with Swat students — you can decide whether that’s a good or a bad thing. If you don’t want to have a weirdly loaded conversation about metal straws, consider not ordering the boba.
Those rooms behind the door marked “DANGER: RADIATION” in Lower Sci: Add a touch of life-threatening adventure to your dating life! I assume these rooms actually contain chemistry equipment or something, but I’m an English major and have only walked past them once, so I’d like to imagine that there’s some sort of luminescent nuclear sludge-garden down there.
McCabe basement: If you want to really freak your date out, taking them down to the quiet level of McCabe and silently mouthing “THIS IS A DATE” is certainly one way to do it.
The game pit: Hear me out: they have a projector. The vibes are mildly rancid, to be sure, but there are plenty of pillows to rest on and it’s often empty. The benches are weirdly shallow and it’s literally underground (plus it’s called “the game pit”), but we can’t have everything.
Renato Pizza: Do not take someone to Renato on a date unless a) it’s 11 p.m. at night, b) your self-esteem can withstand even the most piercing of pubescent Pennsylvanian glares from the kids one booth over, or c) you’re breaking up with them.