Club Med School:
Dating 101 for Grad Students
or A Gal Cadaver-self a Good time
by Lori Gottlieb
Dating on college campuses? Ask any college or graduate student, and they'll
probably tell you that's an oxymoron.
I mean, sure, people go to parties or do the frat scene, but there's not a lot
of one-on-one dating going on in academia today. Not that people donșt want
to be dating; the problem is meeting people. After you've seen the same people
each day in your dorm (hair matted on the way to the bathroom in the morning)
or in the dining hall (chewing with their mouths open), where do you find new,
If academia is supposed to foster a broadening
of the mind, it's time to broaden your horizons as well. Get creative, people!
Even if you're from Manhattan and your campus is located out in the boonies,
don't feel isolated from "the real world." Think of it this way: you're in an
environment populated almost exclusively by thousands of young men and women
in the most sexually desirable age range. Who needs the real world when you're
living in Club Med with backpacks?
I'm in medical school -- talk about slim pickins -- but even I have found ways
to spice things up. (Is it just me, or
is viral encephalitis a really unromantic thing to be discussing over penne
and a bottle of wine?) I call my method "cross-referencing." You know those
"face books" that are really just one big book of personal ads disguised as
a directory? Well, most schools have them posted online so that students can
access them with a password.
That's great if you're an undergraduate -- instead of doing your history paper,
you can spend the night scrolling through pictures of the entire student body
-- people you've never seen before -- and pick someone you want to meet. The
face books usually list what dorm the person's living in, so you can ask a friend
(or a friend who knows a friend) who lives there to have you over when this
person just "happens" to be around. Or have this friend invite you to the next
party over in that dorm. You may meet your new love interest at the party, you
may meet someone who knows said love interest and can introduce you directly,
or you may meet an Adonis or goddess who sent in a frightening passport picture
but looks amazing in person. You never know. The point is to get out there and
meet new people.
If you're a graduate student, however, you'll probably only have access to
the face book for your own program -- the law or medical or business school,
for example -- and you probably already know who the cute people are, and that
you're not interested because they're boring or shallow or have long nose hairs
that you couldn't see until you actually got face to face. But don't despair!
I found friends in the law and business schools who wanted to meet people in
the medical school, so we traded passwords to our respective face books, scoped
out whom we wanted to meet, and arranged a joint get-together with these objects
of our desire. It didn't seem like anyone was being set up on a "date" (God
forbid!), and the good news is, we all ended up being asked out by our respective
potential love interests before the evening ended.
Location, Location, Location
If scanning photos in face books makes you feel like a stalker, though, there
is a more organic
way to meet people on college campuses: do what you'd normally do, but do it
somewhere else. Translation: if you normally study in the same place in the
library on Monday nights, you probably see the same people all the time. So
why not try a new floor, or even an entirely new library? Tired of the main
campus library? Check out the smaller library, the law school library, or the
airy reading room where the creative writing students hang out. (At most schools,
students with ID cards have campus-wide access to facilities.)
Or what about the business school lounge, the caf» in the biology department
(called "The DNA Cafe" at my school, I kid you not), or the tables at the student
union? If you've never hung out in one of these places, the regulars will sense
new blood the way dogs sniff... oh, never mind. The point is, you will be noticed.
One caveat: You don't want to be noticed for your bag-lady sweatpants or the
fact that you haven't showered for three days because you have a big exam coming
up. If you go to a new place to study, wash your hair and wear deodorant.
advantage of venturing into foreign territory is that, like a tourist, you can
ask questions of the natives with immunity.
Like, "I'm a med student and I've never been to this library before, so can
you tell me where the bathroom is? what time this place closes? if they have
a soda machine here?" Lame, sure, but you're in a library for God's sake, and
there aren't a lot of options. Besides, if people are interested, they'll keep
the conversation going. (Women: has a guy ever used a banal pick-up line in
a bar, but you thought he was cute and talked to him anyway? I rest my case.)
Don't worry about embarrassing yourself -- you may think everyone's watching
you the way the media watched Chelsea
Clinton her first year at Stanford, but believe me, you're anonymous. No
one gives a hoot if someone blows you off.
"What do you mean what do I do when I'm not writing my dissertation?"
The "doing-what-you-normally-do-but-somewhere-else" strategy may work, but
if you want to enjoy yourself and meet people at the same time, I'd go with
the "do-something-you're-interested-in" tactic. Try something you've always
thought about doing, but never quite motivated to make happen. College campuses
are rife with activities, interesting speakers, clubs, performances, you name
it. Go to a yoga class! Attend a lecture by a visiting playwright! Take swing
dancing lessons! Write for the campus newspaper or literary journal! Go on the
Sierra Club hike! Volunteer with the group that helps paint the local elementary
school! Go to a film society screening! Audition for a singing group! Join the intramural Frisbee team! Work
out at the campus gym!
Do what you're interested in, and you'll probably find like-minded people who
also happen to be hot. Mostly. I went to a yoga class on campus and met a guy
who ended up stalking me, but I also met a woman at that class with whom I clicked
immediately. She introduced me to a friend of hers, whom I actually liked and
went on a few dates with. So it wasn't a total loss.
If you're a graduate student, however, the only thing worse than meeting a
bunch of "kids" (read: undergraduates) is being stuck in the anatomy room with
all day, which has happened to me. So you might try to participate in activities
where you'll meet people who no longer carry fake ID's. Go to the hip bookstore
near campus where graduate students and young professionals from "the real world"
hang out. Check out the latest books, magazines, and author signings and make
conversation with the person next to you. Sit down with a latte on a Sunday
morning or after dinner on a weeknight and smile back at the guy across the
Or, take advantage of the guest speakers hosted by the other graduate schools
-- a charismatic law professor, a witty biologist discussing the nature of male/female
mating behavior, a young Internet CEO with tales from the dot-com world. Sign
up for classes that other grad students take for fun -- a writing class, Italian,
squash. Go to "Happy Hours" hosted by another department. And go just to have
fun. Dare yourself to get out of your old routine -- to be adventurous -- and
as an added bonus, you might meet someone you'd actually be willing to share
a bathroom with one day.
Still think meeting people on college campuses is difficult? I hate to disillusion
you, but once you graduate, you'll long for the days when you scoped out dates
in the library. Life outside academia is not Ally McBeal's world -- where everyone
looks like a Calvin Klein model and inter-office romance takes up most of the
day. I'm only telling you this so you aren't sitting in your office a few years
from now wondering why you let all those young, smart, attractive peers of yours
slip through your fingertips. After all, you won't always have the password
to the face book.
Lori Gottlieb, a medical student at Stanford, is currently dating a guy
she met at the party of a guy she had just started dating. She does not recommend
this. Her first book, STICK FIGURE: A DIARY
OF MY FORMER SELF, has just been published by Simon & Schuster.
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