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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, exciting blood?

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?

Face Up to It

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.

A great 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 cadavers 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 way.

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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