As I half-clambered, half-slid down the sloping sports hall roof with black paint on my butt, it became clear that I had finally experienced one of those awkward first dates which make great stories at parties — at the expense of the narrator. Even in the moment, I could find a glimmer of hilarity, but my main concern at that point was getting back to the dorms safely without being busted by campus security.
I’m sure Razz readers would agree with me when I say that dating in the twenty first century is complex. Add in a year abroad in New York, strict COVID regulations, and a bizarre campus dating culture, and you’re getting closer to my reality. Many of the friends I’d spoken to had complained about the campus lockdown, protesting that it significantly reduced the hook-up pool by excluding students from the nearby college.
“Urgh, and I thought Vassar couldn’t get any more incestuous,” my friend Keira commented, wrinkling her nose. “But you’re new blood, so there is hope…potentially!”
I took Keira up on her word. Since I was only at Vassar for a year (and counting on the adoring American reception of my British accent), I believed that dating in America would be a hilarious experiment and asked my two best friends to help me set up a Tinder profile.
It was whilst mindlessly swiping that I realised COVID had put another spanner in the works: most people who popped up on the screen, I recognised by sight. A small liberal arts college at the best of times, access to remote learning had pushed the numbers down to around 1,500 students on campus. At one point, the basketball guy I shared a bathroom with appeared, followed by the rest of his 6ft-and-counting team. Unfortunately, I’d seen enough of the aftermath of their celebrations the next morning, making me avoid that quarter.
In half-hearted despair, I handed my phone over to my friends, who gleefully swiped away, claiming I was in perfectly safe hands. Fast forward a few days, and I’d successfully arranged a date. Or rather, I’d been told where and when to meet my date by the girls.
The plan was to get dinner together (from the faithful college dining hall—watched by my friends a table over from us) and then a walk around Sunset Lake (where I would hopefully shake off my tail). I’d reasoned that a printed summer dress, Docs and denim jacket would be perfect for the mild evening.
Well, I was wrong.
The date was going well: they had a sense of self-deprecating humour, which immediately won me over, and we had the same music taste. What I hadn’t prepared for was their interest in ‘seeing the stars’ more clearly—from the top of the sports hall roof to be exact. Normally, I am a sober-two-feet-on-the-floor kind of person, but I figured that now was the time to be a little reckless, and I did think there was something quite romantic about seeing the stars together.
It took me five excruciatingly embarrassing minutes to wind my way up to the crest of the building with their help. Out of breath and bleeding from a scrape on my knee, we chatted in hushed tones whilst watching the stars come out.
Sometime later, we heard laughter, and another couple emerged from behind us. We took that as our cue to leave. I got up, my dress sticking to the roof a little before tugging free.
“Oh my god, your butt is black!” were the words of my date, before they burst into laughter at the sight of me.
The worst part about the date? My dress still has a faint black tinge in sunlight!
– Tabitha Hannam
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