Attention!

Do you seem to find yourself surrounded by happy couples wherever you go?

Do you spend your nights watching rom-coms and sobbing into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s?

Do you seek nothing else than someone to hold you at night?

If these symptoms apply to you, I’m afraid you’re suffering from a case of ‘the lonelies’. In harsher layman’s terms – you’re desperate. There’s no denying it. This desperation disease has been around for a long time. In fact, its roots can be traced back to the beginning of man – Adam, hanging out in the Garden of Eden, was the first to feel those pangs of loneliness. Luckily for him, being on a first-name basis with Mr. Almighty, he was able to trade in one of his ribs for a lady-friend of his very own (they weren’t close enough for God to give her away for free). Unfortunately it’s not quite as easy these days to be cured of singlitis – you’ll often end up spending more than just a rib on the pursuit. Students used to be immune, in particular in the ‘Swinging Sixties’, when free-love was oh so socially acceptable. However, romantic comedies and teen relationship dramas seem to have worn away this immunity. But do not despair – to fill this niche in the market, a number of ‘cures’ traditionally used to help the single middle-aged find that special someone have been adapted for use on students suffering from the deadly virus.

Speed Dating

Warning! Side effects may include: dizziness, memory loss, déjà vu and mild social awkwardness.

Traditional dating meets musical chairs in this very simple idea – take an equal number of men and women and circulate them through a series of quick-fire dates. I seem to be invited to student speed dating events on a regular basis. Recently, during my walk home, a leaflet was thrust into my hand advertising a speed-dating event in the Den on Valentines Day, hosted by PharmSoc. All proceeds were going towards Zambiaids and unsurprisingly I had no other plans, so I did the noble thing and went along. Upon arrival, I donated the required £2 and was immediately assigned a sticker labelling me as ‘M9’ – the 9th male. I took a seat and waited for the fun to begin. What proceeded was a series of surprisingly entertaining two minute conversations as I made my way clockwise around the room, moving onto the next girl whenever I heard the blast of an air-horn. Particular highlights were being told by one girl that she liked how ‘poofy’ my hair was, and another informing me that I was “the most normal guy there” (a view which probably didn’t bode well for any of the other attendees hoping to charm her).

The setup of this event succeeds in crystallising what I feel to be the most awkward of any date – the very beginning. The timeframe ensures that neither party runs out of questions, but I had a horrible flash-back to Fresher’s Week when I kept being repeatedly asked those terrible two questions: ‘What’s your name?’ and ‘What course are you on?’ Furthermore, conversations were often cut off just when they started to get interesting. We were told to write down the label-numbers of those that we liked. Knowing that by the end of my circulation I did not have the slightest clue of who I’d said what to, I did this as I went along, causing me to lack any subtlety whatsoever as to which girls had impressed me. The next day I received an email with my ‘matches’ – people with whom there’d been a mutual interest. However, the only detail I was given was their email address and label-number, meaning I had no idea which of the girls I put down had ‘matched-up’. Hell, I couldn’t even remember any of the names. I was clearly not alone in this feeling though – when I promptly received an email from one of my ‘matches’, it politely asked me what on earth my name was. The start of a blossoming romance? I think not…

Online Dating

Warning! Side effects may include: excessive spam, hidden costs, photo-shopped pictures, fake profiles and very poor grammar

According to the Guardian in 2009, out of an estimated 15 million UK singletons, 4.7 million were dating online. It’s becoming so popular that there are websites dedicated to different demographics of the population, including several student-specific dating websites. When I started browsing the different options, I came across StudentKiss, which claimed to be ‘the only student dating & chat site you’ll ever need’. This turned out to be rather untrue as after searching the site and finding no indication of where or how to sign up, I was forced to look elsewhere. I eventually settled upon Studentcontacts.com, apparently ‘the leading student dating website in the UK, USA, Europe and rest of the world – with free registration’. Upon registration it was recommended that I upload a photo and create an ‘advert’ for myself. Feeling a little bit like a cheap prostitute, I obliged and started to fill in my profile. For the personality section, I was asked to select different ‘personality traits’ from a dropdown list – creating a result that was ironically impersonal. I also couldn’t resist the temptation to age myself slightly and casually lied that my birth year was 1988. I’m definitely not alone in this – a third of the online dating users from the Guardian’s survey admitted to lying in their profile.

Once I had finished entering my details, my advert was produced. It was then that I discovered other users could rate my profile. After all, any insecure singleton that has resorted to online dating wants nothing more than to receive a numerical rating of their sexual appeal, right? I also discovered that as free member, I was only able to message other members that the site had ‘matched’ with me. If I wanted to choose my own ‘match’ and message her, I had to upgrade and start paying £9.97 a month for the service. As none of the females automatically ‘matched’ with me were from anywhere close to Nottingham, and I didn’t fancy travelling to go on a date with a total stranger or paying the monthly fee, I unfortunately never got to meet anyone via the online world. Still, I made some enquires on thestudentroom.co.uk and it would seem that many online dating success stories do exist.

If neither of the above quick fixes sound like your cup of tea, there is an alternative. It’s controversial and risky and something that’s far easier said than done. Stop looking – desperation is a highly catchable disease. No normal person wants to die alone. It’s all too easy to get scared and panic and wanting a quick-cure is understandable in the middle-aged. But for those of us still in our teens and twenties, what are we so worried about? We’ve got the whole rest of our lives ahead of us. The best relationships evolve when we already know the other person. Perhaps rather than enter artificial environments constructed purely for finding a partner, get to know as many people as possible, just for the sake of knowing them. Strike up conversations at bus stops, queues and coffee shops. Don’t look at everyone as a potential partner. But once you get to know them, you may discover that they’re just the cure you’ve been looking for.

Stephen Lovejoy

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