Get yourself a first, not a boyfriend


Q Hi Ruth, People always tell me that university is the place where you are most likely to meet your future husband/ wife. My parents met at 18 in their first week of university and have been together ever since. I am 21 (by which age my parents were engaged) about to start my final year of studying, and, as you may have guessed, still haven’t found what I’m looking for (à la U2).

I don’t hide in my room all day/night. I’ve been out on dates and had romantic encounters – my mother says she “respects” me for “playing the field like I never did” (thanks, Mum, I think . . . ) – but there is always something wrong that stops me going back for more. My friends have told me that I tend to find excuses not to see men again, but what’s the point in taking the time to slowly run something into the ground when there are clearly no butterflies to begin with? I’ve got better things to be doing!

Most of my university friends are in relationships (albeit sometimes short-lived) but I haven’t felt anything significant for anybody since I was 17 and smitten. This sometimes leaves me feeling a bit lonely amid all their sickening happiness.

Is this a case of me making problems where there are none? Should I just be concentrating on my work instead of bothering with such nonsense? Finals are coming up this year and I’d rather get a first than a boyfriend . . . I think.


A You sound like an eminently sensible young lady. And, yes, you should be concentrating on your work and getting a first. Boyfriends will come and go, and thank God you haven’t yet met THE ONE because the rest of your life is a hell of a long time and, ideally, you want to kiss pond-loads of frogs before you stumble upon your prince. Your mother’s advice is bang on. And what do you think is behind it? Possibly the hint of regret she feels about not having been able to play the field herself because she was “lucky” enough to meet your dad so young. In her first week at university no less!

Remember that everything has a flip side and serious relationships are no exception – no matter how happy they seem or how well they turn out. Even a fantastic marriage has a million compromises and sacrifices and opportunities forsaken behind it. At this time of your life, relationships can be incredibly tiring, boring and limiting, especially when you have finals, fun, jobs, where to live decisions to consider. You don’t want to have to accommodate someone else’s feelings and end up living in Jerusalem and working on a kibbutz just because you are so in luuurve with your hippie boyfriend.

And look, this “I-need-a-boyfriend-to-define-me” attitude isn’t exclusive to university students, it can persist into later adulthood (it most certainly did for me), but often a bit more life experience gives us the inner grit and steel to be more sure of our own minds and consequently of what we really want. My entire 20s were that time – of serious emotional development – and I learnt a hell of a lot more during the periods when I was single than I ever did in a relationship.

So, YES, you have got better things to be doing than chasing men who you feel nothing for after a first date. There is plenty of time when you are older to make those sorts of compromises if you so choose; 21 is most definitely not the age of compromise – and there is nothing wrong with you despite what your pals suggest. You obviously have a great deal more self-confidence than they do, not needing a boyfriend to talk about and hang on to as a crutch. God, it’s so boring. That “something wrong” you cleverly identified that stops you coming back for another date is in fact your instinct for sound judgment and common sense that perhaps some of your contemporaries lack.

Good on you for not settling and wasting time on second dates with men for whom you feel nothing. I like your style, lady. Many of us older women could do with taking a leaf out of your book because there sure is a lot more to life than a boyfriend.

But look, whenever it is making you feel lonely and miserable in the face of their blissful happiness (entirely illusory btw), thinking along these lines will never fail to bring a smile to your face: they are not happy really, just hiding their misery behind the human shield that another significant other so conveniently provides.

Further cheer yourself up by spending time with like-minded others – there is plenty of fun single stuff to do at university and you massively increase your chances of meeting someone you are happy to go past first base with by doing more of it. It is a numbers game, after all.

So, with that in mind, why not go out weekly on the razzle-dazzle with another single friend of the opposite sex – or any number of single pals of either sex – and go wild? Flirt outrageously with anyone and everyone, dance on tables and generally behave in such a way that you have a very good story to tell your loved-up friends about your escapade. “I had such an AMAZING time last night, its sooooo much fun being single!’ That should be enough to turn the tables . . .

And for the love of God, stop comparing yourself to your parents – how lame was that generation???!!

The Grit Doctor says:

If you surround yourself with loved-up couples, you are bound to feel miserable. Accept nothing less than butterflies, my dear. And a first.

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