Oxford: Oh How Your Dumpster Fire of Dating Burns So Bright

Hello my beautiful, lovely readers!! I hope you’ve missed me as much as I’ve missed you. Apologies again for another protracted absence, but as my second term in Oxford has finally ended (yay I lived through another one!!!), I’ve been enjoying my break.

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However, life goes on, here as well as everywhere else, and as such, new topics worthy of writing about have nonetheless been marinating for sometime.

I actually intend on writing 2 (yes count ‘em TWO) new entries for you. They will be different from each other, not really a part 1/part 2 thing, but I hope you will enjoy them both.

Anywho, with this first entry, there are several things I want to address, starting with kind of a status check on the blog itself. Understandably, given the way I write, which varies on good days from stream of consciousness to completely unintelligible on less than good ones, my focus on any one theme or topic can seem elusive.

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I have gotten several questions, and rightfully so, on why I write about what I write about or why isn’t it more about Oxford or more about academics etc. These questions haven’t been meant as criticisms necessarily on what I have written, but I can understand the confusion. Believe me, I’m just amazed and flattered that there are people who keep up with the blog enough to want to ask these questions!

Hell, just the title, “An American an Oxford”, lends much weight to the assumption that this would be a simple travel blog. But I made a promise to myself when I started this that I would never consciously try to make the blog one thing or another; I would let it be what it is and what it would become.

And what it has become I am extraordinarily proud of. Because to me what it has become is one more Polaroid, one more testimonial to the loves, losses, problems, trials, joys, and tribulations of all of us 20-somethings/30-somethings/whatever-age-you-are-somethings as we weave our way through this increasingly fucked-up world.

fucked up world
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I think that is what’s hard for some people to understand about Oxford: it’s not just for studying in the library. The University of Oxford is not the only thing in this city. We all, for the most part, have lives that have nothing to do with academia. And surviving that personal life at times has proved far more challenging than anything I’ve encountered in the classroom.

And committing that remarkable act of survival everyday certainly isn’t Oxford specific. So yes, while I am currently now 27 and making my way through this stage of my life in Oxford, Oxford in many ways is incidental. Certainly I do write about problems that are or seem to be Oxford specific (can I get a Hallelujah from my History peeps about the citation style AHHH?!?). But the relatability of what I write is not restricted by geography.

However, having said that, I will now immediately contradict myself (Chaucer would be proud) and take to discussing the main theme of this blog, which is, as you’ve probably inferred from the eloquent title, the tightrope-over-shark-infested-waters that is trying to date in this city.

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First, the caveats. While acknowledging that dating at this age in this time in any location presents its own series of complications, trust me there is something quite “special” about doing it in Oxford.

Additionally, what I will be discussing will be limited to my experiences, which thus far in Oxford have been only with the opposite sex, namely cis-men. And of course, this entry will not be used to indict the entire male population of Oxford nor the entire male sex and/or gender for the crimes of a few.

That being said, I have simply had too many conversations with too many female friends, all of varying nationalities, disciplines, ages, races etc., where we have all expressed the same frustrations with trying to date in Oxford; or if dating is even possible in Oxford.

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Now for those of you who read my blog regularly (INFINITE LOVE) this may seem reminiscent of my previous entry about the “Rules of Engagement”. While I will not belabor this entry with a complete retreading of the last one, they are definitely related. What goes hand in hand with figuring out what are the (arbitrary) rules of the game is discerning the motives of the players involved.

Before coming to Oxford, I of course imagined what dating here would be like. My first thought turned towards the diversity I would encounter. So many countries, so little time haha. But seriously, it was exciting to think about going to a completely new city, 4,000 miles away, totally unknown and able to start over in every sense of the term. How many people get that?

And while I still feel so lucky and blessed to be here, I can’t deny that on a fairly regular basis this city kicks the ever-loving shit out of me! Most often the cause of these beatings comes as a result of my, and many of my friends’, attempts to date. Because despite all of our academic achievements and all-around general nerdiness, we are still human beings who want, need, and deserve sex and love.

love beating
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What we get, however, with some very notable exceptions, are human-shaped sacks of disappointment distinguished by Y-chromosomes. And lurking within these sacks (no pun intended) seem to be very similar patterns of behavior which once again defy any national, racial, and/or geographic boundaries.

Number one issue with these patterns: SHOWING UP!!!! Seriously dudes, do I really have to spell this out for you? First I have to take a moment of silence and allow myself and other female friends to mourn the death of our standards when it comes to dating. Because at this point, these standards have become so subterranean that we are impressed, amazed, and give a guy points when he actually does something he says he’s going to do.

And honestly, how fucking sad is that?!? Real talk right now: I don’t care if we’ve only fucked each other once or numerous times, we’re dating and have changed our relationship status on Facebook, or we’re just platonic friends who never intend to see each other’s naughty bits; if you say you are going to do something, FUCKING DO IT!

If we make plans, I’m sorry if this is asking a lot in your mind (ps it’s really not), but I don’t know, maybe actually consider FUCKING SHOWING UP FOR THEM! Novel idea I know, let that sink in, I know this is hard, but guys we’re gonna get through this. #SARCASM

show up
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Of course, life does happen. People get sick, get stuck at work, get hit by cars, abducted by aliens etc. It’s a crazy world. However, one of the marvels of modern technology is that communication is easier than ever before (and yet ironically feels more impossible at the same time).

But how hard is it to just take 10 secs, send a text saying you can’t show up and that’s it. No harm, no foul, just let me know, I’m not gonna interrogate you. Especially for those of you who know me well, I am a total mama bear when people get sick or stressed out. All I wanna do is take care of you, probably to the point of being more annoying than your own mother.

But seriously, that’s all we’re asking for. Once again real talk: guys and girls alike, do you know how awful, embarrassing, and rage-inducing it feels to just be stood up? It sucks harder than outer space to be honest. And while you can be the most secure, confident, carefree person in the world, when it happens to you, it is just so disarming.

Honestly, there are other things I could be doing with my time. Amazingly enough I do have a life. But my time, like everyone else’s, is important. And when you waste it, it’s just an overall shitty thing to do.

waste time
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Admittedly, along with the mama bear thing, I can be way too forgiving of certain behaviors when I like someone. Hey we’re all human, and I know I do a good job at fooling the world, but surprise I’m actually not perfect. But honestly, if you’re an actual human, sentient adult, this is not something you should have to be explicitly told. You should know.

I for the most part have kept those I’ve slept with and/or dated outside of the university. Seriously Oxford really is a small town masquerading as a big city; you’re always running into people you don’t want to!

But from my sampling, as well as those of my friends, I can honestly say that it does not matter one bit if you’re an academic or a bartender, a student or a townie, these behaviors persist regardless.

I have noticed a bit of a phenomenon among some guys in university: the man-child turned academic in a way. Once again, coming here I had many ideas about dating, but I did not delude myself into thinking that just because guys were smart enough to get into Oxford that it translated into being smarter emotionally.

Actually it only seems to hinder the process further. Because for the most part, once again with notable exceptions, these are guys who have been in university all their adult lives, never worked outside the classroom, and quite frankly are used to having their egos nurtured and stroked on a regular basis. I’m not saying female academics are sage angels and male academics are children in big people clothes, but these are the patterns that have emerged.

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Thus when anything challenges this notion of perfection or this insulated conception of accountability, the behavior seems to be even more incomprehensible.

Which leads me to my next point: acting like we didn’t just have sex the next time we see each other. Now guys again, I want you to brace yourselves for yet another radical concept, but despite your amazing sexual prowess, I don’t want to marry you. You don’t have to break that to me gently for fear I might flip out, I can actually handle that.

Thus, when we next encounter each other, you don’t have to go out of your way to be an asshole to me and pretend that we didn’t just see each other naked just to make sure I get the message.

Newsflash: I’m kinda sorta like an adult and despite my having a vagina, I do not immediately rush out to buy a wedding dress as soon as the condom comes off.

Oh and also, I faked it :)

All right, all venting, ranting, and joking aside, while we’ve all had our share of sexual horror stories that make great night-out conversation, when feelings get involved, this behavior really does start to hurt. It can do massive personal damage, especially when the “L-word” has been used, and this crap still persists.

game heart
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It can seriously blur your perspective, make you behave in ways you never thought you would, make you feel like you are worthless. But you’re not. You never are. At the end of the day, it is not anything about you that is causing this behavior in the other person. He/she is an adult completely responsible for his/her own actions

I know how easy it is to second-guess yourself when stuff like this happens. You go over every action, every word, every message, every text with a fine-tooth comb, trying desperately to figure out where you went wrong. Maybe you kissed too soon, had sex too soon, got too emotional, showed you were too interested etc.

Bullshit. It does suck once you’ve invested a certain amount of emotional energy in someone to find out that they don’t feel the same, but it’s not your fault. It’s just not who you are supposed to be with. Much easier said than done. More often than not these relationships taper off-gradually and more painfully rather than with a clean, simple break.

Because human beings are not simple. Relationships, however long or brief, are not simple. And while all will involve a certain amount of disagreement, of hurt, when does the bad start to outweigh the good? When does accepting someone for their flaws and shortcomings stop and enabling their destructive behavior begin?

Simply put, when do you get to that point of enough is enough? In Oxford as well as anywhere else?

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Well, once again I leave you with more questions than answers (sorry it’s what the academics do to us here haha). But to help you along the way I leave you with a clip from what I consider to a very underrated movie, “The Mexican”.

Quick plot summary: Brad Pitt stars as a bumbling mafia lackey charged with getting a prized pistol, named “The Mexican”, back to his bosses. Along for the ride are Julia Roberts as his kinda sorta ex-girlfriend and the incomparable, gone-too-soon James Gandolfini as the lovable hitman who kidnaps her as leverage.

The clip shows the two pondering the question above. And so far, I have yet to find a better authority on the matter than Mr. Gandolfini.

Bottom line: there are great men and great women out there who are going to love you for EXACTLY who you are and treat you the way you deserve. And you’ll do the same for them. Because, IMHO, that’s just what we’re supposed to do as humans.

Don’t lose hope. And above all don’t lose yourself.