It’s not me, it’s you: how to handle first dates in Cambridge
First impressions count
RAG blind date was a few weeks ago, and if the liveblog taught us anything, it’s that Cantabs don’t really get dating.
As we write this, armed with caffeine and sitting across from a couple we’re pretty sure are on a date, we and (all of) our exes are struck by the irony that we’re the ones writing this article, but we power through for the sake of our readership. After all, this is what Cambridge supervisions prepared us for: pretending to be an expert on subjects you are fundamentally unqualified to talk about.
With that ringing endorsement, here are weapons we’ve gathered in our three years on the front line of dating at Cambridge.
DO pick a good outfit
Plan, plan, plan. Know the activity/itinerary and what is expected. Are you going for a casual stroll along the backs? Bring a scarf, some boots you don’t mind ruining and a collection of ‘alternative facts’ from punters to dazzle your date (we’re as shocked as you are to learn that Britney designed the Wren library). To a hipster coffee shop? Bring Foucault, corduroy and fake glasses (we don’t believe there’s a single hipster with actual bad eyesight). Trialling the outfit on your friends is recommended, and if that’s not possible, then polaroids are encouraged (be like Cher and don’t trust mirrors).
DO bring the right attitude
Get in the first date mood. You should be excited, and intrigued about this person you are about to meet. We know it’s sappy, but where’s your sense of romance? Find it, even if it’s filed away with your supervision work from two terms ago, and embrace it: La La Land-style. Do your best to control the external factors: don’t plan a brunch date if you’ve just had an all-night essay crisis. If your close friends don’t currently want to be around you, it wouldn’t take an ARU student to deduce that your date won’t either.
DO pick the right place
Choosing a play, or the cinema can be a recipe for disaster because you have no opportunity to talk or get to know them. Drinks/coffee is probably a better idea than dinner, which can be too formal or lengthy for a first date. If a coffee shop, avoid King’s Parade or places that will be filled with other Cantabs. For drinks, try somewhere like Liquor Loft or the River Bar – I recommend the latter’s Watermelon Collins and their Long Island Iced Teas (though perhaps don’t opt for the LIIT, or you might find yourself a little too lit for a first date).
DON’T stand them up
During the course of the liveblog, we heard of some unfortunate Cantabs whose dates had just never showed. In one instance, the no-shower claimed they were “too busy”, which is like saying water is wet. If you stand someone up, it’s you that will have to face the inevitable consequence of seeing them EVERYWHERE (Murphy’s law is stronger in Cambridge than anywhere else). If you’ve asked someone out, or accepted a date, then follow through on your promise. It’s just plain rude otherwise, and karma will get you, whether in the form of a nightmare supervision partner or a Wednesday Cindies cock-block, karma is a bitch (trust us – it takes one to know one).
DON’T stalk them on social media
Okay, so this isn’t easy. And everyone does do it, but before a first date this could be dangerous. Small things that might only slightly annoy you later on, could be deal breakers at the start of a relationship, when its fate is most precarious. In general, favour mystery over history, not least so that you don’t accidentally slip and terrify them with a fact you’ve unearthed through hours of sleuthing. They will, understandably, be concerned if your first question is “So how was Grade 8 saxophone?” Don’t be that person, even if the “so I heard you’re good at sax” line seems like a slam-dunk. It isn’t.
DO stalk them on social media
We know what we said, but we’re allowed to be inconsistent (this is the Tab after all). Some basic stalking can help you be prepared, and ready to salvage conversation if it encounters any rough patches. If nothing else, you can be pretty confident that they’ll have stalked you, and you don’t want to start off at a disadvantage. Love is a battlefield, and this is a war of attraction (we astound even ourselves sometimes).
If the above helps you get that all too elusive second or even third date (which, let’s face it, it will) then don’t forget the cardinal rule of a Cambridge relationship, especially in its fledgling state:
DON’T see them too much
Remember: “rough winds do shake the darling buds of May”; there really can be too much of a good thing. Outside the Cambridge bubble, and in the early stages of dating, you would probably see the person you are dating once a week, or once every four to five days. However since time is warped in Cambridge (don’t worry, the PhysNatScis are on it), and a week in Cambridge feels like a month, there is a temptation to see the person you are dating too much. And if you’re dating someone in your college, or at a nearby college, things can progress too quickly and are far more likely to break down. Reign in some of the romantic passion, and properly get to know each other over a longer period of time. You’ll thank us for it later.
Armed with this advice, you can’t go too wrong. If not, we’re screwed (and not in a good way – though if you’re after that, read this). Go forth, find your other half and beware the dangers of the bubble.