Upon accepting your Oxford offer, you were aware of signing yourself up for the stresses of relentless academic torment, but you weren’t aware that you’d signed up to what can only be compared to a perverse social experiment – that of college life.
When the going’s good, living in college can be a dream – you make strong friendships faster than anywhere else and it really does feel like one big happy family. You grow quite fond of everyone, even that nocturnal post-grad who emerges from the dust and shadows of the library somewhat resembling a warlock. Recognising members of your extended, incestuous college family brings you an ecstatic high every Thursday night as your body is crushed against the wall on the stairs in Bridge. However when a college romance inevitably burgeons, it can turn this safe haven and protective bubble into a bit of a living nightmare, the actualisation of your very own Room 101.
Before arriving at university I scorned the phrase passed round amongst jovial Varsity lads like some messianic truth, ‘don’t shit where you eat’ – the age old rule of not sleeping with your flat-mate. I virtuously condemned its puerility and did not take heed, which obviously then came back to bite me in the heart – *cue violins* – when I entered into my very own on-site love affair.
It all begins with that fated Bridge night which everyone, including the aforementioned library warlock, has heard about by the next afternoon. It’s as though the porters who watched your nocturnal movements through their CCTV screens like the omniscient eye of Big Brother have pidged everyone a memo informing them of whose room you emerged from, smug yet disheveled, the next morning… (Excuse the 1984 allusions, but there’s no denying that college life really is akin to something from an Orwellian dystopia sometimes).
The romance progresses; booty calls have never been easier, Netflix and chill becomes a reality and the walk of shame/stride of pride consists of but a short stroll. It seems idyllic and you’re wondering why on earth they didn’t advertise on-tap sex as an enticement to choose Oxford on the Open Day.
As we all know, there’s something about the magnetic field surrounding these dreaming spires that means a day passes at the speed of light and 2 weeks feels like 2 months. Before you know it you’re awkwardly engaging in the ‘are we/aren’t we talk’ after 3 weeks and when shit hits the fan it’s impossible to get distance because the person effectively lives in your house. You hope that they’ll catch you on your way out for a run in your swanky ‘new year, new me’ gym kit, or looking cool, calm and collected while sipping cheap white wine at the college bar.
Realistically though, you bump into them shiny and red on the way back from said run or you turn a corner and come face to face with them in the labyrinthine corridors of the college library when you’re greasy and flushed with essay sweats. The physical dimensions of college feel reduced to that of Cellar, that subterranean hipster’s paradise, and whether you see them or not, the knowledge that they’re a mere 2 minutes or less away from you at any given time is enough to send you even more insane than Collections.
So how do I solve this crisis? I hear you ask. Well there’s no denying that despite the consequences of your friends’ messy in-college catastrophes and the fact that you’ve had to adopt the role of their personal therapist for the duration of Michaelmas, engaging in your very own college love affair is irresistible. So you’ll most likely ignore any advice to avoid them like the plague and you might be right in doing so; instead of ending in a living nightmare, you could go on to make up the 1/3 statistic of uni relationships which end in marriage… but it’s unlikely.
So be prepared for it all to go a bit tits up and to live with the awkwardness as the two of you eventually settle back into the family structure of college and they assume the role of that one cousin you’re always going to have an inappropriate crush on.