Clique, cringe: guide to Guilford College’s dating atmosphere

With this year’s Valentine’s Day come and gone, perhaps you’re thinking about your romantic standing, asking yourself questions like, “Do I want a relationship?” “Should I be in a relationship?” or more plainly, “Why isn’t anyone obsessed with me?” “Where is my mysterious admirer leaving notes and flowers for me to find?”

Maybe the infestation of hearts cut from red construction paper has worn you down, and you’re wincing at every instance of hand-holding.

On a small campus like Guilford’s, the idea of a relationship may seem like a strange and even a daunting sort of statement.

Most romantic interactions seem to be the product of circumstance, a consensual connection decided by two parties who probably see themselves in each other to an extent.

It comes from the ‘clique’ nature of our little community, little hubs of peers who are either like-minded or at the very minimum share a common vibe. And of course, there’s crossover in these cliques, making a veritable spider web of routes to navigate within the community. When one has the intent of finding a relationship, it feels like there’s a system you have to navigate.

After enough exposure, be it from experience or hearsay, it might seem like finding a relationship is more trouble than it’s worth. If you’ve been here a few years already, there’s a good chance it feels tumultuous, like you’re expending great deals of energy and inquiry all for hypothetical trysts that rarely meet expectations.

It becomes exhausting just to find someone new, someone who could bring some small amount of fresh perspective or simple warmth for you to lean into. It becomes a question of investment.

Who’s really worth all your time and attention, and how likely is it for you to even find them?

Of course, a great deal of us can’t help but investigate it anyways. Some of us are bored, some of us are lonely and I suppose some of us are really looking for that idealistic love coupled with genuine interest.

But the success rate for that kind of idealism seems slim to none. While there are couples on campus, they almost seem like odd anomalies among us, and most of them have been at it awhile.

Personally, that kind of solid dependability seems absolutely otherworldly.

How could two people possibly stand each other for such a long a time without getting distracted? It’s not as though the rest of us single people are all subject to ravenous libidos, but with words like “self-care” flying around these days, it just seems a miracle that two people could be so consistent together.

The rest of us are doomed to experiment and inquire, to find small victories of genuine fun with another person and survive all those moments that leave us with cringe-scars in our memories. Those cringeworthy times that our brains decide to flash at us unexpectedly end up having a greater hold on us than the small victories do. We start assuming the good times are more unlikely, and then that question of investing our time and energy becomes just about as funny as the cringes.

So where do we put all that attention? Some of us choose to navigate the spider web more locally because of how often we already frequent our own cliques. Why find someone new to invest in when you’ve got your fellow clique members, right?

Cliquey-incest doesn’t seem nearly as bad as finding some new rando on campus that you’ll eventually have to endure awkward eye contact with at the Caf. And hey, in an ideal relationship you’re basically friends anyway, so you’ve got the foundation already built. These people accelerate the bonds they’ve already built with friends until it’s morphed into something more gratifying for both parties. I certainly don’t claim cliquey-incest to be a viable alternative.

The phrase “Don’t crap where you eat” does come to mind.

I’m sure many are quite horrified at this comparison of friend-based-hookups to incest, and to those people I’d like to offer another phrase: you can pick your friends, you can pick your nose and in this instance it seems like you’re picking your friend’s nose. Gross metaphors aside, I can say it doesn’t seem any more volatile than those flashes of cringe are painful, so pick away.

In the aftermath of this year’s Valentine’s Day, if you find yourself with relationships on the mind, consider this spider web. Consider the game you’re playing, a messy love-masked trick-or-treat. Clique or cringe! Give me something good or it’s “The Office” I’ll binge!

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