‘Pulling’ Off Dating Feats
At Cambridge versus MITBy Annemarie Grandke
When I arrived at Cambridge University for CMI’s one-year exchange program in Physics, I was full of lovely notions of meeting the perfect English gentleman who would sweep me off my feet in a picture book romance À la Jane Austen. (Einstein’s Field Equations were clearly secondary to meeting the man of my dreams). I was ready for a change from the MIT dating scene, tame as it is. However, somewhere between a drunken formal hall and a staggering walk to a college party, this vision sadly vaporized and all that remained of it by morning was a text message on my phone saying “Congratulations, I can’t believe you pulled him!!!” and a pounding headache. Quite frankly, I couldn’t believe I had pulled him either, in fact I couldn’t even remember!
What had happened to my dream of romantic dinners by candlelight, long walks along the river Cam, and trips to the opera? Dating at Cambridge indeed is very different from anything I have experienced at MIT, but also almost the polar opposite of what I naively imagined in my 19th century Pride and Prejudice-inspired view.
At MIT, you can meet that cute Baker boy you play IM Soccer with for a very civilized coffee-and-movie date on Friday, and on Saturday night go to a fraternity formal with the hottie from 5.60 Recitation. In other words, you’ll date a few boys that you know, and play the field a bit to see what is out there. An equivalent weekend at Cambridge looks slightly different.
Friday night, you’ll be on a formal hall with your boat crew, all dressed up and each equipped with two bottles of wine as well as a stack of pennies. You will meet up with some guys from another college, maybe a football team or a drinking society, and eat a three-course meal in a dining hall that appears to be straight out of Harry Potter. The basic idea behind the concept of these formal halls is to become as intoxicated as possible as quickly as possible by downing copious amounts of cheap wine: as soon as a penny winds up in your glass you have no choice but to see it away.
After dinner and some more bottles of college port drunk in the college bar, everyone has enough alcohol in their bloodstream to have the courage to make a move on the complete stranger that was sitting across from them during dinner. And so you end up at a college party (“bop”) dancing to incredibly cheesy music, and pulling (hooking up with) some English football player, whom you have known for one sober hour of your life, and whose name you’ll remember in the morning if you’re lucky.
The following day, once your exploits of the previous night have been discussed by the entire staircase on which you live, as well as posted on several college gossip boards online, you can choose to see this stranger again, at which point everyone assumes you are going out, or ignore his text messages and file him away in the “random out-of-college pull” category. Don’t attempt to suggest the idea that you might like to meet someone else for coffee as well, that is considered somewhat sluttish behavior.
Dating at MIT is a bit like shopping. You try on some clothes before you purchase them, see if they fit, and then make a final selection. At Cambridge, it’s a bit more like impulse buying: you rush into a store and grab the first thing you see. Remarkably, the impulse buying seems to work rather well, considering the number of friends of mine who ended up together as a result of alcoholic excesses at a toga bop.
I suppose the key to happiness, then, is to randomly pull that perfect English Gentleman and to start the memorable romantic affair after the fact, perhaps upon sobering up.
Annemarie Grandke ’04 is a participant in the Cambridge-MIT Institute.