Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Featured

How The World’s Worst Dating Advice Actually Worked For Me

Chances are, if you were a normal college student, you were a terrible person to date. Who really knows anything about being a quality partner at 18, 19, even 20, 21 years old? Most of us at that age were just trying to find ourselves (or find ourselves in someone else’s pants). Now that I’m safely in my 30s, I would never tell my daughter (or any high school girl) to go looking for a husband among baby-faced undergrads.

But that’s actually how I met my husband.

The last time I “dated,” Baby Bush was President, Twitter didn’t exist, and I still had an active MySpace profile. I was 23. I met a 21-year-old chemistry student in a lobby while taking a break from my grad studies. We were so young; babies, really. I didn’t look at him and think he’d be my husband one day. But here we are, nearly seven years married, 10 years together, two kids in.

If I had to do it over again, committing to a serious relationship in college, I might tell my alternate universe self to slow down. But I was never a casual dater in college. I hated the emotional guessing game of dating, so I didn’t do much of it. I fell in love with a man who loved me and was happy to be permanently cuffed up by the age of 25. It turned out to be the right decision for me.

In general, though, it’s a terrible idea to be marriage-oriented in college. Few people are even interested in settling down that early. The early twenties are rife with trifling adventures. We’re financially unstable for the better part of a decade. But when I read today’s horror stories about $200 dates, swiping left or right on Tinder, dick-pic-filled DMs, and how degrees don’t keep us warm at night, I am struck by how relatively…easy… dating was in a college town.

Reason #1: (Almost) Everyone Is Equally Broke and Trifling

We (the 30 and older set) joke about it now with nostalgia, but if you went to school, you were probably broke the majority of the time. Maybe not poor, but definitely the type who signed up for credit cards because you needed the free shirts.  You usually had a roommate unless your parents could afford for you to live alone. Living arrangements were notoriously sketchy (mattresses on floors, anyone?) If you had a car, you were golden. People could hit you up for rides home and offer gas money without judgment. But it wasn’t odd to be without transportation.

But since everyone was 50 shades of broke, we were (generally) understanding about it. We asked, “What’s your major?” rather than “Where do you work?” We had jobs, but they were highly unglamorous: a campus gig for tuition assistance; a seasonal, retail, or food service job; an under-the-table temp; doing hair in the dorm.

Reason #2: Everyone is Bored AF at the Same Events

Panama  recently wrote on VSB about (presumably professional-aged) men not attending events intended for both sexes. I didn’t have that issue when I was still dating. Classes made it easier to find people who shared my interests. Colleges always have free events on campus and everyone goes because there is nothing else to do. I actually met my husband at a campus poetry club open meeting that had a mix of women and men.

(Editor’s note: This, btw, is the only reason 97% of men who attend “poetry clubs” attend “poetry clubs.” To be a Darius to someone’s Nina.)

Reason #3: (Almost) Everyone’s Expectations Were Low

Maybe some women in college expected the sun, moon, and Starbucks from guys who were funding their dating life from refund checks. But dating expectations were lower overall and that was acceptable. If he took you to Red Lobster in college, he was flexing. Redbox and chill a homemade dinner was a legitimate date. (Just don’t watch Rosewood on a first date. Trust me on this.)

Something about graduation upsets the balance of broke we experience in college. Our expectations ratchet up, but our financial and emotional statuses do not always follow. Now you have to worry about appearing “adult” enough with transportation, your own apartment, and a steady and respectable source of income (“career”). We’re dealing with student loan debt and wondering about a potential mate’s financial literacy. And that’s even taking for granted we can meet like-minded people, since we’re no longer sequestered on campuses pursuing common goals.

While I would never advise today’s college student to attend university looking for a husband or wife, things seemed so much simpler then. Or maybe I’m tripping on nostalgia and I was just one of the lucky ones?

Filed Under: ,
Dara Mathis

Dara T. Mathis is a freelance writer newly based in the DMV and the sweet & snark behind TrulyTafakari.com. She tweets for the love of biscuits.

  • Kas

    I wasn’t worth being in a serious relationship with until my late 30’s. My ex-wife, whom I married in my early 30’s, would agree.

    • Tambra

      We all have our moments.

    • Janelle Doe

      I also feel like I had a lot of working through to do during college. I didn’t know who I was ot how I liked my eggs (shout out Runaway bride) I would have been a Tasmanian devil to anyone who settled down with me during my hurricane years.

    • Cold game

      • Kas

        The coldest!

  • Tambra

    I think when it comes to serious relationships people should be honest with themselves, and not be too caught up with society. I was in a seven year relationship beginning at 19 and every time marriage was brought up I felt the world enclosing around me and went into major panic mode. Eventually I got out of it 3 years after I should have, but I am happier now knowing I did not give into the pressure of marriage.

  • Quirlygirly

    I didn’t date in college. I just wrangled a bit. I knew I wasn’t wife material THEN so I knew looking for husband material was a moot point. If you know yourself it will help in what you really want.

    • Tambra

      It’s not only knowing yourself, it is being strong enough not to give in to the pressure, when some persons make it their business to bring up marriage after you’ve been in a relationship for a while.

      • Quirlygirly

        That is what I mean. If you know you don’t want to get married, why stay in a relationship like that is the end goal. Let it be known up front or better yet be friends without mucking it up with situationships

        • Tambra

          People get too comfortable, in my case I was not honest enough with myself to say this is not going to work. Further, there are person who believe you have to get married by say 25 or you will not get married at all. Unfortunately many persons can not see beyond the wedding day.

  • Buster Cannon

    I think it’s possible to be mature and marriage-minded at the undergrad age. However, your finances may not necessarily be on the same wavelength at the time. Personally, I don’t feel that it’s wise to pursue a serious relationship when you don’t even have a full-time job yet. You should at least be able to support yourself with some type of income; you might still be living at home, but at least have a job and use financial wisdom with the money you do have.

    Personally, I just decided to skip college dating since I knew nothing would actually come of it. Gotta have the priorities straight.

    • Quirlygirly

      Interesting! So you didn’t date at all in college?

      • Buster Cannon

        Yep, completely dodged it. Since I don’t do the whole “dating for the sake of dating” thing, and I was a broke full-time student at the time, I didn’t see a logical reason to do it.

        • Quirlygirly

          I can understand that. I didn’t look at it in the same manner as you. Besides not being ready for marriage, I was also shy. Any time a dude would express interest, I would hide out. I was an odd chick as a college student

          • Julian Green

            If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get over the shyness? For me, it was just getting some friends who liked the same dumb things I did. They showed me I could be myself and people would still like me.

          • Buster Cannon

            I think college is where a lot of us learn to get rid of (or at least better manage) our awkward sides. Even though I wasn’t interested in dating at the time, I was also hilariously oblivious in HS/college (still am now but not nearly as bad lol). It’s pretty bad if girls are leaving their phone numbers in my yearbook and I’m just assuming that they’re ‘being friendly’.

            http://i.imgur.com/usmTCcc.png

      • Julian Green

        It’s not too weird. I know I didn’t.

        • Quirlygirly

          You either? Why not?

          • Julian Green

            For one, I didn’t grow out of my socially-awkward-nerd phase until the end of my freshman year. Secondly, once I got over that hurdle, I found I didn’t want to date girls; I just wanted to hook up with them. I realized I didn’t actually have to go through the whole “dating process” in order to do that, so I didn’t.

  • Me

    We need to teach college kids to multitask those years. There will never be another opportunity to have so many like minded people obligated to be where you’re going to be 2-5 days out of the week. You may not necessarily get married to your college boo, just like you may not land a lifelong career from your internship, but you miss one of the biggest opportunities to create the right connections if you ignore either one of those. Yes, you can still make your dreams happen after the fact, but don’t sleep on the chance to work smarter at that stage. So my stance is college kids should be encouraged to keep that in their top 3 priorities/takeaways (knowledge, business connections, and social connections) while in school.

  • BlueWave1

    I met my wife in college. I remember thinking how she would make a great wife, for someone else. I didn’t think I was ready to commit to anyone at that time. Too much emotional baggage and all that jazz. Still I felt like I just couldn’t let her pass me by.

    Now we are a decade into marriage with two kids. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also would avoid telling college kids to look for their spouses at school. However, it is probably one of the best places to find a like minded person. Money was not a contentious issue as we were both broke. I remember taking her to Exposition Park in downtown Los Angeles. Since it had multiple museums and several rose gardens I thought it would be a decent place for a date. I had to scrape up enough money for gas and parking. We had to eat lunch at the McDonalds in the Science Center. It took all the money I had to get her there. And she loved that date! She still talks about it.

    The simplicity of that time of life made dating easier.

    • Kas

      Where did you go for undergrad?

      • BlueWave1

        Long Beach State. You probably heard of our basketball team. We occasionally make the tournament just to beat down and eliminated in the first round. Other than that it is a great school!

        • Kas

          Born and raised in Socal. I know Long Beach. I went to SC and UCLA.

          • Val

            What part of Southern California were you raised?

            • Kas

              Inland Empire, Pomona

              • Val

                I partly grew up in the LA area and I’m not sure that I’ve ever been to Pomona. All I know about it is Jessica Alba is from there. Lol

                • Kas

                  Shane Mosely and Suga Free

                  • BlueWave1

                    Don’t forget about Above the Law. They put Pomona on the map.

                    • Kas

                      All this time, I thought it was me.

                  • KB

                    Shouts out to Suga free

          • Brandon Allen

            Go Bruins! But also…FUSC!

            • Kas

              So it’s like that. Airight

    • Blueberry01

      What made you decide to shoot your shoot despite your initial insecurity?

  • Success Is Certain

    Where are/were these colleges where the young adults there were understanding of what I’ll call “the college struggle”?

    Certainly didn’t feel that way at The Mecca. There was a whole lot of people curving those who were basically in the same boat and at the same place in life, lol.

    • Julian Green

      DC is different; I went to North Carolina Central. Bougie doesn’t really live on the eastside of Durham.

      • Success Is Certain

        Point taken. So perhaps a smaller college town raises the odds?

        • Buster Cannon

          I went to a fairly small, Christian, private PWI in NC. Quite a few folks got married before they even finished their undergrad degree; in a sense it was culturally expected that you’d find someone and marry them before you finish school. You’d probably have better luck for that reason alone.

          • Success Is Certain

            Yeah, I have family in the South (I was also born there), so I see the whole marriage expectations thing. I am not interested in marriage or kids, however, it is always interesting to read the stories of folks who found/had success dating while in college.

        • Julian Green

          No idea. Maybe it was the environment having an effect on everyone. Durham isn’t a small city, but I’d say its not as wealthy or as buzzing as DC- it’s definitely a recognizably blue-collar town. Try to flex too much and people will look at you funny.

          • Success Is Certain

            I see. Ironically, at that age and at a place like Howard in a city like DC, you almost had to be flexing somehow in order to get a foot in the door.

  • Epsilonicus

    There is a pattern among my friends. Those that are married, are all married to someone they dated in college, met in college, or are from their college network. It seems to be a good place.

    • Tambra

      I just wanted to survive undergrad, then it became getting first class honours.

    • PhlyyPhree

      I was just about to say. The majority of the serious relationships I’ve had or know of all have that same basic college bond.
      Basically, college = Young Metro and if you didn’t go to the REAL HU…..

      • Epsilonicus

        Look, I my wife I met in college. I did not go into school looking for marriage at all. It just happened. But lets be real, it makes sense. What other place has that many singles in one place? I know none as an adult.

        • PhlyyPhree

          Exactly. The couples I know that (seem) happily married met during college. I think it was easier not just the sheer number of singles, but again, singles with the same interests and less pretenses.
          I should go back to school. Maybe THEN I’d get chosen…

          • LadyIbaka

            Why weren’t you chosen then?

            • PhlyyPhree

              I was. Several times. And then life happened. The end.

              • LadyIbaka

                Awwww!!!!! Can somebody on VSB choose Phlyy!!!!!

                • *cues Sara McLaughlin*

                  • Epsilonicus

                    Not the dead puppies song lol

                  • LadyIbaka

                    Cause I’m a train wreck, waiting to happen….wAiting for someone to come pick me up off the tracks!!!

          • Epsilonicus

            “but again, singles with the same interests and less pretenses. ”

            Look, I had to chat with my wife’s friends this weekend. They all are single. I was telling them that it sucks because the older you get, the more stuck in your ways people are. It is harder to build together. I was thinking about my wife and I, we built together. If I was single now, I don’t think I would find that.

        • Amber

          Right, singles in your age range and with similar goals.

        • I didn’t go looking for marriage either. Shoot, my mother used to actually tell me not to look for a guy until I got out of grad school.

          • Kas

            Advice which I still give. Shows how much I don’t know.

            • I still give it, too. There’s something to be said for education not failing you if you fail to find a mate.

              • Epsilonicus

                Why can’t you have both?

          • Mama said don’t get married before 30. These days, I’d up that to 35.

    • Quirlygirly

      Yup all my college friends, with exception of one, all got married to someone they dated in college. They all still together too.

      • Erica Nicole Griffin

        Mine are about half and half. I don’t know if the college/age factor keeps them together or breaks them apart. Would be interesting to find out, tho.

    • Sweet Potato Kai

      College is and has always been a good place to find a spouse, even if you aren’t looking and don’t marry until years later. I met my future ex-husband there and have reconnected via homecoming with some old classmates.

      • Quirlygirly

        “future ex-husband”

        LOL! I use this line all the time. I got a few on deck right now

        • Sweet Potato Kai

          Well unfortunately/fortunately he’s the ex-husband now. I don’t know how to pick ’em.

          • Kas

            The key is to pick someone whose craziness you can deal with long term, and vice versa. My wife and I were discussing this just last week.

            • Sweet Potato Kai

              Kas, that person has to be available to pick! Don’t get me started, Dara already has me in my feelings!!

              • Kas

                Sorry didn’t mean to rub any raw wounds. My bigger point was that ain’t no perfect people out there. Have reasonable expectations and know what your deal breakers are. Everything else should be somewhat flexible.

                • Sweet Potato Kai

                  You’re married right? You don’t know these single streets struggles!! EVERYBODY is selfish. ex: I tried online dating, dude in the pic was 25, dude IRL was 40 and 25 pounds heavier. I can’t.

                  • Kas

                    Divorced and remarried. 7 years of being single in NYC. I know the life/struggle of which you speak.

                    • Asiyah

                      NYC SUCKS FOR SINGLE PEOPLE!

                    • Kas

                      For single people trying to be couple people it sucks. I have a couple of guy friends who thrived there.

                    • I’ll just leave all my money for this comment!

                    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

                      I didn’t mind..but I stayed in my circles though…

                    • Blueberry01

                      Me neither…and me too

                    • Sweet Potato Kai

                      You made it out of the life….well done sir, well done.

      • TomIron361

        Do black people actually get married nowadays?

        • Tambra

          Do people get married nowadays?

          • Kas

            Troll

            • Tambra

              I realise, but it made my blood boiled a bit.

              • Kas

                I refuse to waste the energy

                • Tambra

                  I should not have, but I am (more) sleep deprived (than usual) so forgive me.

                  • Asiyah

                    I did. I wanted to see how far the troll would go. And s/he didn’t disappoint! My personal favorite was:

                    “Isn’t the “phenomenon” a result of lack of all self control in blacks?”

                    WOW.

                    • Tambra

                      You would think that things are perfect in their ethnicity and the same trends that they accuse black ppl of perpetuating are not occurring if not at a faster rate than ours. ” Our race is a hard one to run”.

        • Asiyah

          I don’t know. You seem like a person who knows a lot. Tell us your thoughts on the matter.

          • TomIron361

            Do black people have children born to parents who are married to each other?

            • Asiyah

              I understood your question. I’m asking YOU about your thoughts. Do YOU think Black people have children born to parents who are married to each other? I’m curious as to your thoughts and evidence to back them up. Thanks.

              • TomIron361

                Isn’t the “evidence” is self evident?

                • Asiyah

                  What is “self-evident?” You are commenting on an article written by a Black woman who OBVIOUSLY is married and had a child within the fold of marriage. Black people marry every day, sweetie. Sorry that nobody is inviting you to their weddings but by the way your comments go I don’t blame them. But do bring us some sort of study that “proves” that Black people don’t marry and then we can pretend to have an intelligent conversation.

        • Sweet Potato Kai

          YES! I have a wedding to go to in September. They are light skinned, but they count just they same LOL

          • TomIron361

            Are they quadroons, octoroons or highyellas??

            • Sweet Potato Kai

              LMAO

    • Kas

      My experience is just the opposite. None of my married friends are married to someone they met in college.

      • RaeNBow

        Interesting…and seemingly out of the norm from most of the comments. So how/where did a lot of your married friends meet?

        • Kas

          My first wife the gym. My second/current wife South Beach (friend of a friend). For my friends, in no particular order: work, clubs, gym, and friends of friends. Nightclubs have produced the weakest marriages of the three, not surprisingly.

    • I’m at that age where most friends from college are marrying someone they met when they was around 21…I probably should’ve picked door 3

    • -h.h.h.-

      there just might be something to that…

      if only i knew what….

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      No baggage

  • Julian Green

    That’s one thing I’ve notice since I left grad school. Now that I’m out of college, I’m having to learn about how to meet women- really, people in general- outside of a school environment. It’s been an adjustment, to say the least.

    • Brandon Allen

      People are annoying. It really takes effort.

    • Brass Tacks

      I was a bar back (sort of an apprentice to a bartender) at the age of 18. So I was really young: talking, listening, and dealing with/in “grown folks business”. I never really had to deal with the adjustment period.

      I say that because a few of my friends who are doing very well for themselves have stated that this is one skill I have, they wish they were better at.

      I’m like you are going to make enough money to where you could be a mute and women will still toss the pannies.

      Long story short: Your “adjustment period” is really non-existent. You are already winning on a basic level.

      Everyone else is playing catch up.

    • Kas

      Get yourself a good wing person.

  • Hi Dara.

    I say tongue in cheek if given a do over I’d probably go find my wife at an HBCU. There is something to simply building together as a couple that as you get older becomes less and less likely. A 30something with a career and degrees probably ain’t checking for a student and so they are left looking at established people on tinder except catches know they catches and finna settle with anybody

    • Amber

      Yeah if I had a do over, I would’ve been more intentional about dating in college. 30 something single dating life is what it is.

    • Hey Tristan! Sometimes I wonder if I got lucky or if there was a science to it. And I also wish I had done an HBCU.

      • A black chemistry student who wasn’t socially awkward….lucky shot.

    • sasha like alexander

      *except catches know they catches*

      Preachhhh and since everybody is somebody’s catch and we get cocky and go from optimizing to straight up gambling. We’re all just temporarily single 8s, 9s and 10s who just haven’t met the mr/mrs perfect who crazy enough to not feel like they might be settling with us.

More Like This