The Malcontent on… ‘Romance in Oxford’


Spring has most definitely sprung here in Oxford, and accordingly, I’ve been thinking about relationships. You already know how this column will play out, don’t you? Grumpy Girl emerges from her lair, complains bitterly about the warm, snuggly, fuzziness of love, and then skulks off home to dress up as Miss Havisham in front of the mirror. Yes? Not quite.

Believe it or not, I’m an old fashioned sort of gal, and today I’m lamenting the lack of chivalrous young men and overblown romantic gestures. Today, my friends, I’m going after cowardly boys.

That’s right, buddy. You, sitting there in the Rad Cam sobbing over a volume of Keats. Or you Sir, gazing wistfully at that girl in labs whilst absent-mindedly soldering your glasses to a circuit board. And you, the constipated looking bloke in Hall. I know you’re not really in need of a Dulcolax, you duplicitous little weasel; you’re hoping that if you shuffle awkwardly around your friend for long enough, she’ll finally get the message that you’ve been desperately in love with her since first year.

This pandemic gutlessness has gone far enough. This term, you bunch of sissies, stride up to the object of your affections and admit your feelings the good old-fashioned way. I was raised on a diet of Austen, Bronte, the Other Bronte, and the Other Other Bronte- and so far, I’ve noticed a distinct dearth of dark, brooding young men confessing their undying love on horseback. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lovelorn email, an anguished text message, and an utterly baffling sonnet comparing me to a London bus- but I have yet to be swept off my feet by a Byronic hero. Where’s the effort, the sense of occasion, the secret wife locked in the attic?

Granted, trudging to lectures with soggy boots and a bag full of unfinished tute sheets is hardly conducive to romance. So for the especially unimaginative/lily-livered amongst you, I’ve generously compiled a list of Romance Dos and Don’ts.

Do show your devotion by slipping subliminal messages (ut iis sobrie, modiloveyoulauraeste atque grate) into Grace at Formal Hall. Do burst into the library and shower her with confetti ripped from the pages of the Examination Regulations. Don’t attempt to convey your feelings through the medium of interpretive dance. And do not, under any circumstances, buy her a bunch of white carnations unless you want to trigger a particularly unpleasant Prelims flashback.

Happiness is a rare breed in this fetid little academic hothouse; we ought to man up and grab it wherever we find it. Now go forth, timid woodland critters, and make complete and utter fools of yourselves in the name of love.


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