Dating in the real world is a bit — okay, WAY — different from dating in college. The rules change literally the moment you hand in the keys to your dorm room. To help you absorb the culture shock, here are the key tips you’ll need to prepare you for this new reality.
You’re Going to Have to Put In a Bit More Effort.
Meeting people in college is as simple as going to class. That is literally all you have to do to meet people. If going to class isn’t really your style, there are myriad other ways to meet potential love interests — walking across the quad, for example. Going to that party with your roommate. Studying in the library instead of your room. Not to depress you (or sound like the Princeton Mom), but never again will you be presented with so many single, available options of guys and girls around your age and with your same interests.
So, yeah. Things are gonna be a little harder from now on. Not impossible! But you’re going to have to actively put effort into putting yourself in situations where you’re likely to meet people. If you’re moving to a new city, this will be easy — everyone you meet will be new, and you’re more likely to say yes to social invitations when you’re trying to establish a social life in a new place.
If you’re staying put, try to take advantage of the expanded social network that comes from a core group of people (you and your college buddies) branching out, starting new jobs, meeting new people, etc. Is your coworker having a party? Attend! Is your roommate’s coworker having a party? Go to that, too. Not only will this make for a fun post-college social life, you’ll be constantly expanding your network and meeting new (potentially single, potentially interesting) people.
Of course, having a job is exhausting — which means you’ll actually be less interested in going out to parties every night than you were in college. But whether it’s a get-together, an activity group, a book club, or signing up for online dating, if you want to meet someone, you’re going to have to actually put in the effort and try. Cause it’s never again going to be as easy as walking across the Quad.
People Are Gonna Have Shitty Apartments.
You’ll probably spend at least one night in the next five years on an air mattress, next to a plastic box from the Container store that’s doubling as a night stand, lying awake to the sound of an old man’s phlegmy cough, in some distant, distant part of the city. (But it will probably be worth it, even if you do have to use the map feature on your phone the next morning to find out where the heck you are.)
You’re Going to Go on Actual Dates.
Here’s how dating works in college: You meet someone, you like them, you hang out a bunch because you conveniently live no further than across campus and share a cafeteria and only have class once or twice a day, you hook up, and then, boom, you’re dating.
Annoying, adult schedules really don’t allow for that kind of romantic simplicity. People have jobs, schedules, and apartments across the city, which makes a casual hang-out situation hard to come by.
In other words: you’re gonna have to go on dates.
The idea of going on a date — even ASKING someone out on a date — probably seems pretty foreign, and maybe a little old-fashioned. (I certainly had never gone on a date date until after college graduation.) But asking someone out on a date is actually great because, in the Real World, your chances of running into them again aren’t always as high as when you used to share a cafeteria with everyone on campus.
A date can be a movie, a drink, a cup of coffee, a trip to see that cool exhibit at the art museum you’d been talking about, a quick trip to the Food Trucks during your lunch hour, a long walk. And if you like each other, you plan for a second one. And a third, and a fourth…
You’re Going to Be Broke.
You thought you were broke in college, and maybe you were — except you probably also had a nice enough dorm room, an all-you-can-eat cafeteria, and a social life consisting mostly of free parties and campus events.
Now, you have an adult job, but also rent to pay, groceries to buy, and bar tabs to settle. And most, if not all, of your friends are in the same boat.
When it comes to dating, the early-twenties are a tricky time. Guys may be used to the idea of paying for their dates’ meals and drinks and tickets, but it’s possible that the guys you date after college literally cannot afford to be chivalrous. Which is fine, because it’s 2013, and you’re more than able to step up to the plate.
If you’re seeing someone, alternate on splitting the bill — one day he gets it, and one day you get it. Stick to cheaper restaurants (falafel can be romantic!), pre-game when you’re going out (sharing a flask can be romantic!) and be on the lookout for free events, like book readings, free museum days, gallery opens, etc. (Frugality can be romantic!)
Having A Job Changes Your Dating Life.
You met a guy and he asked you out and took you to a restaurant and the conversation was great and after the meal you took a walk and he took your face in his hands and you kissed and it was SO magical and you keep kissing and you keep kissing and then you both looked at your phones and it was 11 pm and he has to be at work at 7 and you live an hour away and still have a report to finish so you both sort of figure it’s time to say goodnight. You’ll see him on the weekend.
The Gap (Yes, The Clothing Store) Comes In Handy.
Every once in a while, you’ll choose not to do the responsible thing, and will stay out all night, despite having work the next morning. Which is great, cause you’re only young once, you know? But then you’re faced with the dilemma of showing up to your job, where you’re trying desperately to be seen in a professional capacity, in yesterday’s wrinkled, slightly smokey-smelling outfit. And this is where The Gap comes in, because The Gap opens at 9 am, and there’s probably one not too far from where you work. Which means you can dash in and buy a new shirt that you’ll probably never wear again, but at least your coworkers won’t know you pulled an all-nighter!
Date Around. No, Seriously.
For some people, the first post-college years are more difficult, more tumultuous, than even adolescence. (Uhm, have you seen Girls.) It’s stressful figuring out how to be an adult — a real adult — while at the same time figuring out what you want from life: from your career, from your friends, and from relationships. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find the love of your life right now, and treat dating as both a fun activity and a learning opportunity. The more people you date, the more you’re going to learn about yourself and what type of person you want to eventually be with. You’re learning both who you are, and who you want to date. (And, let’s face it: the research is pretty fun.)