UChicago is widely known for its neo-gothic architecture, sprawling quadrangles, and natural oases like the duck-inhabited Botany Pond. While these gorgeous spots might seem perfect for a picturesque date, UChicago students often find themselves in spots… not so picturesque. Make the most of Valentine’s Day by NOT taking your date to these places on campus; you can thank me later.
“Quick lunch at the dining hall”
I actually quite enjoy dining hall food. Bartlett’s zesty guacamole-topped Chipotle bowls, Baker’s buttery, cheese-infused pasta bar, and Cathey’s endless assortment of rich, sugary desserts make for some pretty solid meals— and they’re “free” too. But that’s the issue; it doesn’t seem like an actual date. From the moment you each tap your ID card against the plexiglass-protected sensor, you are just two UChicago students grabbing a quick bite before you rush off to your Principles of Microeconomics class, not two lovers on a date who also happen to be UChicago students (which is the goal).
It’s not that it is free either; it’s the whole atmosphere. UChicago’s inescapable blackletter font embellished on maroon sweatshirts and sweatpants everywhere you turn. Bursts of laughter and the latest sorority gossip heard a mile away. Roommates and friends “discreetly” stalk your date and send photos to you of yourself from three tables over. Don’t even get me started on the narrow wooden tables and musty gym vibes of Bartlett or the long community tables at Woodlawn that scream elementary school cafeteria. Dining hall meals are great and should happen often for people who are dating or seeing each other, but that doesn’t mean it counts as an actual date—especially not a first date. Please, just take them somewhere nice.
“Reg study sesh”
Let’s start with the outer appearance. Some might say it gives Max Palevsky a run for its money for the title of “ugliest building on campus.” Honestly, I don’t think it’s that ugly, it’s just… eerie looking. The cold, colorless stone coated with what looks like black mold and the lack of windows gives off prison-vibes—not exactly what I would picture for a cute Valentine’s Day date. You might be thinking: “It’s a great way to get to know each other better while also getting some work done.” But there is also simply no place you could go inside that would make it a fun, get-to-know-each-other type of date. We are all UChicago students. We are literally known for studying hard, and a date in the reg would just feel unproductive.
Let’s say you make the trek up to the tables on the fourth floor under the impression that you will both get more work done. Silence. That is how your date will go. Well, unless you would rather whisper loudly to each other about your favorite color and then end up getting blasted on the UChicago Secrets Facebook page. Alternatively, you could stay downstairs and enjoy the romantic rush of excitement from students cramming for their fourth midterm. Or, you could even get a little fancy and book a room so that you can sit in even more awkward silence while students peer through the window every five minutes to check if the room is open. Point is, study sessions together are great, but maybe get to know each other first so that it isn’t awkward and you can actually be productive together.
“Fun partner workout at Ratner”
Let’s be honest, Ratner is a breeding ground for insecurities. Floor to ceiling mirrors capture your every move, “gym bros” slam their massive weights down as if to mock your dumbbells, and machines dare you to figure out their unnecessarily complicated instructions. Society has conditioned us to think that it is embarrassing if we can’t lift a lot or don’t know how to perform an exercise properly. Going on a “workout date” may only heighten those insecurities, especially because you might feel as if your partner is judging you despite trying to impress them. You and your partner having different workout plans and experience levels will only contribute to the stress, as one of you may strain your body in order to keep up, while the other feels like they must decrease their intensity level. Much like the idea of a Reg study date, it’s ineffective and awkward.
Plus, exercising is “you time”; it’s when you work on your physical health, but it also serves as a mental escape from the clutter of life’s endeavors. Working out with a partner, especially on what is labeled as a “date,” will likely steer your focus away from yourself and take away the refreshing aspect of working out. It may also feel pretty awkward and uncomfortable, as working out can be a pretty intimate experience, and you and your date are probably not at that stage yet (and Ratner’s not exactly the ideal place for a game of 20 questions). Verdict? Save the date for a restaurant, not the weight room.
“Invite-only frat party”
“It’s invite-only…but I can get you in.” Ah yes, just what every girl wants to hear. Sure, there’s music and free drinks, but that’s about where the appeal ends. Imagine trying to initiate small talk at a frat party. I imagine it going something like this: “So what’s your major?” “What?” “What’s your major?” “What?” “What’s your—” “You wanna get drinks?” The number of times this exact conversation has happened is probably much higher than you think. Trying to scream in your partner’s ear in the midst of the earthquake of heavy bass music and dirt-streaked air forces stomping on the (alcohol-soaked) floor is practically impossible. There is simply no space for actual talking; in fact, there’s just no space at all. Sure, you can try to dance with your partner, but with the sheer number of bodies less than an inch away from you, you are practically just stuck in a constant mosh pit the whole night. Plus, the police scare and resulting chaos and shoving in the coat room (which becomes a free lost and found) doesn’t strike me as particularly fun either. On the bright side, at least you get to keep the sentimental souvenir of spilled beer and sweat that isn’t yours. Pretty much the worst nightmare of a date ever.
“Chill in my dorm”
Last and certainly least… just don’t.