It made sense that as a girl whose first sexual curiosity was satiated by running her finger along the ‘sexual intercourse’ definition in her Concise Oxford English Dictionary, university would teach me as much about dating as Dickens, Dante and de Sade. University is a unique place where ‘home’ doesn’t mean where you live, but where your family do, or where you were raised – anywhere but campus.
Taking someone home is no longer a simple matter of waiting in their car until the early hours of the morning, sneaking in through the back door and dodging the house alarm. Now, it can mean hours of road-tripping, tidal waves of nostalgia and (maybe) meeting the family. However, home turf is the winning hand and the playground of London offers ample opportunity to play your cards right.
It’s okay to play the London card early on
Free house? It’s time to trade your rusty bedroom sink and housemate arguments for some home comforts. In this limbo between adolescence and adulthood, sharing a bubble-bath in a house you’ll never afford just makes sense.
The adrenaline rush of having burst out of the university bubble, paired with the honeymoon phase of first dating someone makes for a memorable cocktail. It’s like the first time you went to Reading Festival with vodka, gin, and any other clear alcohol in your water bottle: dangerous, but unforgettable.
A test in which you don’t need a first
Seventy is just a house number again, and this freedom allows you to release your inner libertine. The real test here is how many romantic movies you can re-create: Julia Roberts in Kenwood àla Notting Hill, or Kiera Knightly in Notting Hill àla Love Actually? If someone can make the familiar new to you, it’s a win-win.
Remember also that you have all the answers. They may not be written on the inner lining of your skirt like at school, but inked in your memory. On a weekend away, you can cherry-pick the best your particular patch of London has to offer. Take them to the restaurant you had the best valentine’s day at, the indie cinema it took you years to find, and the bedroom you feel most at home in.
‘We’ll always have London’
The great thing about the London card is that it comes in a limitless supply. It can be the setting of a whirlwind romance, or lay the foundations for something serious. Whether your home stay is a one-off excursion or a repeated affair, they will form lasting memories. These often come back to me in the form of music (just a tip: the drive from Leeds to London lasts exactly the length of the Hamilton soundtrack).
A Casablanca-esque attitude towards your hometown can only be achieved while away at university. Take someone home, and there’s no expectation to stay longer than a few days – just hop on a train back in time for your class on international relations. Domestic relationships, however, require more planning.
The master plan in the master bedroom
So, the parents are away. You don’t fancy getting naughty in front of your childhood teddy. First step: after a plausibly home-cooked dinner from Deliveroo, suggest that the master bedroom with the en-suite would be more comfortable. Step two: dressed in your silky teddy lead the way upstairs sprinkling rose petals as you go (no thorns, or you’ll just look silly). Step three: just as things start heating up, claim that it just feels too weird to get naughty in your parents’ bed so that the rest of the night is spent cuddling and hey, presto, you’ve got yourself a boyfriend!
Although this has been tried and tested numerous times by the author of this article, she takes no responsibility for any side-effects resulting from your failure to fully implement all three steps. Honestly, the secret is in the rose petals.
Home is where the heart is
Of course, home is more than a building; it’s the people with whom you grew up. Friends who decided to stay in London for university or work will be as eager as family members to meet your new beau. If you’re playing the long game, it would be a mistake to miss these tests.
A word of warning: When home for the holidays, don’t take someone new to one of your old friends’ house parties filled with the same crowd you’ve known since before you had braces and/or a nose job. If you do feel the need to re-create the epic strip-poker party of 2012, please do so in your own home, so that your partner doesn’t even have the choice of escaping.
The final stage of London as a dating scene away from university involves something that only home can provide. Whether your family poses the obstacles of a protective brother, an orthodox father, an eccentric aunt or a spy as a sister, this hurdle race is the last test in the dating decathlon.
There are two ways of doing this. The first is to jump each separately, and introduce a new family member with each visit home. This gradual technique allows you to test the waters in the early days. The second method is to reply to your dad’s email invitation to your own home for Passover, requesting a plus-one. If you get them to join in the chorus of Dayenu, then Bob’s your uncle.
The aim of the game
Living in halls and renting student houses at university, it’s important to realise that home is not always transitory. Beyond your base of London, the Oxford English Dictionary defines home as ‘feelings of belonging, comfort, etc.’ The definition of etc. is up to you: set your dating aims, and let London be your wing-man.
I’m off to pack my weekend-bag now (phone charger, self-respect, rose petals). I wish you luck on your own journeys. Wherever they may start, homeward-bound is always a great direction to be going in.
By Lisa Benson