“I don't have a girlfriend. But I do know a woman who'd be mad at me for saying that.” - Mitch Hedberg
Four years ago, when I first humored my parents by reading the pages for Northwestern in every Fiske Guide to College on the market, I found a clear message about this university’s social life: people would be “anti-social” and there would be “no dating.” Upon extensive evaluation, I’d say that the results are inconclusive. It’s complicated. But what I have seen with my own eyes is the potential for romance at this school. Whether you read that in the "romantic love" definition of the word or the "that which is fantastic, special, extraordinary" way, the opportunity still holds. In a school that spends this much money on landscaping, there are plenty of chances to gather up the (proverbial) roses. Please, see the attached document cataloguing the more special moments you can experience, have experienced and should experience in your time here.
ROM 110: The Lake Walk. With Great Lakes comes great responsibility. Day or night, nothing is as beautiful as the path along the lakefill. The moment you realize that you can walk outside without a jacket should be the moment you invite someone to take that walk with you. For bonus points, escalate into hand-holding territory.
ROM 120: Amateur Botany. The last time you walked down Sherman on your way to EV-1, did you notice all those ‘other’ stores that the ‘townies’ probably go to? The upscale ones that have almost nothing for us? Well, when the occasion is right, the gifts available at the Evanston florists and clothing retailers just might do the trick. Deep down I’d bet you’d secretly love to buy someone some flowers. What an easy way to score points.
ROM 131: Intro to Stargazing: The Spot. “The spot” is not a very secretive one but it is a potent center of scenery on campus. This is a reference to the bench at the tip of the lakefill facing the Chicago skyline. I mean really, what more could you ask for? Extra credit for painting your name(s) on the rocks by there.
ROM 141: Love Thy Neighbor. Get the joke? It’s about dormcest. Not the most positive experience for everyone, but the bottom line here is to take advantage of the dormitory system at school. Never again will you be cohabitating with hundreds of other people your age, so take advantage of the chance to practically move in with someone minus the practically-married sense of commitment.
ROM 150: Ice Skating/First Snow. Northwestern students are terrible at something: building a positive culture around the wintertime. Everyone hates extra hard when the temperature drops, but for a few special winter days there might be the right amount of snow, wind and joy to turn life into a Hey Arnold! Christmas special. And when this happens, get the f*** outside! Dance with someone. Sled on Mt. Trashmore, the massive hill just outside of town. Props to all those involved for setting up the Norris Ice Rink, of course.
ROM 201: The Pan-Asian Fusion Date. They call Evanston the city of worship because it has the most churches per capita in America. By that logic, Evanston is probably the unofficial city of pad thai. Dinner dates to this-or-that noodle house are so easy you’d be remiss not to make one. Plus the BYOB aspect lets you impress your friends or girlfriend/boyfriend with your mini-course knowledge of fine wine and craft beer.
ROM 221: In It for the Long Call. This one is primarily for the LDRs out there. There are a lot of peer universities at Northwestern and it’s likely that your significant other chose to avoid the arctic Midwest. Hearing someone’s voice means a lot, and the scene matters. Seek out one of Northwestern’s many benches, be it in the stone platform by the lagoon or the wood benches beneath the light of the clocktower and talk the night away.
ROM 238: The Field Trip. Remember that “Why Northwestern?” essay you wrote where you talked about being in touch with Chicago at school? Lol. Well, I don’t even have to start listing things to do—the very thought of taking someone into the city with a plan in mind gets you top marks in anyone’s book.
ROM 250: The Shakespeare Garden. I was really embarrassed as a freshman when my older friends told me I had to visit the Shakespeare Garden. Mostly because I thought this was the salad bar at Norris they were talking about. It turns out that the salad bar takes its name from a hidden garden due south of Ford. It’s a labyrinthine little square that is best visited when trees are still alive. What you do inside the labyrinth is your business.
ROM 281: Intro to Music. Every strong couple since Ilsa and Rick has had a "song" that sums up their relationship. But this Hollywood relationship facet is easily replicable in the best of ways. And I’ve tried most of them: from the serenade, to the listening party, to the boombox outside of the dorm window. You can’t go wrong, and it has very little to do with actually singing well.
ROM 300: Advanced Seminar in Exploration: The Secret Lighthouse Beach. Here’s a secret spot that I didn’t want to give away until graduating. If you extend your nice walks further northward, you eventually hit the Evanston lighthouse, at which point you tumble backward into an old fantasy novel. There are gardens and greenhouses and beaches upon which to graze, but better yet, if you go to the beach and sneak up the coastline, you end up on small private beaches. Bring a bottle of wine to that rendezvous and I’ll be proud.
ROM 331: Sunrise. Find one of those nights where problem sets, classes, discussion sections and all the rest cease to matter. Then, do one of the ‘lakefill activities’ at sunrise. That is all.
ROM 340: The Up-All-Night. I find this to be especially special either platonic or otherwise. Some of the most memorable evenings at NU are the ones in which you stay up til the wee hours in conversation. And when the location is novel, say a sorority house kitchen or someone’s apartment, the 5 a.m. walk back through a deserted Evanston has a certain charm. Always savor these nights because in a non-dating "hookup” scene, hold tight to the ones you can talk to for hours on end. It’s like when Silent Bob breaks his silence in Clerks to say, “You know, there's a million fine-looking women in the world, but they don't all bring you lasagna at work. Most of them just cheat on you.”
In a busy school where free time is a valuable commodity, good conversation is to be cherished. Whether you find it by the tip of the lakefill or a sorority house kitchen, my final recommendation for making the most of NU: recognize that lasagna, whatever form it may take.