Grounds for dating

Finding a soulmate in a world of Jeffersonian columns

“Name, year, major, hometown … oh, and what’s the most datable building on Grounds?”

It’s my icebreaker of choice. I save it for those moments when I’m in front of a randomly assigned group of silent, unenthused and cell-phone browsing students who wish their overly enthusiastic conversation facilitator would just go away. I punish them for this wish by requiring them to form opinions about the most relationship-worthy building on Grounds. I ask: If you had to be paired in unparalleled romance with a work of Jeffersonian architecture, which would it be and why?

Some call me malicious. I say insightful. Regardless, I’ve heard some pretty questionable answers and some equally lame justifications. I’m a little tired hearing folks defend having the hots for the Rotunda “because it’s pretty,” Nau-Gibson “because it has a Starbucks” or Clemons “because I spend all of my time there anyway.”

I’m not asking where you live, which building is the most beautiful, which one you’ve got a crush on or even which one is your favorite. Yes, dating is subjective and everyone’s got his or her “type” — but really? Clemons?

So I hereby take it upon myself to debunk the myths about an on-Grounds romance. Who’s the best brick-and-mortar catch, and why?

The Rotunda: A popular choice. He’s got the looks, the fame and reigns supreme over the “Top 10 most [adjective] schools!” lists we all post to Facebook like the fangirls and fanboys we are. So, naturally, he’s going to be a little self-absorbed. Like that only child you dreaded babysitting, his parents reminded him from day one he was the greatest thing to happen to planet Earth. Thanks, T.J. He takes those composite capitals a little too seriously.

Plus, he’s going away for two years. That’s a hellU.Va. long business trip. He says he’ll wait for you, but by the time he’s ready, you’ll likely be out of school and unable to handle microwaving your own dinner — let alone maintaining a functional relationship.

The Comm School: Important reminder: no matter how smooth, shiny or polished a guy is, you’ve got to be able to enjoy his company. Third-years leave Rouss Hall overworked and in dismay, begging to leave and never come back. Typically, this is seen as an undesirable end to a first date. You court at your own risk — or, in the slightly updated words of Taylor Swift, “I knew he was trouble when he ICE’d all of my friends.”

Clemons: But, why? Not only does the poor guy induce stress in anyone within a 50-foot radius, emanating dread and paralysis — a volatile relationship in the making — but he’s got some questionable hygiene habits, too. He’s also awake all hours of the day and night, simultaneously running Club Clem and encouraging desperately frantic study hours. He’s trying to make too many things happen at once. Do you really think he’ll have the time to give you the attention you deserve?

Alderman: He’s accomplished, experienced, a jack-of-all-trades — and he’s got a pretty face, although stacks do make for a rather large behind. He’s a charismatic social butterfly and good at facilitating small talk in the fourth-floor lobby. He’s got so much to offer, from coffee to McGregor to more coffee, because that paper is taking way longer than you expected.

Here’s the catch, though. He’s very generous, but he’s generous to everyone. He’ll let anyone with a pocket map use stacks! He’s everyone’s friend and nobody’s intimate. He belongs exclusively to no one. The reality is: friendzone alert.

N2: Too flighty, noncommittal, cold and bony for serious consideration. He broke the fragile barrier of “good weird” and “too quirky.” Next.

Special Collections: Elegant, good-looking, intelligent, a little mysterious and woefully underrated. He’s regal and reserved; only when you really get to know him are you aware of his depth. Does he have a secret labyrinth of underground bunkers connecting him to every building on Grounds? It’s possible. It takes some time to get acquainted with his millions of secrets — they’re so well hidden — but it’s pretty rewarding when you do. Plus, he’s got a sense of humor. I see the June 2010 “Playboy” poorly hidden behind the upstairs grandfather clock.

My thesis complete, I leave you with a few important takeaways. One: there are right and wrong answers to this icebreaker, and you best be prepared. Two: back off, because Special Collections is mine. And three: if there were any inquiries as to why I lack a love life, I believe I’ve cleared them up pretty well for all of us.

Caroline’s column runs biweekly Thursdays. She can be reached at

Published January 29, 2014 in Life

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