I used to believe that love worked in a singular, particular way; that I would meet one person and they would be the first person to ever hold my hand, to be my first kiss, my first date, my first time, and that I would marry that one person. My impractical standards dictated that this person would be perfect and that we would live happily ever after. I went to a single-gender school for most of my life, and had very little interest in romance of any kind. All my knowledge of relationships and romance came from TV shows, books, and movies for the first 18 years of my life.

When I came to Princeton, the little glass world that I had created in my head of what love and happiness were supposed to be was shattered. Here was this world of smart, interesting, and beautiful people, and none of them I encountered were living love lives that even remotely resembled the fairy tales I had envisioned. If none of these people could make a perfect love story come true, then what chance did I have? Even when presented with the opportunity to date someone at the beginning of my freshman year, I shied away from it because the person didn’t seem to meet my impossible standards. I spent the first semester and a half appalled by hookups and the overall reality of love in college.

Around the middle of the second semester, I started drinking and partying to impress the boy I liked, or to at least get him to notice me. However, I soon realized that a drunken make-out session didn’t equate to a real relationship, and so my disillusionment with love deepened. I spent the rest of the semester making out with random guys on the Street every time I went out. By the end of the year, I had still never been on a date, had never kissed someone while sober, and had forgotten whatever silly fantasies I used to have about my future love life. Yet I still held on to one thing. One thing that hinted that somewhere, deep down, I still believed that I would meet that perfect person, fall in love, and live with him happily ever after. My rule for myself was that I would wait until I fell in love to lose my virginity.

This past weekend I decided to break my rule. I had only spoken to the guy twice before, and I entered the situation deciding it was better if it meant nothing to me. I always thought that it would be a big deal, some momentous event that would dictate who I would be for the rest of my life. And it wasn’t. The only thing I feel that I lost is my last shred of hope for a fairytale love story. It was naive of me to ever think that the world was so simple and that love in reality mirrored love in fantasy. Yet I learned that the mirror was warped. Maybe that marks the end of my childhood, and maybe everyone finds out eventually that the world isn’t like what they once thought it was.

I still don’t know how I feel about the whole situation. As I work through my thoughts on this topic, I’ve come to see that love is full of ups and downs, and no relationship is perfect. I think college probably functions as an introduction to what love is like in the real world. It is a cold introduction akin to jumping into the deep end of a freezing lake, but it is also real. And isn’t it better to live in a real world rather than an illusionary or self-deceiving one?

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