Dear Shrink-In-Violet,

I have a fat crush on my friend. We’ve known each other since Freshers through rowing and he is still always super flirty with me. Each time I fall for him more but then I see him flirting with so many other girls too. What should I do?

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My dearest reader,

Courting your teammate is not child’s play. A fellow athlete, classmate, compadre: Randy Newman’s You’ve Got A Friend In Me threatens to take on a whole new meaning. But alas, he’s toying with you and every other girl within a 5-mile radius: to Iffley, and beyond.

Like Mr Potato Head, it’s as though he has a stash of features stored somewhere (preferably not in an analogous position to the toy…) ready to be donned to make him attractive to any potential suitor. The average rowing boy’s talent for courtship is somewhat baffling given their conversational skills. They might as well have ‘OUBC’ written on the bottom of their shoes given how much ownership it appears to have over their topics of conversation. Apparently, the M1 is not just a motorway, and being awarded blades does not constitute violence! Ah, much to learn from these wise men. 

My own experience of rowing itself has fortunately been limited. A single outing during freshers’ week was simply too much; the boat was so unsteady it would have rivalled an amble to Bridge after eight tequila shots. Seasickness aside, I was most nauseated by the sight of fully grown men in matching skin-tight elongated babygrows. They leave all too little to the imagination. You can imagine my horror when one of these unitard-clad gentlemen told me that he ‘had a blue’. It was not until later that I was informed that this was not, in fact, a euphemism. An undignified error on my part, to say the least. But nonetheless, it would seem a rowing boy is what floats your boat, my dear.

Despite their abhorrent attire, I must admit there is something quite enticing about a man wielding an oar. Or perhaps it’s that unnecessarily sensual jargon they use. Bow? Stroke? Feathering? Please, sir, we just met! 

Arming a man with an oar seems to only reinforce his amour propre. It’s no surprise he thinks he can wrap you around his calloused little finger. Alas, there are oar-brandishing lotharios aplenty in this riverside city. Identifiable by their white-flag blazers, they can easily make one surrender to their charms. He’ll sweep you away in his current and then you’ll wake up slightly dishevelled somewhere south of Hinksey in the morning. Chivalry at its finest.

It would seem your particular gentleman uses flirting as a sport on his days off from vigorous ‘erging’ (whatever that is). If this is as far as his game tends to go, then you may be safe. However, if this man has a reputation, my dear, then I’m afraid I must advise you to abandon ship on any romantic endeavour. He is likely a toxic womaniser, or otherwise accurately described by another Britney song title. Stop your advances now before you end up convinced that Oops!… I Did It Again was written about his repeated adultery. You’ll either end up as just another name on his list, or worse, some kind of FWB that keeps your feelings afloat whilst he continues his advances towards other girls.

If, perchance, this man is a lovely person who simply has a penchant for flirting, then the coast is clear for you to make a move. Flirt back. Cosy up on the next mixed crewdate. If his behaviour doesn’t change, do not fret. Rowing is for life, not just for Michaelmas. So, it is likely that something might happen in the next three years of your degree. If you are able to stifle your feelings sufficiently, put your friendship first and just see where the flow takes you.

Try and stay afloat in the meantime.

As ever with sympathy, 

Your Shrink-In-Violet

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Elyse Airey

Elyse (she/her) is a Biology student. When not dissecting plant tissue, she can be found anatomising Taylor Swift's discography, experimenting with acrylic paint, or sampling the vegetarian food scene in Oxford. She also enjoys reading, and reorganising her 117 (and counting) Spotify playlists.