Summer Lovin’. It all started, as do most things that are great in this world, with Grease. John Travolta and Olivia Newton John’s musical beachside romp marked the birth of a romantic phenomenon: the summer fling. Since Danny and Sandy, millions more have found summer love, from the chastest sleepaway-camp couples to the steamiest poolside affairs. Our TV’s, bookshelves, and movie screens are inundated with love in the sun — the Gossip Girl novels abound with tales of hot Hamptons hookups, while the Olsen twins made millions on a series of straight-to-DVD movies, all of which involve picking up a hot pair of twins at the beach. In short, summer flings are springing up all around us.
Why are relationships so likely to form in the summer months? What happens when the temperature starts to drop? And where can the single college girl — facing a long summer of camp-counselordom, a grueling unpaid internship, or, for the lucky ones, a beachy getaway — find a summer fling of her own? Her Campus has you covered better than a bottle of SPF 55.
What is it about summer that makes us want to fling?
It seems that when we slip out of our sweatshirts and into our swimsuits each summer, we end up picking up a lot more than just a tan. Romance flourishes in the summer, even away from the hookup-saturated parties we frequent during the school year. Many of us have “mini-relationships” that start sometime after our last final and end by the time we’re moved back in the fall. So why the proliferation of pairings, when nine months out of the year we’re used to relationships that last no longer than a bottle of shampoo?
- We’re thrown into environments where we have more opportunities to meet guys we don’t know.
Whether you’re working, traveling, volunteering, or taking classes this summer, you’ll be spending long periods of time with a lot less people than you do at school. Even if, during the school year, you never would have looked twice at that slightly nerdy guy in your chem lab, or that freckly counselor in the bunk next to yours, long hours spent together can totally change your perception of someone — and maybe even spark an unexpected relationship. Kathleen Bogle, author of Hooking Up, suggests joining a group or taking up a hobby that allows you the opportunity to meet guys…sober. Avoiding the house party/bars/drunken-hookup scene and joining a gym, running club, or intramural team gives you the chance to expand your horizons and get to know someone better than you would in a crazy college environment. “Some activities have a social aspect to them too—people will go out to dinner or happy hour afterwards, giving you a chance to get to know guys’ personalities a little better,” she says.
- Outside of a college campus or a similar environment, we’re less likely to go by the “hookup system” and more likely to try pursuing a more adult style of dating.
College is a unique environment, and once we step off campus, it’s a lot harder to perpetuate the no-holds-barred, musical-chairs hookup system we practice all year. If we’re holding adult jobs, we’re more likely to see ourselves fitting into an adult social structure, complete with more mature relationships. Without a frat party where we can drunkenly grind to Miley Cyrus, or a sweaty college bar where we can ask any random hottie to buy us a drink, it’s a lot harder to perpetuate the “hookup system” we go by in school. Instead, we’re forced to actually go on dates with guys we meet and have real conversations, leading to a more adult fling— even if it can’t last past Labor Day. Bogle says, “Students are in a more adult environment, going on more dates. They’ll also have a bigger fear of strangers—if you’re at a house party people will pair off and hook up, but if you’re interacting with total strangers they’re more likely to give them their number and see if they can go out with them to get to know them first.”
Bogle also notes that outside of the college environment, relationships move slower physically: “Sexual norms totally change — some students think that what’s OK to do on a random hookup is not OK to do on a date, because the person you’re dating may not be a friend-of-a-friend like most people you meet at college.” Bogle suggests that there are two different “scripts” by which students structure their romantic relationships—the “hookup script” and the “dating script”—and depending on their environment, students switch back and forth between scripts. At college, at the beach or in a resort town, or even at a party with our high school friends, we feel safe and we’re reminded of the college environment, which makes us more likely to hook up. But if we’re on a first date in a city, we feel more inclined to follow adult rules, and we’re more cautious to jump into things.
So where can I meet my fling?
Believe it or not, it’s just as easy, if not easier, to meet someone during the summer as it is during the school year, when you’re surrounded by thousands of “eligible” guys. Whether you’re working, traveling, or just chilling out this summer, all you need to do is open your eyes and mind, and a fling may come into your life!
- If you’re working this summer…
Your summer job may seem like a corporate wasteland, a fast-food inferno or a colony of screaming campers, but look a little closer and you may find a fling in a co-worker. Alyssa*, a sophomore at Cornell, met a summer hookup while working as a lifeguard at her local pool. “We just started hanging out more and more after work as the summer went on, and eventually it turned into something,” she explains. “We spent so much time together at work that it moved a lot faster; it was more like a mini-relationship than a casual hookup.” If you spot a hottie at work and want to take your “professional relationship” to the next level, give it a shot! But be careful — many offices have policies against inter-office romances. Be sure to do your homework before you start scoping out a cute colleague, because if you get caught sneaking around you could be in some hot water — and no, I’m not talking about a Jacuzzi. And sometimes, Bogle says, people can be really wary of starting a relationship because they’re afraid that if it goes sour, you’ll still have to see the person every day. Keep this in mind depending on your work environment—if you’re a waitress at a restaurant with a constantly shifting staff, a hookup might be more acceptable than in an office where you and your crush are the only two interns.
If you can’t find anyone you like in your workplace or it’s against the rules, think outside the box — you could still meet someone in unexpected places! Ask your friend with the cute co-worker to introduce you to one of his friends, or strike up a conversation with the cute intern from two floors down as you ride the elevator. Grace*, another sophomore at Cornell, even met a summer fling while riding the train! “Andrew* and I live in the same town, and we were both working in New York City last summer, so we took the train in together every day, and after a few weeks he asked me out!” Always keep your eyes open — without the structure of school, you’d be surprised how willing college guys are to strike up a new relationship with girls in their immediate vicinity. And don’t be afraid to join a club or sports team, or try taking a class at your community center—you never know who you’ll meet there!
- If you’re traveling this summer…
A summer fling on a beautiful beach, or in an exotic locale, is every girl’s dream: just think of Holiday in the Sun, or Winning London, or Our Lips are Sealed — or any other summer romance movie or book that may or may not involve the Olsen twins — and our society’s fascination with exotic romances will become crystal-clear. But while a romance abroad may be the ultimate fantasy, it can seem daunting to pull off in a foreign country where you don’t know anyone. If you’re traveling on a program or studying abroad with other students, meeting guys should follow the same procedure as it does during the school year. But if you’re traveling with family, finding a fling can be more of a challenge.
If you’re staying in a resort town or in a beach house, Bogle says, the environment will feel a lot like college and it will be very easy to meet people. “A beach house creates an entirely new social network—if you go with a few friends you’ll meet their friends, and they’ll introduce you to a whole new circle of people,” she says. If you’re having trouble meeting new people, the key to a vacation romance is to work within the system — stick to people staying in your hotel, or friends of the family, instead of taking to the streets in the hopes of finding a hot local à la Mary-Kate and Ashley. According to Bogle, today it’s almost impossible to pick up someone in a public place—“The dating culture from the 1950’s is pretty much totally gone—you can no longer to a public place and ask someone out,” she says. “Instead, most people meet others in the context of bars or parties.”
While vacationing in Greece two summers ago with her family, Sophia*, a sophomore at NYU, forged a romantic connection through a simple misunderstanding. “I went down the lobby of my hotel and saw this cute Greek guy standing by the front desk. Thinking he was one of the hotel’s employees, I asked him for a spare key — turns out he really lived in the room next door to me! He got my room number and called me from his room to ask me out that same night.”
- If you’re just chilling at home this summer…
Coming home to the same guys you’ve known for years after ten months of new faces may seem like a drag, but you may be surprised to see things in your home friends that you’ve never seen before. If you’re home for the summer and it’s hard to meet someone new, there’s nothing wrong with dipping into your high-school recycling bin. Melissa*, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, was in a long-term relationship in high school which ended when she got to college, but when she got home they were able to pick up right where they left off. “We kept it much more casual over the summer,” she explains. “We knew our relationship had an expiration date, so we didn’t make any long-term commitments. That made it a lot more relaxing and a lot more fun!”
You may also be surprised to see a guy friend in a whole new light after a year of school. The summer after her freshman year, Jill*, another Cornell sophomore, started hanging out with her high school friend Matt*, who had always had a girlfriend before college but who had recently broken things off with her. With a year of school behind them, and both unattached for the first time, the two found they had a connection they’d never seen before, and they eventually hooked up, sparking a relationship that lasted into the next year. “Our relationship was really great because we had been friends first and knew each other so well,” says Jill. “It wasn’t like at school when you have awkward hookups with people you’d just met or only knew from class.”
Of course, being at home doesn’t mean you’re restricted to your high school dating pool. There are plenty of potential flings out there for every girl — all you have to do to find one is get a little creative! A great way to meet guys is through mutual friends; see if you can get a group date together, or go with your friend to a party full of new people you’d like to meet. Summer is a perfect time to expand your horizons; all bets are off, and the pressure of the school year is off your shoulders. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there: take a cooking class, start swimming laps at your town pool, or sign up to volunteer at your local hospital — you never know where your summer soul mate may be lurking. Happy hunting, and remember — there’s no such thing as too hot as long as you wear sunscreen!
*names have been changed
Anonymous college students
Kathleen Bogle, author of Hooking Up