Contrary to popular belief, cuffing season isn’t saved for the snowy, cold and dark days of winter. Trust me, the warmer months are totally fair game too. Picture campus as the desolate setting of an old Western and your free time becoming as boundless as the desert horizon. The social-barrenness of summer leads to desperate dating decisions that far exceed the embarrassment of any drunken hook up, and often leave you wondering “What the hell was I thinking?” by the time the leaves start to fall.
I admit, I couldn’t avoid the cycle of chronic seasonal-loneliness, myself. June always began as an exhale— that well-deserved period of respite reserved for overcoming the hardships of finals. Lazy days blurred into spontaneous, adventure-filled nights and it became unnecessary to keep track of time.
When July hit, my low-level of responsibility shifted from more-than-welcome to unbearable. The sheer amount of freedom I possessed became as grueling as those last days of the semester. Biologically, I needed human contact. Emotionally, I was looking for excitement and a nice pair of biceps to lean on. Put the two together and you have the seeds to plant a classic summer romance.
In my eyes, there was no greater thrill than a prospect. My brain was programmed like a die-hard cigarette addict; the first sign of greening leaves put it into romance-craving overdrive. I welcomed a large influx of sappy nonsense, inspired by the affairs of Carrie Bradshaw and Jane Austen characters.
I dreamt of sunny beach photos with a tall, tan companion. I wanted the witty challenge of Sleepless in Seattle and the all-consuming infatuation of The Notebook. Eventually, I sought it out at the sole place that required both my presence and personality: my crappy, part-time job.
Greg* and I quickly hit it off, even though it was clear from the first impression that we were on opposite ends of the personality spectrum. He was an avid partier, an accounting major and possessed the fiercest form of self-discipline. He was a typical bro, and I was a flighty writer with little room for self-censorship and a teetering-on-hipster reputation. We had no business cross-contaminating our respective circles, but out of some curiosity and a little necessity, we did anyway.
Our relationship would have failed if we tried during the school year. Most of the time we spent together was with shared colleagues or under false pretenses. Offering to help him pass his summer English course turned into wine and 2 a.m. Mario Kart. Visits to my apartment under the illusion of after-work boredom ended with countless hours of talking about our families and reading him my poetry.
We didn’t think about our cliques, tucked away safe and sound in our hometowns. We had the chance to isolate ourselves from our images. That was the beauty of summer; it fostered fantastical, misfit relationships like ours.
But every fairytale has a catch, and it was easy to see that our magic would run dry once the clock struck 12. The first inkling of trouble arose when a friend of mine came to visit one night. Greg happened to be at my apartment and a noticeable disconnection formed as old inside jokes and behaviors began to resurface.
Pretty soon, all of the books he had never read or the bands he had never heard of became difficult to bear. His reckless barhopping and fixation on status seemed pathetic. I couldn’t see past all of the traits and habits I’d previously swept under the rug —and even worse— I knew he was starting to see me in the same strange light.
When I confronted him about his feelings, he told me he liked me, but that I wasn’t the type of girl he’d bring home to meet his parents. He wanted someone who could pound the martinis while driving straight towards a CEO position. I was a natural homebody who valued creativity, humor and honesty above anything else. Our lack of compatibility was nearly comical.
We were aliens to one another, moving in opposite directions toward different planets. Once it hit the end of August, he quit the job and the texts to see each other became less regular. The air changed with the leaves and as campus became alive again, our romance died.
Sure, I got my tall and tan pictures, as well as scenes reminiscent of classic Nora Ephron and Nicolas Sparks novels. But I learned that life isn’t a Polaroid print or a Katherine Heigl rom-com. It’s real, constantly in motion and far exceeds a flimsy, fake moment in time.