Column: Summer dating is a chance to take a risk

Despite the imperfections and anxieties of dating, summer flings can give a refreshing perspective on relationships.

Fully aware of the potential for this to turn gross and sentimental, I figured I’d finish my brief stint as your very own sex columnist by discussing summer. It’s on our minds, even if it seems unattainable through schizophrenic weather changes and deadlines that I’m personally choosing to ignore.

It wouldn’t be the end of spring semester if I weren’t already scheming things to achieve during the summer. Granted, it’s always the same banal list: to see some shows, sip drinks out of novelty glassware and work out at least enough to run a mile without medical personnel standing by.

I need summer to center myself and indulge. I pick goals that don’t require serious commitment because I have no time for plans. So I never planned to get into a relationship last summer. I was spending my final days in St. Louis getting last-minute face time with my dogs and hitting up bars I knew I’d miss. And then, on a whim, I went on a date.

It had been months since my last date. We all love making our romantic lives sound especially bleak, but I swear it was actually the case. I had been working and schooling full time, and I was living at home — bringing men into my life was an unfeasible request. But I made the mistake of going on a date and found myself really into a guy I knew I would be leaving in two days.

As summer went on and we traded weekends visiting each other, we rationalized the situation as best we could. It wasn’t a relationship with strict rules and guidelines; it was a summer fling, and both of us knew it would be ending when fall semester started. That was fine, and we rolled with it.

But our attempts to appreciate the fling while it lasted were only successful until we were confronted by the self-denying nature of a relationship that was designed to end at a predetermined point. The vibe we had going on was great, but as summer ended, we realized we had bitten off too much. We didn’t want it to end. Calling it quits felt unnatural.

Our relationship formations in general exist on a gradient. We could be totally single and celibate or ultra-committed and intending to keep it that way, but those are clearly polar ends. Humans thrive in gray areas, and summer flings exist in that space between open-ended dating and emotional and personal commitment.

But that gray area becomes difficult to navigate when we find our personal needs to be diverse and often conflicting. We imagine love as organic, a passionate bond between two (or more) people. It’s pastoral, essential, unrestricted and symbiotic. It’s a pretty image, but one complicated by our tendency to need familiarity, guidelines, titles and boundaries.

We want to throw ourselves into new and exciting waters, but we also want reality. We seek to fulfill emotional and physical needs, but we also want to take it slow. We want attachment, but not too much. We want an ideal situation, and we exist under the belief that certain amounts of planning and control can curate the perfect blend of romance that feels real and attachment that feels realistic.

Some people find that blend, but for those of us who haven’t been able to make it work yet, we’re left with the question of whether to go down that path again. Going into this summer and moving out of Columbia, I know dating can be a refreshing possibility, but I’m conflicted by my past and whether it’s worth the hazard of potentially over-committing again.

I usually try to end my columns with a call to action or a concrete guideline to follow in the face of personal or ethical conflicts, but in this situation I don’t have one.

I’m not going to tell you to be realistic in your summer dating endeavors. I would be a hypocrite to say you should exercise total caution when thinking about a summer fling because I did nothing of the sort. Over-rationalizing my situation while it occurred made me feel like I was in control of something I wasn’t, so it’d be equally wrong to believe I could establish rules for something that doesn’t exist yet. I can’t find ways to rein in emotions I predict I’ll have.

So as has been my theme all semester, we must first be responsible to ourselves. We need to do what feels right without succumbing to concern for why those feelings might be wrong.

Our summers can and should be what we want them to be. I realize I’m a bit melancholy on the subject of dating in general, but I strongly believe in the magic of summer and its ability to turn around a number of negatives in our lives.

So if anything, my call to action is do something different. Stay out until 6 a.m., have a drink by the pool, hook up with someone hot, experiment with dating and live in the moment. All we can control is whether we choose to try new things, and I hope you all take full advantage.

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