The endless bummer Season rarely lives up to sky-high expectations -- so relax, be realistic and enjoy summer at your own pace
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/08/2019 (1397 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Summertime, and the living is… stressful.
Remember when summer was a carefree, empty expanse of time you could fill however you wanted? Yeah, me neither. It was Gene Belcher, from the hit animated series Bob’s Burgers, who sagely said: “Summer is awful, there’s too much pressure to enjoy yourself.” Amen.
Winnipeggers, especially, put a lot of pressure on summer, because we know what’s coming for us. When you’re staring down the barrel of six(ish) months of winter, it’s easy to get caught up in the expectations of the season. Everyone is practically civically mandated to pull a hard 180 from being a blanket-covered Netflix-binging hermit to a patio-hopping social butterfly who loves the Great Outdoors and goes on hikes on purpose.
This approach to summer is classic scarcity mindset, the belief that there will never be enough — in this case, enough summer. And the fact that back-to-school season now starts at the end of July acts as an accelerant for that “make summer count!” panic.
It’s also easy to be fooled into thinking everyone but you is having an Instagram Summer.
Instagram Summer is a chilled bottle of rosé and a well-appointed artisan cheese board on a perfectly rumpled blanket in a park. It’s a cup of coffee in a “Life is Better at the Lake” mug, held up against a stunning vista of cottage country. It’s a fresh and colourful farmers market haul, complete with an “oh-I-just-threw-this-together-with-ditch-flowers” bouquet. It’s a set of pedicured toes in the sand or a sunset framed in the side mirror of a car headed back from somewhere fabulous. It’s a sun-dappled happy hour with beautiful cocktails. It’s a backyard barbecue under string lights, or an adorable wet dog on the dock. It’s anything accompanied by the hashtag #LakeLife.
I am here to tell you to stop. Breathe. There’s no wrong way to “do summer.” Summer is not a to-do list.
(Instagram Summer is not to be confused with Hot Girl Summer. Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion coined this now-ubiquitous phrase-turned-meme that basically celebrates confidence. The best thing about Hot Girl Summer is anyone can have a Hot Girl Summer. It’s kind of nice, actually.)
This is not to make anyone feel bad. I’m 100 per cent guilty of perpetuating Instagram Summer. A version of many of these photos exists on my camera roll. I like summer. I mean, it’s no fall, but I generally enjoy it. But it can start to seem, after a while, like everyone is trying to medal in the Best Summer Ever! Olympics. This can breed some fear-of-missing-out anxiety and jealous side-eyeing — especially if summer, for you, looks more like an aggressively air-conditioned cubicle and a chorus of small children telling you they’re bored. Or if you don’t have access to a cottage, or the time, money and privilege that “soaking up summer” so often requires.
Or if you don’t like summer. It’s not socially acceptable to hate summer, which is weird because I don’t see any small insects spreading their sugar-pee all over the streets in the winter. In winter, people might encourage you to go outside, but they understand why you don’t want to. Expressing a preference for spending summer in a dark, cool basement watching TV is like admitting you love punching unicorns in the face. It doesn’t compute.
Well, look: I am here to tell you to stop. Breathe. There’s no wrong way to “do summer.” Summer is not a to-do list. There’s no Summer Bingo on which you must complete every square. It’s OK to not love summer but to merely tolerate it. Take the pressure off yourself. Do not fear missing out. Relish it. Look around: you’re probably not missing out at all.
Besides, just think: in roughly seven weeks, it’ll be Instagram Fall. Hope you like pumpkin patches!
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and author of the newsletter, NEXT, a weekly look towards a post-pandemic future.