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Is the steamy hol­i­day ro­mance be­ing con­signed to his­tory?

Metro Magazine NZ - - Contents - TEXT — MADELEINE HOLDEN IL­LUS­TRA­TION — AMY NEAVE

Is the steamy hol­i­day ro­mance now his­tory?

Gemma, a 32-year-old lawyer in Auck­land, is telling me about her one and only sum­mer fling. “He was French, and he was in New Zealand do­ing re­search for his master’s, and we met at an event about sus­tain­abil­ity in Brit­o­mart,” she says. “I was in my early 20s, be­fore Tin­der or any of the hook-up apps were re­ally an op­tion. As clichéd as it sounds, we met be­cause we locked eyes across the room.” The two went on a date, and the rest of the story fol­lows a clas­sic ro­mance-novel nar­ra­tive: they walked around the city hand in hand, made sweaty, pas­sion­ate love, stayed up talk­ing into the wee hours, and promised to stay in touch af­ter he re­turned to Paris. He left, and they didn’t.

We don’t talk much about sum­mer flings any more. The term, which de­scribes a short-term ro­man­tic or sex­ual en­counter that takes place over the sum­mer months, is a relic of the days when glossy mag­a­zines like Cos­mopoli­tan were im­por­tant cul­tural ar­biters and dat­ing apps hadn’t yet made ca­sual sex such a quo­tid­ian op­tion. While there is some cor­po­rate data from dat­ing web­sites and sex-toy re­tail­ers show­ing that peo­ple do tend to go on more dates and have more sex in the sum­mer months, I’m re­li­ably in­formed that “sum­mer fling” is not a term com­monly used by any­one younger than the Sky Tower. “I haven’t heard the word ‘fling’ in so long,” Mad­die, a 27-year-old ad­min­is­tra­tor, ex­claims when I ask her about them. “The whole ‘sum­mer lov­ing’ thing is dead and gone for the vast ma­jor­ity of us.” Emmy, a 27-year-old com­mu­nity or­gan­iser and PhD can­di­date, agrees, say­ing she’s “never heard this [term] used”.

The problem is that most mil­len­ni­als are sim­ply too broke to repli­cate the clas­sic sum­mer fling, which usu­ally in­volves a va­ca­tion in some dreamy European lo­cale, such as the French Riviera or an Ital­ian vil­lage (think Call

Me by Your Name). Sum­mer flings are the pre­serve of those with dis­pos­able in­come and abun­dant leisure time, two things burnt-out, broke young peo­ple are fa­mously with­out. In the­ory, univer­sity stu­dents should en­joy the seemingly end­less free time af­forded by the sum­mer break be­tween semesters, but most of them have to cram their sum­mer break with ca­sual work to af­ford Auck­land’s sti­fling rents and their tu­ition fees. “We can’t af­ford to go on va­ca­tion and aren’t given enough leave over sum­mer to al­low for one,” Mad­die con­tin­ues. “I guess you do no­tice more for­eign­ers on va­ca­tion on Tin­der and Bum­ble dur­ing the sum­mer months — does that count?” Emmy con­curs: “Sum­mer is for des­per­ately hus­tling to make rent — it’s too hu­mid and too ne­olib­eral to hook up.”

The­o­ret­i­cally, sum­mer presents all of us with more op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet peo­ple: we’re out­side more, wear­ing less cloth­ing and are prob­a­bly more re­laxed, with healthy vi­ta­min D lev­els and bouncy sea-salt hair. But dat­ing apps al­low users to present a se­ries of care­fully cu­rated photos, mean­ing they look their best at all times, dur­ing all sea­sons. Plus, you don’t need to so much as set foot out­side to make the ini­tial con­nec­tion, all of which makes the “sum­mer” part of a sum­mer fling kind of re­dun­dant.

But then again, maybe the “fling” part is re­dun­dant, too. Among the peo­ple I speak to, there’s a sense that, these days, you’ll either hook up with some­one a hand­ful of times or fewer, or you’ll end up in a long-term re­la­tion­ship with them. There’s not so much of a space for sea­sonal re­la­tion­ships that last only for a few weeks. “I feel like ev­ery­thing is either a one-night stand, an oc­ca­sional hookup that goes on for sea­sons and sea­sons, or a re­la­tion­ship,” Mad­die says. “And now that we have so­cial me­dia, you don’t have to be like, ‘Au revoir, Romeo, I shall never speak to you again.’”

Gemma’s ex­pe­ri­ence, then, is prob­a­bly a relic of the past: an ide­alised ver­sion of a sum­mer fling that is more the pre­serve of Hol­ly­wood movies and glossy mag­a­zines than it is a vi­able re­la­tion­ship model, es­pe­cially for young, broke mil­len­ni­als. And Gemma’s not even sure how much she’s mythol­o­gised her own fling in her imag­i­na­tion. “I re­mem­ber it be­ing so ro­man­tic,” she says, “but now, think­ing back on it, I’m pretty sure we were mostly just fuck­ing. Like, the con­nec­tion was never that deep.

“I’m not 100% sure that it was even dur­ing sum­mer now.”

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