HOT GIRL SUMMER AND THE SUBURBAN MOM
Hello everyone! It’s been a minute since I’ve written. I’ve spent the last few weeks absorbing your feedback on CURATED. I am honored and humbled that the content has resonated with so many, especially with women sandwiched between Millennials and Boomers.
Here is what I have learned about those of you who are engaging here. Most of us in this bunch are mothers, but it’s not our singular identity, and we don’t necessarily want to constantly be doing a deep dive on child rearing. While we are knocking on perimenopause’s door (or it is knocking on ours), we don’t want it to be the only topic on which the media will engage us.
The aspirational publications on which we were reared—Vogue, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, The New Yorker—are still provocative but often alienate us with clubby insiderness (if you know, you know) and/or a political preachiness that, after the last few years, just leaves us feeling flattened by a Mack Truck.
The lifestyle brands and social media influencers, moreover, are out to sell ice to the Eskimo and seem to pursue us only for our purchasing power without giving us anything customized to our interests in return.
One reader in particular shared that she likes to read things that make her feel vital and stimulated (two of my favorite words). This group wants to be spoken to and be seen, stay relevant, find touch points with other like-minded women and stay connected to what is happening in the zeitgeist. I am rededicating myself to doing that here in this space and invite you to participate and engage. Nobody puts Baby in a corner!
So with all of the above in mind, it seems right that the first thing we should do here is claim what has been our birthright all along—the Hot Girl Summer.
What is this Hot Girl Summer?
In the most literal terms, Hot Girl Summer is a social media anthem embraced by Gen Z and Millennials so much so that it went viral on Twitter and Insta in 2019 and has basically stuck since then.
Its interpretations are manifold. Urban Dictionary, for example, says, “It is the summer where girls take over and express their inner hoe.” Here might be where I lose you, but stay with me.
The best definition comes from the widely accredited author of the term, the rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who released the eponymously titled song and basically set the whole movement in motion. In an interview with The Root, she explained it best, “It’s just basically about women…just being unapologetically them, just having a good-ass time, hyping up your friends, doing you, not giving a damn about what nobody got to say about it.”
Yet it is the nuance around the term that makes it most compelling. It’s a feminist message for the ages, about women being themselves, without judgment, shame or reservation. It’s not necessarily about being out and about—it’s about staying in and reading a book as much as it is about dancing at a cave rave in Ibiza. It is inclusive and about seeing oneself in a positive light. There’s no actual hotness threshold to claiming the Hot Girl Summer—it’s for everyone, even men. It’s not even seasonal—it can be a year-round way of life. At its heart, it is about seizing the day and living life in the present.
What I don’t see, however, are many middle-aged suburban moms claiming their right to the Hot Girl Summer in word or in deed. They (we) should! It’s time for us to get after it. For me, one of the absolute gifts of our recent re-entry has been connecting with friends, old and new, over the past few weeks. I canvased a handful of them to find out what they were doing to stake their claim on the Hot Girl Summer. The answers were as fascinating and varied as the women I asked. The answers ranged from to enrolling in programs for new degrees and qualifications to buying all new undergarments to renewing their vows with long-time partners to giving up drinking once and for all because it leaves them in a fog that is counterintuitive to living their best life. Megan Thee Stallion may not have rapped about these pursuits in her song, but they are all 100% valid!
And yet some wistfulness about what has passed
And in the same moment as we establish that we should heed the siren call of the pursuit of our own greatness, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that, for me, there is some wistfulness in all of this.
This summer, the newly-minted adults in my life, including my own daughter, have been living “two summers in one”—i.e., making up for the abject shit show of spring 2020 onwards. As I watch them live their Hot Girl Summers in earnest, it has dawned on me that there are certain things that are pretty much firmly in my past—that giddy drowning in friendship, talking and laughing for hours at a time with no high-stakes obligations or duties, drunk with love for one another, so many firsts still to come, unjaded and open to a future still at their feet. There is something profound in realizing that with regard to many of life’s most exhilarating experiences, I am living an actual passing of the baton to another generation. For me, nostalgia and some melancholy poke their heads out like a couple of moist-nosed ferrets.
A gateway drug to regret
And, again, in the spirit of full honesty, this leads me to another powerful topic, the notion of regret because what is wistfulness if not a gateway drug to regret.
I have been haunted by the premise of a book I recently read, The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig. In it, the beleaguered protagonist, dissatisfied with her life, is sent to a Midnight Library, a sort of purgatory between life and death. Each book title in the library represents a different version of her life had she chosen a different path at every fork in the road. The character gets a chance to see how her life would have played out under various scenarios, leading to the ultimate realization that things are not always as they seem. It is a heartfelt examination of regret and how making peace with it allows us to move forward or not.
Everyone has their list of regrets. Mine are both customized to me and also universal to many women of my circumstance—What if I had pursued education with the idea of learning as much as I could, rather than chasing grades and accolades? What if I had stayed in the workplace? What if I had put my passions above practicality? What if I didn’t succumb to the cultural pressure of hitting milestones on a certain timeline? What if? What if? What if?
If you are anything like me, then the coulda/shoulda/wouldas of the past beckon often and gesticulate wildly in the brain. They bring along with them their friend—anxiety over what the future will bring—who also begs for my attention. But recollection of the past and worry over the future are cruel mistresses and the sworn enemies of the Hot Girl Summer in all sorts of ways. Hot Girl Summer hates on them because they are counter-intuitive to compassion for self. She hates on them because they render living in the present virtually impossible.
I’ll end by sharing a poem by Nobel Laureate Louise Gluck which showed up in my path at the most fortuitous time (i.e., while I was writing this piece). Take from it what you will.
Great things, she said, are ahead of you, or
perhaps behind you;
it’s difficult to be sure.
And yet, she added, what’s the difference?
Right now you are a child holding hands with a fortune-teller.
All the rest is hypothesis and dream.
See you at that rave in Ibiza!