Summer is my season. I'm just happier when the sun is shining, the air is warm and the days are long. I've also noticed that it's no coincidence that summer is also the time of year when I typically find love--or when love finds me.
My propensity for finding summer love took root during my nine summers spent at co-ed sleep-away camp, where it was a badge of honor to have a "boyfriend" as a prepubescent tween, even if the relationship lasted a total of 1.5 weeks and consisted of a "Shabbat kiss" on Friday nights (the only sanctioned "fraternization" at my strict camp) and a slow dance at a "social." With those criteria, one could easily have two to three boyfriends per summer without being deemed a slut at the tender age of twelve.
When I moved to New York after graduating college, I was introduced to the Hamptons--the beach towns along the South Fork of the easternmost end of Long Island--for the very first time. After being a guest at a friend's share house, I realized that as strange as it was for eighteen people--many of whom didn't know each other--to live in a house together for fifteen weekends, I had stumbled upon fertile ground for finding new summer loves.
I've been hooked on the Hamptons--and the promise it holds for summer love--ever since. As a result, I have lived in almost every possible share house situation: from the stereotypical multi-member party house with a tennis court, pool and Jacuzzi to the tiny, ant-infested beach shack with four close friends.
And as the composition and atmospheres of those houses changed, so did the nature of the loves I found (or already had) during those summers. Some "loves" were about as deep and short-lived as the ones I had back in summer camp; others turned out to be some of the most important relationships of my life. Because during the summer emotions (and hormones) are as heightened as the temperatures, I've learned through trial, error and the occasional success that one must tread carefully through this particular field of wildflowers so it doesn't quickly turn into a minefield.
In my new novel, LoveHampton, my main character, Tori Miller, trips over fifty "Hamptons Unwritten Rules," several of which have to do with dating. But these rules are universal and apply not only to the handful of semi-rarefied beach towns along the East End but anywhere where the mercury soars, strappy sandals are de rigueur and the whirring of nocturnal creatures sends pulses racing.
Here are some examples:
HAMPTONS UNWRITTEN RULE #14: The only direction to date is UP.
"Up" doesn't necessarily mean "richer," "smarter" or "of a higher social standing"--at least, outside of the Hamptons, it doesn't. This rule is more about dating at least in your league, if not slightly higher. Have you ever heard that the only way to become a better tennis player is to play with someone who is more proficient than you are? Same thing.
HAMPTONS UNWRITTEN RULE #16: You can never be too rich or too thin, but you can be too eager.
How many times have we all heard that no one likes an over-eager beaver, especially in dating? Well, we're all going to keep on being reminded of that until some people finally learn how to tone that foolishness down! As much as it's human nature to be flattered by attention, people tend to be turned off by too much of it. Even if you swear on your first dog's grave that the attraction was instant and mutual, be sure to take into account the additional giddiness factor of summer and tack on at least half a day to what you think the right waiting period is before you send that gushy text. Better yet, have your most honest friend vet that gushy text and give him or her carte blanche to delete extraneous exclamation points.
HAMPTONS UNWRITTEN RULE #22: Steamy July nights are the best breeding ground for nocturnal confessions.
Want to get someone to share their true feelings...or even have them in the first place? Go outside at night, take your shoes off, sink your feet into the cool grass/sand/water and look for falling stars. Admittedly this advice sounds super-cheesy but trust me, it works. One of the most romantic nights I ever had was spent lying on my back (fully-clothed!) on the deck of the summer house with all the lights off, head-to-head with my super-summer-crush watching a meteor shower for hours. Pure magic.
HAMPTONS UNWRITTEN RULE #24: Getting some is good; getting some in a house on the beach is better.
Especially in the summer, when it's possible to make a little love "en plein air," the temptation to snog on the beach is understandable. Even if you have a beach blanket as big as Rhode Island, save any greater intimacies for indoors. Remember how uncomfortable it was to have sand in your bathing suit as a kid? Multiply by ten.
HAMPTONS UNWRITTEN RULE #25: Hold your head up high during the Walk of Shame, Share House Edition. You got some--wear it loud and proud.
You think you're fooling anyone with that baseball hat and the college sweatshirt over last night's LBD? Everyone knows what you've been doing, so just own it. Strut down the street like it's the Catwalk of Shame and your its highest paid Supermodel.
HAMPTONS UNWRITTEN RULE #31: You may be "the one"...but probably not "the only one."
If you think that your summer love might actually last until fall and possibly beyond, then it's crucial to keep this rule in mind. Even if it annoys the heck out of you when your mother/older sister/know-it-all best friend says, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket," when it comes to summer love, this might be the best advice of all. Until Labor Day has come and gone, do not assume you and your new honey are exclusive. Actually, never assume it until it is discussed and stated for the record. As I always say, hoping is not the same as knowing.
HAMPTONS UNWRITTEN RULE #33: Just because you've gotten yourself home safely doesn't mean that you still can't get into trouble.
Step away from the computer, cell phone and other mobile devices. There's no weaker moment than after you've just gotten home from a great first encounter or first date. You made it home without giving it all away in the first five seconds (and I'm not just talking about sex), so don't blow it. Sleep on it--"it" being whatever impulse you have to send a follow-up message or invitation for the evening to continue--and reevaluate in the light of morning.
HAMPTONS UNWRITTEN RULE #35: What happens in the share house stays in the share house...for better or worse.
Even if you are not sharing a vacation house with friends, this rule still applies: if you're going to have a fling with someone in your summer crowd, just remember that everyone else will probably know about it faster than you can say "Facebook." Look before you lock lips.
HAMPTONS UNWRITTEN RULE #40: Since temptation abounds, resisting it is (usually) futile.
Summer can be tough that way: everyone's showing some skin, exercising more and working the fake-bake. It's a fact: everyone looks cuter in the summer. Just be aware that the summer sun can create attraction where there might not be any in say, the dreariness of November or March.
HAMPTONS UNWRITTEN RULE #42: August is primetime for getting bitten on the ass--and not only by mosquitoes.
T.S. Eliot might have been convinced that April is the cruelest month but when it comes to summer love, August is far more brutal. Not all summer loves are meant to last. In a way, that's part of what makes them so special: they can be as fleeting as the season itself. If your fling gets flung, the kindest thing you can do for yourself is to kiss it goodbye and wish it well--and know that you'll live to fling again by the time next Memorial Day rolls around.