On any given rainy Monday evening, you’ll find me on my couch, surfing streaming platforms for nothing in particular and gorging on Trader Joe’s butter chicken. A couple of Mondays ago, however, the quickly fading summer filled me with a case of the scaries — so, I fought the urge to lounge and tried something else.
A few hours later, I found myself seated at a swanky bar with a friend, peering over her shoulder for a clear view of the third member of our squad who happened to be on a date. We were surreptitiously surveilling.
My friend and I were dressed in black — to camouflage, we agreed, only to stick out among the bright decor. We’d steal “covert” glances at her table across the bar and whisper-shout observations to each other. “Lots of hand gestures. She must be into him.” My friend nodded in approval. “They turned on the mood lighting and now I can’t tell if she’s smiling,” I lamented.
As with most ridiculous situations that arise, the plot of this bad spy movie all started with a group chat conversation between the three of us. “What if we ... ” and “I’m kidding if you’re kidding” — only for my two co-conspirators and I to realize that no one was kidding. As our friend primped for her date at her apartment, my other friend and I geared up to play our parts as her trusted yet painfully amateur operatives.
Why would we do this? For the plot, and nothing else. To feel the serotonin from big belly laughs and smiles that made our cheeks hurt, after a particularly rough week in our personal lives and beyond. Later at the bar, thoroughly entertained, we toasted to making a Monday night anything but mundane. Here’s to Plot Girl Summer.
Thanks to COVID-19 vaccines and a resurgence of the 2019 Megan Thee Stallion banger, last summer was Hot Girl Summer. We were waxed, vaxxed, and after a year of pandemic life, anything but relaxed. The summer of 2021 was a mandatory tutorial in looking and feeling good; it was fun, but it was a lot of pressure.
This summer, the air’s a little heavier. On June 24th, the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, a horrific blow to our body autonomy. Some states swiftly enacted trigger laws banning abortions altogether. Horrifying as that is, the implications reach far beyond abortion. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas asserted that the court “should reconsider” the rulings codifying protections for contraception, same-sex relations, and marriage equality.
That, and there have been over 300 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2022, and we’re only eight months in. All of these events have disproportionately impacted Black and brown people, reminding us once again that the human condition is fragile, and the white, cis and heteronormative structures we live in are inherently flawed.
It’s human nature to grieve our rights. Our brains are predisposed to focusing on threats to our survival and the bad stuff. But rather than burning alive, some of us have consciously approached this Dumpster fire with radical joy and serendipitous agency. And that’s what Plot Girl Summer, coined by influencer Serena Kerrigan, is all about.
Plot Girl Summer isn’t just having a funny story to dish at dinner later. Nor is it only for “girls.” It’s a gentle reminder for anyone who’s not a cis-het white man that we’re allowed to be the main characters — to star in our own multi-season TV show, teeming with brilliant auxiliary characters, life-changing victories, and sometimes unforeseen plot twists. Historically, legal, political and economic structures have fenced in our livelihoods, bodies and rights. At its core, the Plot Girl mantra is an empowering response to those rigid institutions, evoking an agency to reclaim the world’s chaos starting with our personal lives.
For designer Diamond Harris, this year’s Plot Girl Summer was two years in the making. In the summer of 2020, Harris was challenging microaggressions in the policies at the design school she attended in Atlanta, emblematic of a much larger issue among Black designers contending with a systemically exclusionary industry. But as palpably strenuous as the summer was, what she feels is a burgeoning recognition of what Black Americans are facing gave her validation. “It made me feel confident that I wasn’t overreacting to the microaggressive behavior,” she tells me. “A lot of Black people and minorities often feel like we’re not heard, so we go to bed thinking that we’re the only ones who feel this way.”
She felt empowered to turn inward and focus on her personal goals. Acting on a lifelong dream, she and her young daughter moved from Atlanta to New York in 2021 so that Harris could further her creative ventures. It was a giant leap; semantics and logic took a backseat to instinct and emotion, which is the very tune of Plot Girl Summer.
After some trial and error, she’s finally found a space in New York to build her own textile studio. She also founded Women Who CoParent, a platform that enables mothers like herself to co-parent together. It was a pre-pandemic brainchild that had been shelved until a couple of months ago, when a mere reply to a Twitter thread would link her to the fundraising and entrepreneurial resources that resurrected her startup.
“Plot Girl Summer is knowing that you’re actually able to do something, and then doing it, without really having the expectation of knowing what happens afterwards,” Harris says. “It’s having the confidence to do it.”
While all of our Plot Girl Summers look a little different, intention and spontaneity are the stars of the show. It’s not enough to simply be presented with a situation or opportunity — say, last-minute tickets to an outdoor concert or, in Harris’s case, a Twitter thread that resonates. It’s about listening to your gut, those angels on your shoulder, or however instinct materializes for you, and vowing to take that extra step forward and do something, even if the outcomes are blurry.
Sometimes, it means doing something that fills your inner child with glee. Other times, it’ll spark a significant life change based on just intuition. In any case, after two years of meticulously distanced park hangouts, back-to-back Zoom meetings full of “Maya, I think you’re muted,” and a lot of anxiety, pursuing those serendipitous occasions that Plot Girl Summer enables is just plain necessary.
These days, Plot Girl Summer has meant opening my laptop to write this story only to close it an hour later and going to watch gorgeous drag queens perform an Ariana Grande number at my favorite bar’s weekly show. It’s going to my only commitment of the day, a 90-minute brunch, only to get back home just as my microwave clock blinks 4:05 a.m. It’s emphatically proclaiming my yeses while realizing that the nos are just as important.
It’s reminding myself that, as enraged and powerless as I feel, these dopamine-inducing, serendipitous adventures stoke flames of appreciation, confidence and compassion within me. My mourning of what this country can’t give me right now is paired with a celebration of my own agency. And that’s a hell of a plot twist.