Edition #120: A Summer of Leisure
Plus, scenes from an open marriage, how your family shapes your body language, and amazing animal photos
A Note From the Editor
For the first time in my life, it has been a summer of leisure. A summer of pleasure and unwanted heartache. My heart has grown heavier in recent weeks, anticipating a conclusion I saw coming from miles away and yet I cannot bring myself to pen a melancholy essay, nor one that travels too deeply into the valleys of my psyche. I’d prefer to wade in the safe, shallow waters of the kiddie pool to help my heart scab over at moments when it feels especially tender. Like last week, when I cried and cried in the bathroom of our small apartment in Lisbon so as to not disturb my friends.
Though I spent a decent amount of time crying in that bathroom, I spent more time marveling at the wonderfully unfamiliar place. We kayaked in the cold, turquoise sea, through caves where stubborn barnacles clung to porous rock. We ate a chicken salad on warm sand, tangy ceviche washed down with pisco sours, flaky cups of pastry dough filled with glossy egg custard. We never once made coffee at home, preferring to visit a cafe, to sit down and people-watch for hours. To make it last. That’s the beauty of a summer of leisure—you can be heartbroken one evening and tramping around the cobblestone streets of Lisbon, flirting with the handsome Portuguese chef the next.
Heartbreak flows in circadian rhythm. Mornings are the easiest, a mind swept clean by eight hours blissful of freedom from the movie trailer of memories playing on repeat in your mind’s eye. Afternoons, especially busy ones where you’re walking around a foreign city and imagining what your life might look like if you happened to be born there, aren’t so bad either. Getting home from those busy afternoons hits hardest. No new text messages, checking your world clock to see what time it is where they are and wondering what they might be doing at this hour, wondering whether you’ve crossed their mind at all. Did it even if happen if there is no sustained digital proof?
Dinners are easy—glasses of wine, endless wine, rich reds, regional varietals, Vino Verde. A group of friendly Germans frying thinly sliced potatoes, vegetables plucked from the Italian countryside, crusty bread and sweet summer melon wrapped in delicate prosciutto. Meal times so unnecessarily exorbitant, so late and long and full of laughter that you temporarily forget about your heart and its ugly step-sister, your ego. You hardly have service so you stop checking your phone so incessantly; you put it down. You remove their time zone from your world clock and instead, you teach the group a new card game. You are the dealer.
You have begun to transform, more quickly than you expected, into a temporary Lady of Leisure. Is this how rich people feel? Days of intentional languishing, with nothing to do but read and float in an infinity pool overlooking the Tuscan countryside. Evenings that last lifetimes; sexy playlists and new friends, stories to distract you from your own reality. Stories of infidelity and unexpected breakups, of emotional distance. But also, stories of chosen solitude, of putting friends before lovers, of romance ripe with promise. The flurry of activity is enough to shield you from even the most bruising of memories, like that last night together, fitting perfectly into the nook of their arm as you succumbed to sleep, the comforting warmth of their bare skin pressed against yours. Or the way they would look at you when, in a group, someone said something you two had privately discussed. A look to reassure you that whatever was happening in real-time there was always an undercurrent, prickly and electric and invisible to others. But enough of that—please, pass the pasta. Top off your glass, let’s skinny dip in the moonlight. The more time we spend here, the less time I’ll have to travel back there. There is so much reading to do, so much swimming to do.
I used to hate the summer. Summer growing up meant repressive Florida heat, long days of boredom and pepperoni sandwiches for lunch and watching a VHS of Mulan on repeat. There were no summer camps, no European vacations, no beach clubs. Mostly, there was water—hours in the pool, then hours at the local water park, where my mother would try to set me up with the 17-year-old lifeguards before I got my first period. And, ironically, the very place I got my first period, welcoming womanhood whilst floating in the lazy river, my body hot with a fever that only broke when I began to bleed as though my body were warning itself about the dangers of womanhood.
No amount of chlorinated water could soothe the itch summer brought forth. I wanted to move, to escape from the confines of my childhood home. I wanted adventure, stories that weren’t made up to share upon my return to school. My distaste for summer followed me stubbornly into adulthood, peaking upon my move to New York. New York only worsened my summer blues, for the season was coveted by others and dreaded by me and I simply couldn’t afford to do it the way I wanted. Summers meant sweaty rooftop bars with $14 cocktails back then, $20 cocktails now, torturous hours spend in the artificial air conditioning, Fridays where offices were mostly empty or filled with excitable colleagues, carry-ons packed, speaking loudly of their weekend plans. I’d never managed a summer of leisure before, for work constraints and financial constraints and because I did not know anyone with an accessible summer home
I did, one summer, manage to spend two blissfully unencumbered weeks in the Amalfi Coast. We woke at noon and lay on the beach for hours, marking the end of our lounging in the summer with a bottle of wine before gorging on small portions of pasta and generous portions of more wine. One afternoon, over a plate of pasta in Positano, I cried over a boy who was actually quite boring, in retrospect. I look back on that first taste of leisure with fondness with pleasant emotional detachment from the crumbling romantic situation I’d left in New York. I hope that one day I’ll feel similarly as I recount this moment—sitting on the stone steps of a former monastery overlooking a garden with a willow tree, listening as a winemaker bottles the summer’s harvest. Taking a break from writing to cry privately, in the bathroom.
A summer of leisure is, of course, only a season. You know this and it is precisely why the season can be so thoroughly enjoyed; this is why so many before me have enjoyed their summers with a zest that bordered on desperation. Summer, so it seems, is a time for indulgence. Fall in something like love with someone who lives in another country, pick the fat figs off of the tree in the front yard whilst balanced precariously on a ladder, take six flights over the course of two and a half weeks despite inevitably hellish delays, pretend you can be just friends while dreaming of a different outcome entirely, draw boundaries that cause you pain. Lie in the sun without sunscreen, just once, just while you write a poem before everyone else awakens. Let the army of wasps flit around your ankles under the breakfast table without fear of being stung.
Laugh—because what else can you do?—at that evening in Rome when you followed your best friend and her new lover around, sneaking photos of their sweet hand-holding and private glances the day after deciding, finally, to choose yourself. The golden sunlight lit up the ancient ruins when you heard it—the opening notes of a song they sent you just days prior, a song you misread as a romantic signal but that was actually just part of a ritual, a call and response. A song you’d never heard before they sent it, but that was now playing right there, on the streets of Rome, by a plump, friendly-faced man positioned just in front of the crumbling city which was once an empire.
But during a summer of leisure, you can ignore all signs. You can ignore your phone, your intrusive thoughts, your unkind memories, and instead, you can dive into the infinity pool and swim laps. You can wear tiny bikinis and tan your shoulders and have a pistachio croissant for lunch and remind yourself that this, like everything, is only but a season, and fall is coming soon.
Cheers, my dears, and thanks for reading. If you see value in this newsletter and look forward to reading it every week. please consider opting for a paid subscription. Paid subscribers allow me to continue to dedicate the time and energy needed to keep this thing running.
Three Pieces of Content Worth Consuming
Scenes From An Open Marriage. Despite what the tropes of modern love what us to believe, you can never fully know a person and you never fully own them—I love that fact; it keeps things interesting. People are individuals with private thoughts, desires, and secrets. That is where this beautiful, sexy essay beings—with the author, after having her first child, realizing her husband is both familiar and foreign as he proposes an open marriage. What follows is a thoughtful, complicated consideration of what can happen when two people attempt to forge a path that is less traditional, but perhaps more intuitive.
”I found I could be happy for my husband in his fun. More than happy, in fact. It can be a real thrill to let your partner go out, give it fully to another woman, and then come home and look you in the eyes over that, kiss you deeply and touch you over that. It is romantic in a way that culturally underscripted moments often are.”
How Your Family Shapes Your Body Image. This one is good. I’ve often heard parents of young children express anticipatory—and justified—nerves about how social media will negatively influence their adolescent children, particularly when it comes to body image. The idea is that influencer culture has created a newer and even more impossible standard for both lifestyle and looks, but this piece argues that iur relationship with our bodies begins to form far before teenage years—and, most notably, that those very parents worrying about how others will imprint unhealthy body image standards on their children are actually inadvertently doing so themselves. It isn’t just about the words you say to your children, but about your own behaviors and relationship with food—no pressure!
Honesty is Love. I used to lie a lot. I only noticed it when a college boyfriend pointed it out to me—why do you lie about such small things, he asked. I thought of them as white lies, harmless, but it turns out those white lies were a gateway drug to more substantial, self-protective lies. I’m happy to say that things have changed and I now embrace honesty as wholly as possible, but there are times when having a difficult, honest conversation requires lots of effort and mental preparation on my part. I loved this piece—arguing more honest is always better, that little white lies add up, and that being honest is the purest form of love.
Perhaps You Should… Retreat to the Jungle
I spent a bulk of this summer in a magical little beach town in Costa Rica. I initially chose the place because it seemed remote enough and I wanted to learn to surf, but my time there ended up being so much more than I had expected—yoga, icebaths, deep connections, surfing, sunsets, an endless supply of fresh fruit and skull-sized avocados, and a deep degree of healing. I met some amazing people during my time there including my friend Elizabeth, an intuitive eating coach and all around ray of sunshine. She’s hosting a week-long, women’s only retreat in October, which sounds like it will be more organized, sampler platter version of my two months there. If you feel any degree of ongoing stress or tension, and you’re into wellness/connection/the ocean, I’d highly suggest checking it out.
**Bonus Content** (Funny Animals)
These photos from the Nature Photography of the Year contest are incredible, further solidifying the fact that I need to manage to see a wild bear in person. Warning, the first photo is a bit graphic (but very cool).
Also, this song is my current anthem, this is cool and creepy, this had me rolling (if you haven’t seen the movie, you’re missing out), this should be socially acceptable, and happy Virgo season!
A Quote From A Book You Should Read:
”There was a great sadness in the speed at which the days were getting shorter. as if they were trying to redeem something that was irredeemable. With a sense of heartache, I thought about September, when the ferocity of summer would abate.”
-Last Summer in the City by Gianfranco Calligarich
This newsletter is best served with a side of conversation, so drop your opinions, reflections, and thoughts in the comments below and let’s get to talking.
Or, share the most thought-provoking piece from today’s edition with someone you love, then call them up to discuss, debate, and percolate. As a wise woman once said, “Great minds discuss ideas.