Woman sad on doorstep

Sad girl summer: “Wait, wasn’t this meant to be ‘hot girl summer’?”

We were promised a summer of love, so why are so many of us describing the current mood as ‘sad girl summer’?

Right now, I should be recovering from a night of swinging from a chandelier into an ocean of men in a nightclub. That’s according to a piece about the so-called ’summer of love’ that I penned earlier this year as we started to emerge from the third lockdown. For weeks and weeks, I had visions of life beyond ‘freedom day’. I organised drinks with friends. I bought two utterly ridiculous Zara dresses. I lined up dates. I booked a festival and a holiday. I typed ‘#HOTGIRLSUMMER ’ in just about every WhatsApp conversation going. I dared myself to be excited. Big change was ahead. 

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Don’t get me wrong: I knew I wouldn’t wake up on 21 June to a whole new Covid-free world. But I expected a giddy vibe to be in the air; a ubiquitous sense of hope and relief. Of course, ‘freedom day’ (a term that has a lot of questions around it) was delayed – and we’ve been told it will definitely go ahead on 19 July instead. But, this hasn’t heightened the excitement. In fact, I’d say that this ’hot girl summer’ is starting to feel a lot more like a ‘sad girl summer’. And, if the frustrated voice notes from my friends are anything to go by, I’m not alone in feeling like this. 

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Even without all restrictions being lifted, we’ve been able to enjoy so many things that we’ve been denied for so long: exciting art exhibitions, boozy brunches, sunny seaside trips. We’ve also seen a huge uptake of vaccinations, which can only be positive. And families who have had to stay apart for over a year have finally met up and hugged each other. So where have these feelings of sadness and boredom come from?

Well, for starters, never have I ever been so acutely aware of how much the weather impacts my mood. The sunshine is basically gaslighting us, and those grey skies and downpours of early July are a reminder of the dark days of lockdown. Then there’s the fact that most people I know are living off their credit cards right now – we foolishly forgot that a couple of cocktails in London can easily wipe out a bank account. There’s also still a lot of anxiety out there, especially as cases have started to rise again and the government still insists on sending out mixed messages about wearing masks. Also, it’s just really, really tiring meeting people and doing things. Who the hell has the actual energy to swing off the chandelier I seem to be obsessed with? 

Bored woman reading phone
Why has 'hot girl summer' left many of us feeling so sad?

But I think there’s more to it than this ‘back to normal life’ anxiety and exhaustion. What happened to all the changes we were meant to be embracing right now? Life just seems to be going back to exactly as it was before. And, well, was I that happy BC (Before Covid)? Is this what I’ve been missing? Why haven’t the epiphanies I had during lockdown come to fruition yet?

I’m frustrated. I’m fed up. I’m lost. I’m sad. I’m bored. 

Let’s be clear: to be bored in this life is a privilege. But it’s OK to want a bit more than contentment after the last 18 months we’ve had. I know how lucky I am to have a job I enjoy right now, and to rent a flat that has been an oasis when we’ve had to spend so much time indoors. But, as well as gratitude, I’m allowed to want change and challenges.

Perhaps the excitement I’ve been dreaming of won’t come from wild nights out, ticking off a never-ending list of ’cultural things to do in London’ and some al-fresco snogging. These are all lovely things that I know I am so lucky to enjoy. But that’s not to say they make me truly happy at a time when I can start to take control of my life again. Maybe now is the time to make fundamental change happen. Instead of flicking back to the old BC chapters of my life, it’s time to write a new one. ‘Hot girl summer’ is, after all, one very small part of this ongoing story – and it’s certainly not the final one. 

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