“Hot Vax Summer” is all over my social media. It seems 45% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated. With 319 million Americans vaccinated; states are meeting their vaccination goals, and realization is dawning that American life will involve in-person socializing again.
For some, the summer of 2020 went to waste. Now, there is no formal protocol on what to do after nearly a year and a half under intermittent lockdown, and most entertainment places are closed. Are we going to live up to the experience of the “roaring 1920s“?
Are summer “love” adventures making a stellar comeback?
Laura Iniesta, a freelance illustrator and owner of Lyrwenart in Mexico City, compares this season to “when a war ends,” which mirrors public sentiment to life in the 1920s when people embraced mirth and celebration as they came out of the shambles of the First World War.
“Everyone wants to recover the time they have lost… They do not know how long they are going to “live” again, so they take advantage of the lost time,” said the 29-year-old artist.
During the pandemic, Iniesta moved in with her boyfriend whom she had been dating for almost seven years. They moved after she lost her job, and her partner suffered similar struggles due to the pandemic. It was a decision that a lot of people were forced to make when everything shuttered down.
Contrary to the story of several folks in their 20s, Iniesta didn’t miss out on the companionship. In fact, she says this time helped them strengthen the relationship. “We discovered things about each other that otherwise would not have if we weren’t forced to move together.”
The problem of choice: hookups or relationships?
On the other side of the aisle, Naydeline Mejia shares the sentiment Iniesta described. The 22-year-old freelance writer and recent graduate of Baruch College in New York City, has mixed feelings on what to expect from the summer.
Mejia described an emotion most folks in their early 20s are swinging back and forth.
“..I am looking for something serious but at the same time not serious,” she said.
Mejia experiences the feeling of missing out on physical and emotional affection that comes with catching up with friends, for instance.
“I don’t know if that’s more of a societal pressure… You know, our 20s are the best years of our lives, and that’s when we should be doing all the things like traveling to all the places and dating all the people and messing around,” she explained.
Most of these expectations come from the media’s influence on the 20s experience. Throughout the pandemic, the increase in social media usage might have contributed to narratives on what you should accomplish in your 20s. Nonetheless, there is no wrong or right choice.
“I’m down for the ride and experience, and what happens if dating ends up becoming a serious relationship, then that’s that, and if it doesn’t,” said Mejia.
Dating, having one-night stands or having serious relationships don’t define the 20s experience. Everyone has dreams and goals, and it is valid to remind yourself that it’s ok to look for all of them or neither.
The Vax propaganda
“To me [Hot Vax Summer] is only propaganda,” a thoughtful standpoint coming from Yazmin Castruita Rios, a doctoral student in Rehabilitation Counselor Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Castruita Rios, originally from Juarez, Mexico, thinks the whole hot vax summer movement is a way to encourage social conscience to exchange for freedom.
“… [it] is only a technique to get more people vaccinated, telling you ‘it is safer to go out, to hook up, etc.,’ so everyone is associating it to make it sound cool… like dating apps,” she said.
Castruita Rios also felt the impact of returning to social settings. She grappled with feeling tired after going out with friends and also setting the boundaries after a year of maintaining six feet apart from each other.
“Most of us have lost our [social] skills because for a long time every interaction was through a screen… talking to someone through a screen is not the same as being with someone [face to face],” she said.
Castruita Rios met her current partner last year when restrictions were still in place. She contends dating in the midst of the pandemic “was interesting” as she was required to develop a “new level of trust.”
“What can we do that’s not dangerous?” Castruita used to ask her partner as they were trying to date and go out safely.
Castruita and her partner developed a bond of trust where she made sure that they were taking care of themselves by wearing masks and following C.D.C guidelines.
“We needed to stay creative,” Castruita concluded.
One step at a time
Not everyone shares the same vision when it comes to dating. Garrett Coghill, a Public Health student at the University of Texas at El Paso, says this time made him prioritize his needs and understand different facets about himself.
Coghill used the time of isolation to reflect on what he wanted and to “solidify being happy being alone.”
He said he spent a lot of time chasing dates instead of focusing on himself and created a cycle of unfulfilled expectations that ended in not too successful dates and relationships.
“People around my age —the mid-20s— should be more focused on their hobbies, passions, and interests. Building the life you want to live first may attract those who align with you closely,” said the 24-year old student.
Ultimately, the pandemic helped him realize what he lacked internally, leading him to be more emotionally independent.
While Hot Vax Summer sounds like another hashtag that will take up for a short time, several folks, myself included, are eager to get back to their activities freely.
Regardless, even going on cringeworthy dates that wrap up with lame excuses or ones that go nowhere has a new meaning now. After a year, some of us decided to put our dating life on halt. But the opportunities the vaccine has brought back and revived are endless.
It does not matter what plans you have for the summer or their lack thereof. Societal pressure to live up to a moment shouldn’t be an impediment to enjoy the vaccinated summer season.