The past May was filled with hope. More than half of Americans over 18 had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. For those who had been vaccinated, this meant that they could meet indoors without being masked with others vaccinated. This made large outdoor gatherings that had varying levels of mask-wearing much less dangerous. Even more importantly, it meant that meeting an anti-vaxxer and a COVID-denier was no longer life-threatening. If you choose to engage in truly fatherless behavior at the beach, bar, concert, or vacation, it won’t feel dangerous or make you a threat to society. Hot Girl Summer was inevitable and there was no stopping it.
So was the story, at least. A certain percentage of the population started to live solely off documenting, anticipating, and then regretting the many stages that Hot Girl Summer was. Because there was no quick way to check the temperature on the internet, it was impossible to avoid. You’ll find yourself immersed in waves of micro-trends and discourse. Even though the internet is full contradictions, everything and everyone happens online, we all lived in the same place and time. It was a reminder of how the internet can open us up to many other types of people and give us an opportunity to experience experiences that are completely different from our own. We were able to all be happy together as we shared Hot Girl Summer. Or were we?
Let’s first understand the Hot Girl Summer trend and its journey. Megan Thee Stallion declared herself a Hot Girl in 2018 and followed that up with a single. Every summer has seen a new level of potential. “Hot Girl Summer” is now the most popular word in our lexicons. According to Google Trends, the phrase reached its peak in popularity in May/early June for the third consecutive year. Ironically, the COVID pandemic was responsible for half of all summers since it was born in 2018. Summers that were fraught with isolation, precarity, fraught contact and existential dread have also been a part of its history.
What is a Hot Girl Summer? Plenty of explainers have described it as a state of mind revolving around unapologetic pleasure-seeking. Megan herself said that it’s all about “having a good-ass time, hyping up your friends, doing you, not giving a damn about what nobody got to say about it.” Hot Girl Summer definitely involves a lot of partying and great outfits. This is a time to twerk on your friends. This noble goal is for the first vaccinated season following the traumatizing second-wave of the pandemic.
Our online parlance still set a hopeful agenda. The time that all Americans became eligible for vaccines was around the time when “vaxxed, waxed” took control of our Tinder bios. It also made a subtle spring declaration to this tune by Selena Gomez.
For so many cold dark months the internet had been dripping in messages of despair, nihilism, and maniacal laughter as the stop-and-go of the COVID era ate away at the precious years of our lives, putting enormous pressure on what little time we get under the sun. It was no surprise that spring, particularly for older teens and those aged 20 to 24, was filled with sexual anticipation, restlessness, and eagerness to bloom.
Is it possible that anything that has been so hyped up has ever lived up? Was it possible to have a Hot Girl Summer given the magnitude of our expectations, and the extent of the damage caused by the pandemic? Perhaps not. Hot Girl Summer may have been a projection of the future that was far more telling about the past than it is about what’s coming into existence. Perhaps our expectations for the future are directly related to our current feelings of despair and exhaustion. Maybe those dreams and hopes will not be possible until we overcome our current despair.
Maybe not. People were out in the summer, after all! It was a fun time! The couple exchanged kisses! Tans were secured! There was a lot of laughter! People on Tinder had more fun this year than last. They were actually chatting more often, using Tinder more often, and having longer conversations. Our data shows that mentions about Hot Vax Summer increased by 155 percent between March and June and mentions about “Vaxxed, Waxed,” doubled from May through June.
Hot Girl Summer is also evident in other ways. While travel hasn’t returned to its pre-pandemic heights, .a report from the U.S. Travel Association .says that short-term rental occupancy reached an all-time high this June. Even though they are still recovering, travel spending, hotel demand and plane bookings all have risen.
These numbers may not be important to you. You might not have needed to know them, because your social media feeds were already filled with tropical vacations and block parties, as well as all the other youthful debauchery that confirms that there were many Hot Girl Summers. You might have to know them, though, because social media is a highlight reel. Failure is not something that’s often documented online. What .is .documented is the pivot and two refrains that have recently made the internet-talk rounds: “getting railed in a sundress” and “submissive and breedable.” According to Google Trends, their popularity surged as the summer progressed, telling a story of an increasingly stressed and horny discourse – a Hot Girl Summer, yes, but one tinged with anxiety and desperation.
Hot Girl Summer’s evolution is not what was expected in May. Hot Girl Summer and Hot Girl Summer have sweet, optimistic hopes for the future. However, their older sisters “getting railed on in a sundress and submissive and breedable”, are painfully real and shamefully hard-working. This suggests that Hot Girl Summer has failed to live up to its promises.
It’s impossible to sweep the whole of the English-speaking internet in order to shake out some overarching, objective reality. Perhaps you had a Hot Girl Summer and were a delightful cherry-cherub who got your sex-clapped from March to August by the man of your dreams. Perhaps there was not a single day in summer that you didn’t get an outfit compliment or a flower-petal path to follow. Perhaps you had a Hot Girl Summer that was so girly and summery you could rip through the space-time continuum. Maybe your summer was hot, smelly, filled with subway rats, public urination, and unsexy drug experiments. Perhaps you were so miserable that you also ripped through the space-time continuum.
Perhaps all the differences are irrelevant, as we all end up in the same place: the internet. This is where Hot Girl Summer was born via a tweet and where it is currently fading out, but will likely be revived next spring. We share parts of ourselves on the internet because it’s where we can post them. The internet is a place we turn to for inspiration, validation, and things to strive for. It’s a place that can be accessed for everything that we need, and it’s incredibly and frighteningly easy to provide them. Hot Girl Summer 2021 has been possible because of the increased online activity. Sometimes a Hot Girl Summer can still be just a Summer, and sometimes it is just a shitty Summer. It’s a season that is a cliche at the core – sometimes true, but not a given and almost always uncomfortable.