Anne’s Guide To The Best Summer Ever™

By Anne T. Donahue

Summer is here (officially – as of June 20, if we’re being specific), and I’ve already hit “great summer guide!” fatigue. It’s 2023, and by now, everything feels the same: we’re told to go to the beach, eat lunch outside, take a road trip, cover our faces in SPF and anything that makes it seem shiny. And reader, I refuse to comply.

This is the summer I want to evoke the magic of the past. I want to go into the season with the determination of the Now & Then characters trying to solve Dear Johnny’s murder. I want to buy a large, inflatable flamingo floatation device and take it to restaurants and explain to my concerned server that it is my son. I want to eat ceviche without having to learn how to make ceviche. I want to be simultaneously so bored and happy that I forget that I have problems for a gorgeous ten minutes.

And reader, this guide is how I’ll get us there.

1. Re-commit to your adolescent/teenage diet
I cannot stress this enough: we were right to consume Kool-Aid with abandon. We weren’t wrong to keep stashes of Freezies and Popsciles at arm’s length. KD for lunch? What’s the matter with that? When I think about summer foods, my adult self may gravitate towards seafood and baby shower sandwiches (plus macaroni and potato salads), but the true joy of summer eating exists in what I used to feast on in the midst of complaining that there was nothing to do.

I want Kraft Dinner. PB&J. Any sandwich meat, if we’re being honest, because sandwiches are a perfect meal. Give me pizza. Fries? Yes. When I was 15 and finally making my own money, I spent a whopping $6 on cookie dough and icing and ate them while sitting on a curb outside of my home. Would I do that again? Absolutely not, I got incredibly ill. But I want to have fun with food in the same way I did while stuffing my face with hotdogs and cucumbers. I want to be psyched for my lunch, eat it way too fast, and then do it all over again at dinner. Get your green smoothies out of my face.

2. Sitting around
Did you just recoil at these words? Terrific – they’re for you, specifically. Friend, we took for granted the hours we spent doing absolutely nothing when we were growing up. “I’m bored!” is a complaint I would pay cold, hard cash to make again without the nagging guilt attached to knowing I have to clean/do work/do homework/do anything I’ve been putting off since January (which is most things). Therefore, I have a proposal: take a minute and sit around. Just sit. Sit on the step. Sit outside. Sit on a bench. Sit and merely exist, exercising your brain only to ponder whether or not you should go back inside and come out with a pint of ice cream. Take a goddamn load off. And do it for free: we had no money when we were kids, and most of us don’t have any money now. Sitting comes for free.

3. Solve a cold case
This comes from years of watching Now & Then on repeat, but truly those four children had the right idea. Yet while we eventually all found out that Dear Johnny died under terrible circumstances, the foursome still left a few stones unturned: a.k.a. who ripped out the newspaper clippings about Dear Johnny’s death from the archives at the Shelby library? (Seriously: who did that? Why would they do that? He died in the wake of a break and enter – it’s not a conspiracy.) Why is Sam’s grandmother so unhinged? (I am her.) Why is Janine Garofalo using Tarot cards to figure out how somebody died? (That’s not how they work.) Is Sam’s mom willing to lend me her clothes? Why were the girls so blinded by hate that they couldn’t acknowledge that Devon Sawa was a babe when he was obviously such a babe? These are the questions that keep me up at night and the kind that you can solve to make this summer the best one yet.

4. Seriously just put your phone on silent and let it rest
Our phones are so tired. They don’t deserve what we’ve put them through. They weren’t designed to be our friends. It’s weird that we hold them so tightly, often just stroking their flat faces as a means of feeling connected to anybody, to anything.

Obviously, I’m not anti-phone because I live on the internet and also in the year 2023, but this is the summer I will leave my phone in my bag, put it on silent, and just leave it alone already. I hate when people preach about “being in the moment,” but man alive, were we ever more present when we were concerned only with our immediate surroundings as they existed? You know who cared about what other people were up to when we were young and naïve? Not us! The best part of going anywhere as a small, wee, tiny infant was the “what if?” component of maybe running into somebody you wanted to se because you had no idea they were away at their cottage all summer, kissing some girl they’d brag about when school started in September. (Whatever, Steve, I smiled at a boy at the corner store who absolutely thought something was wrong with me, and it was fine.) Bring back the mystery. I don’t want to know what any of you are doing, I just want to casually see you when I’m not prepared so I can analyze it with my friends for six to 14 months.

5. In the same realm as “sitting around,” but add a person
After spending roughly four years in complete isolation (or whatever), there are no words for the type of excitement I feel in my soul when I have plans with a friend. And let me be clear: these plans are not “exciting.” We’re not going on a trip, we’re not doing anything my 20-something self would think was cool, but we are absolutely a) eating dinner and/or any meal, and b) running errands and/or wandering around and/or committing to hanging out for as many hours as possible because we can.

I know I’ve spent many a-summer trying to jam-pack the season with things that would seem exciting, but goddamn, I love a dinner date. I love eating dinner with a friend, talking about everything we can possibly think about, then leaving to go home and revel in the glory of having a really solid pal. When I think about my favourite summer memories, they’re never ones rooted in big events or life-changing experiences, they’re the ones my friends and I hung out with absolutely no need to expand beyond that. We sat in air-conditioned spaces. We sat outside. We sat at East Side Mario’s in the mall, eating our weight in bread. We sat half-watching movies, mostly roasting Brad Pitt’s Interview with a Vampire hair.

This is the summer we all deserve, and the type we can actually recapture with just a small commitment to laziness (and, if you have children, introducing them to the same concept, but maybe with more Freezies). This summer I want to accomplish absolutely nothing, brag about nothing, attend next to nothing. I simply want food, chairs, and time spent with people I like.

After figuring out who ripped out that damn newspaper page.

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, top story, topstory

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