By: Jenny Foughner
What is it about summer that so emphatically screams “find a fling”? The warm weather? The short shorts? The feeling that school’s out and you’re finally free (even if you work 80 hours a week and haven’t attended class in nearly a decade)? Perhaps it’s just the concept of ‘summer love,’ that breezy, simple type of romance that starts with some innocent hand-holding and ends by getting busy down in the sa-ha-haaaand (see: Grease; see also: From Here to Eternity, LFO’s “Summer Girls”). I suppose it also has something to do with biology, as so many of these things do; no doubt your fit caveman forefathers felt similarly randy once the tundra thawed, albeit with a bit more grunting and far less hair gel.
With a dearth of major holidays and an abundance of opportunities to bump into sexy strangers, summer is the perfect season to start a romance. Long days and balmy nights provide just the type of meteorological foreplay that makes it possible for you to seal the deal with only minimal effort, so I’ve compiled for you a list of warm-weather dates so laughably easy to execute that you might think I’ve lost my otherwise-hard-assed romantic marbles. But that’s the joy of women, isn’t it? We are impossible to understand yet surprisingly easy to impress, especially when we’re feeling tan, sexy and scantily clad.
Have a Picnic in the Park
Eating outdoors is exceedingly romantic, especially, for some unknown reason, when it involves a blanket on the grass. The beauty of a picnic is twofold: one, it takes exactly 15 minutes to plan, and two, your table doubles as your boudoir, should your lusty lady be so moved by your romantic tendencies that she asks for dessert. Anything goes on a picnic menu, so grab a baguette and an assortment of fruit, meat and cheese, pre-made salads/ sandwiches from the local deli, or boxed picnic dinners from your favorite restaurant, then pick a semi-shady outdoor spot (don’t forget to check the area for trash, poop, and other unsavory décor before you plop down) and let the magic unfold.
Remember the essentials: a blanket (or two); a nice bottle of wine (Riesling and Gewürztraminer are good choices for summer); assorted foodstuffs; cups, plates, napkins, corkscrew, and utensils.
Include for extra credit: a few pillows to “lounge” on post-meal; a massage; a funny book, MadLibs or some other source of portable entertainment.
Sip Champagne at Sunset
Sunsets are the stuff of love poems and Ethan Hawke films, and as such, symbolize being swept off one’s feet in the best way possible. A successful sunset viewing is comprised of a good vantage point (research this in advance for the best results) and a festive, bubbly beverage. That’s all! So simple. It’s the kind of date that should feel spontaneous, so while you can (and should) research your locale in advance, you might want to wait until the mood strikes and the timing’s right to spring to action. If you’re feeling motivated, though, you can plan an evening picnic, pop some champagne and hope for a scenic sunset, thus creating a shock and awwwwww campaign of such romantic grandeur as your lady’s never seen before.
Remember the essentials: A good spot to sit and watch the sun set, which can be found by perusing open fields, beaches, rooftops, and other vista views in advance (or asking your friends); a bottle of champagne (champagne flutes optional – sometimes it’s more romantic to drink straight out of the bottle, you know).
Include for extra credit: strawberries to accompany the bubbly (they actually bring out the flavor of the champagne. They’ll also remind your date that you’re a master of seduction).
Take note: this is the only time I’ll advocate game-playing in a relationship, because these are the kind of games that strengthen rather than test your bond (and get you hot and sweaty in the process). A game of basketball, tennis, golf, volleyball, kickball, soccer, or other sporty miscellany qualifies as both exercise and quality together-time, making it an efficient way to kill two proverbial birds with one ball – er, stone. It also shows your lady that you’re health-conscious (and fit for other taxing activities). Just try not to gloat too much if you win.
Remember the essentials: a place in which to play your game (if you don’t belong to an athletic club, most city parks have tennis courts, soccer fields and baseball diamonds that are free to the public); whatever sporting equipment you need for your game; long enough shorts to avoid embarrassing yourself while running around.
Include for extra credit: if you’re out in the park, bring water bottles and towels for both you and your date; if you’re at the club, make an afternoon of it with a post-game visit to the spa, dip in the pool and/or a trip to the juice bar.
Take in an Outdoor Concert
Are we sensing a theme? Things that are fun indoors are automatically more fun and much more romantic outdoors, and live music is no exception. Don’t worry about getting tickets to the biggest event of the season; small classical or acoustic concerts are often more romantic than big festivals or sold-out rock shows because they allow you to relax and chat with your date. Plus, these concerts – which you can find no matter where you live by searching online, checking the local paper or looking at TimeOut or Metromix – are usually free, and they make you look cultured. Bonuses all around.
Remember the essentials: tickets, if you need them; picnic items (see above) if you’re attending a concert with lawn seating.
Include for extra credit: if you plan a few days in advance, you can research the music you’ll be hearing so you’ll have something to chat about before the show (a little bit of background knowledge is especially impressive when it comes to classical music).
Embark on an Afternoon Adventure
Summer is a time for road trips, but you don’t have to commit to a weeklong excursion in order to have an adventure. Look for towns under 100 miles away from where you live that boast some sort of historical significance or interesting attraction (even if that interesting attraction is the world’s largest ball of twine). There are countless websites and books devoted to off-the-beaten-path adventures, so a quick Google search for ‘unique tourist attractions’ or ‘offbeat road trips’ should yield a bunch of good results. For a guaranteed good time, head to a nearby vineyard or brewery for an afternoon tour with a side of cheap drunk.
Remember the essentials: directions (spend some quality time a map before you head out, especially if you’re going to unknown territory); a full tank of gas; tunes to drive to; a sense of adventure (and freedom to stray from your original plan if necessary).
Include for extra credit: a few interesting stops along the way (famous roadside diners or wonders of the natural world work well) instead of one vague destination; chilled beverages to quench her thirst on long stretches of highway.
Throw a Barbecue for Two
FYI, barbecues aren’t just for beer, brats and your bros. This testosterone-fueled take on the traditional candlelit dinner is a lovely (if sneaky) way to welcome your new woman into your home without coming off as a creep; it’s also a way to show off your grill skill and wow your date with your raging manliness. I’ll take a loveburger well-done, please.
Remember the essentials: whatever food you enjoy grilling most, especially if it’s a self-proclaimed specialty (women love men who own their skills); a few sides, pre-made if you don’t feel like a Top Chef; a six-pack of (nice) beer or bottle of whatever wine goes best with your main course; plenty of candles or outdoor lanterns, with which the nice people at Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel, or Ikea will be glad to assist you.
Include for extra credit: a mellow playlist, played through outdoor speakers or an iPod dock; dessert from your favorite bakery.
Go for a Hike in the Woods
Enjoy the Great Outdoors together with a hike through the wilderness (and in this case, ‘wilderness’ can be a park or the Redwood Forest), complete with stunning vistas (casually put your arm around her as you gaze at nature), potential peril (protect her valiantly from over-eager bunnies) and the endorphins that accompany outdoor exercise. If either of you have dogs, bring them along; it’s a great way to show her your affection for cuddly creatures, hopefully followed by some cuddling of your own.
Remember the essentials: a good pair of hiking boots; a backpack with water, trail mix and sun block (you’re so prepared!); if you aren’t familiar with hiking trails in your area, make sure to bring a map (and don’t’ stray too far from the path lest you embarrass yourself or become the subject of a Lifetime original movie).
Include for extra credit: your (or your friend’s) lovable pooch pal; a camera to take pics of your lady and remind her that you want to gaze at her always (or at least for another few weeks).
Use Your Home Field Advantage
Baseball season is upon us, and we ladies are just as excited about drinking beer and yelling at catchers under the sweltering summer sun as you are. If you and your date are sports fans, spend the afternoon at the ball park and get in the winning spirit together, all the while masking your afternoon cocktail habit with “enthusiasm” and “sportsmanship”.
Remember the essentials: tickets, bought in advance (haggling with scalpers is the sort of thing you do only after you’ve been dating someone for a while), preferably in a part of the stadium with actual seats (the bleachers lose their luster after college).
Include for extra credit: a jersey or baseball cap for your girl, to help her get in the spirit of the game.
Take a Midnight Dip
There’s no better way to cool off on a sweltering evening than with a dip in the water, clothes optional. This is another one of those “spur-of-the-moment” dates (a la our aforementioned champagne super-sunset), but it’s a good one to keep in your back pocket – at least until your back pocket comes off and you run into the water in your birthday suit – for the inevitable night when you and your date have no plans but want to enjoy the weather… and each other.
Remember the essentials: the optimal skinny dip spot is one that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, so if you don’t have a private pool handy, find a spot at the lake or ocean that’s away from parking lots and cop-patrolled areas. Part of the fun (might) be getting caught, though, so don’t worry too much about being a rebel.
Include for extra credit: extra-plush towels to warm her up post-swim; a bag to stash your clothes in so as not to lose your drawers.
Teach her Some Astronomy
Summer stargazing gives you a triple-shot of romance: warm night breezes, the cover of darkness and an overwhelming sense that we are but tiny specs floating in the vast expanse of the universe. You may only be able to identify one star, and that star may or may not be part of Orion’s belt, but in ten minutes of internet research you can learn enough to come off looking like a (cool) NASA scientist. Then you can distract your date with whatever it is you’re actually good at.
Remember the essentials: a spot with a clear view of the sky (head out of the city to see the most stars); a blanket; cursory knowledge of the stars and planets.
Include for extra credit: an extra blanket or oversized sweatshirts to guard against chilly nights; a pillow to guard against not being able to lie down and contemplate the universe together.