ah, summer.  sweet, humid, vapid summer…season of sunny delight.  if all our cultural, seasonal stereotypes marched off to high school together, summer’d get to be head cheerleader.

except this summer has been kicking my ass like some kind of sadistic personal trainer, instead.  without me even getting a single toned ab in the process.

our household is emerging from an entire month of miserableness and poxplagues and coughing the night away. i’m working the full forty-plus hours a week for the first time since oh, about 1998, and full-blast, since the project i manage was three months late getting funded and still needs to be ready to launch in schools come September…plus there’s this impish wee boy who comes home every evening and has learned something new and i’m smitten and need some full-blast left to go to the park after supper and make sure he doesn’t actually eat those whiteboard markers he so enjoys extricating from my bag. and everyone i know, plus their dog, has come to visit over the past three weeks.

what i’ve seen of summer basically amounts to a few evening promenades, about three mosquito bites, and an attempted trip to the beach that resulted in me trying to Febreze the scent of Oscar’s vomit out of the back of the car.  the rest? has been spent frantically juggling.
i don’t know how to stretch myself a whole lot further. i am a haggard poster child for “needs a summer vacation.”

but if i had five or ten straight days off, to bask in sunbeams and drink mojitos, what would i likely do? (other than get my child to the beach with a sandpail and Gravol, of course). i’d spend it on the internet, catching up on all the conversations and life changes i’ve missed while summer’s been holding me captive from my online community.

yep.  if i could save time in a bottle, dear internets, i’d huddle inside with my laptop and  spend it with you.

now, culturally, that desire represents a heinous abomination.

because summer is the time to unplug.  in pop culture, summer seems to signify some glorious release space from the grind of everyday life…it’s carefree time, outdoor time, relaxing time, all set to some Beach Boys song or the soundtrack from Grease. and it’s eternally sunny, but without humidity or skin cancer.  this version of summer doesn’t have rain.  it’s a simulacra, a copy of a cultural childhood memory that never really existed in the first place except in pastiche, all the best pieces from a hundred zillion sources, distilled…but that only makes it more powerful.  i may never, ever, in my life have spent a summer wiping the sand from my browning shoulders at a cottage by a lake…but i still hearken to the siren song of that image.  and i can still smell the suntan lotion on my imaginary skin and covet the freedom to do that much nothing with my day.

and yet…and yet…the idea of going unplugged for a week makes me shudder.

because much as i wouldn’t mind pulling the plug on the work email for awhile, and could live happily without deadlines, no number of umbrella drinks by a pool or glassy waterskiing surfaces can replace the play i get to revel in out here in the blogosphere, websurfing.  this girl, in reality, can only handle so much sand in the crack of her bathing suit, and nothing bores me faster than lying in the sun wondering if my pasty flesh shouldn’t get covered, already.

the cultural fantasy of summer is built on the premise that trading routine for some version of sun-drenched reclining and pampering is the ultimate in relaxation.  if that vision did once reflect the dream of us teeming masses, it may need some reinvention, and soon.

because my new Summer 2.0  fantasy model involves a cottage with wireless.  while i’d love to be freed from the regular grind of work and laundry and traffic so i could check out shells on a beach with Oscar for a week, and watch the stars come out and build bonfires and practice my breaststroke, part of what it means to me to ‘relax’, now, is to commune with you all.  to enter this virtual room of my own, and track an infinite number of stories.  if i had infinite time to comment and engage and pontificate and giggle, too…whilst reclining in a hammock with an icy pina colada?  i might think i’d died and gone to heaven.

but Oscar?  yeh.  um.  see, i want him to come to this fantasy cottage without too many electronic games or DVDs or whatever plugged-in gadgets and necessities his older self might deem necessary in this fantasy world of summers-t0-come-where-i-actually-get-a-vacation.  yeh.  double standard.  but there’s a whole world of nature out there to discover, you  know?!?  sigh.

what does “unplugged” mean to you?  is it an unnatural state only tolerated due to the power outages following summer lightning storms?  or would you retreat to a cabin by the sea for months at a time if you could, and eschew electricity for the beauties of nature alone?  do you think there’s a sea change coming in what it means, culturally, to relax?  does ‘getting away from it all’, for you, involve getting away from teh internets too?

what’s the longest you’ve ‘unplugged’ for over the past couple of years?


this is cross-posted at BlogRhet, where we could use some nice bland innocuous commentary at the moment. :)  bring yours on over there, if you will.