Welcome to summer, time of vacations and summer flings! I was on vacation in Florida with friends (hence, no post for a stupidly long time). I ended up talking with the three other adults who I went with about our experiences as teenagers on vacation. Our experiences ran the gamut – from flings on every vacation to no flings on any of the vacations. In addition to these retrospectives, there were also plenty of teenagers to sit back and watch in their flings – or lack thereof – on the beach.
From our conversations and watching the young folk on the beach, it’s clear that many young people do have flings during their vacations. It might be that some of the young people who do not have flings wish they did, but there are plenty more who never even think twice about the prospect. Vacations for these young people are exclusively family-focused affairs.
Vacation flings can range from more emotional connection and no physical connection to an exclusively sexual experience. They can last a weekend, or a week, or several weeks. Some of them are remembered and some are forgotten.
But what’s the point of these little affairs? Are they essentially good or harmful for teenagers? Should parents encourage them or discourage them?
As I have mentioned before, teenagers are in a place where they are discovering who they are, who they want to be, and how much choice they really have in the matter. To go through this process, most teenagers need to experience themselves in a variety of situations and acting in a variety of ways. It’s a healthy thing for them to date around and learn what kind of a partner they want to have.
Vacations often offer a safe place to experiment. The relationship is generally, by circumstance, limited in length. If the match is not a beneficial one, the parents (and the teenager) can take solace in it ending shortly. The teenager can experience a different side, a different personality, a different kind of relationship, with a firm expiration date attached. If the teenager likes this new sense of self, it can be brought back home, but if the teenager does not like the new sense of self, it can be discarded and left behind. Very convenient, no?
There are, of course, potential downsides to vacation flings. As with all attachments, hurt feelings, broken hearts, and poor choices, as well as the occasional, and more dramatic, unplanned pregnancies and STDs are always a possibility.
But most often, vacation flings are learning experiences. Parental awareness and involvement (within limits) can enhance the experience for the parents and reduce the potential for problems for the young person. So as with any person their teenager is interested in, parents should get to know a vacation fling, invite them along for dinner for example, as well as giving the two times to be alone on the beach or at the pool or on a hike.
Hopefully I will manage to get back to my computer before another two and a half weeks are up, but I make no promises on how regular posting will be until my kids return to school in late August!
Something important that you didn’t mention about flings… sometimes flings are one of the only places that the teen can FIND people who are interested in them. I grew up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania and was the “loser” kid in my high school. A number of my peers picked on me mercilessly, and the others stood idly by watching. Even the peers that left me alone or were somewhat friendly to me… they knew that to date me would me utter social ostracism and exposing themselves to brutal verbal and emotional abuse. In short… I HAD no one to date in HS. I found the few partners I had during that period over the Internet.
But on summer vacation, I would sometimes have the rare opportunity to meet up with people who didn’t know my social status back home. These “flings” for me usually only lasted a day or so, or perhaps even a few hours (before I had to go), but to meet someone who was interested in me, who would kiss me, who actually LIKED me… it was wonderful. And you know, I didn’t even think about these people until now, but I still have them in my mind, the boys that liked me for who I was and that kissed me oh so yummy!
I was wondering where you were, Karen, and as usual, your blog today brought up some wonderful new thinking for me. Reading the above comment has also prompted some memories. I remember, during the summer before my senior year in high school, having a fling with an out-of-town boy who was vacationing at a resort area near my home. He was a college boy, very sweet, and we had a great connection for, what? A few days perhaps. I remember going to his hotel room and changing my clothes for my senior picture. We didn’t have sex, but we must have kissed. It was exciting, adventurous, and gave me a small taste of the larger world (he being from the Pittsburgh area and in college, while I was from rural Ohio). It was all good. My mom didn’t have a clue, as I had shut her out of any involvement years before when she made it clear her only response to me with boys would be negative and punitive. We learn so much about ourselves through our relationships, as you so aptly pointed out, not only as young people, but all our lives.
I could also relate to the other commenter about meeting people outside my high school community could be so freeing…I could be whomever I chose. I hope there are more comments on this issue. I’d love to hear more stories about vacation flings.
C4bl3Fl4m3, I had the same experience in high school! Well said about the fears of social ostracism of potential dates. I never had summer flings myself since my parents never let me out of their sight, but I did relish the general freedom from my social status.
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