The last episode of season eight of “Seinfeld” begins with George learning that the Yankees have given him a three-month severance package. He declares that he’s going to live the next three months to the fullest. He’ll read a book “from beginning to end. In that order.” He’ll play Frisbee golf. “This is gonna be my time,” he declares. “Time to taste the fruits and let the juices drip down my chin. I proclaim this: the Summer of George!”
Setting intentions for summer is the low-stress, seasonal version of a New Year’s resolution. Summer is, or so we imagine, a blank canvas for aspiration. Unlike its punishing correlative (see: “the winter of our discontent”), summer contains the causes and conditions for living footloose and frivolously. Megan Thee Stallion ushered in the notion of the “Hot Girl Summer” with her 2019 song, which led to the hopeful but mostly unrealized “hot vax summer” of 2021. Sometimes a marketing campaign manages to appropriate naming rights — remember the summer of the Aperol spritz?
“Call it a collision between micro-trends and Mother Nature,” my colleague Callie Holtermann writes in The Times today of efforts to brand the season. Any eccentric pattern can become a designation: “‘Sharknado,’ Cronut … Is This the Summer of the Neolexic Portmanteau?” Slate asked in 2013. Hayley Phelan instructed Times readers on ways to make the summer of 2018 the summer of missing out, introducing the concept of JOMO (J for joy), FOMO’s “benevolent cousin.”
In branding summer, we relinquish some of the season’s intoxicating agency: Is it caftan summer? Then we know what we’re wearing. Margarita summer? There’s our drink order. My friend Natalie recently declared 2023 her “steamed shrimp drenched in Old Bay” summer. My friend Sarah claims she’s observing an “I’m not showering” summer. (I hope she’s kidding.)
I’m intrigued by the practice of historicizing our lives in real time, of giving our eras keywords and themes, containers in which to grow. Years as numbers seep into one another; branded eras maintain distinction. The more specific, the more memorable: This is the summer of taking the scenic route. Of swimming in lakes. The summer of dessert for dinner, the summer of saying “I’ll think about it.” The summer of thinking about it.
Why recruit a three-month period for branding? “For one, there’s the tantalizing possibility of calling it right,” Callie writes. But, as George found out after proclaiming the Summer of George, there’s also the danger of getting it wrong: His big plans go awry and he ends the summer in a hospital bed, lamenting the season that wasn’t. The lesson seems to be to keep your intentions manageable, and not to get too attached to the outcome.
What will this be the summer of for you? Tell me. Include your full name and location, and I might include your response in a future edition of The Morning.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
???? “Street Fighter 6” (Out now): I spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours playing “Street Fighter 2” as a teenager and despite all that practice, I remained hapless, mashing buttons and occasionally busting out a “shoryuken” uppercut. Luckily for these old-man hands, the latest entry in the series simplifies the controls and introduces a single-player mode.
???? “All the Sinners Bleed” (Tuesday): A Black sheriff in a rural Virginia town named Charon is on the trail of a killer. I’ll give it over to Stephen King here, who says in his review of this S.A. Cosby novel that “what sets this one apart, what gives it both grit and texture, is its unerring depiction of small-town rural life and the uneasy (and sometimes violent) interactions between Charon’s white and Black citizens.”
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Grilled Za’atar Chicken
Have you uncovered your grill yet? A terrific dish to start the season is my grilled za’atar chicken. The herby yogurt, spiked with garlic and loads of lemon, is used as both marinade and sauce, making the chicken especially piquant and tender. If you don’t have a grill, the chicken is just as good cooked in the broiler until the edges turn brown and crisp. Serve it with pita or another kind of flatbread, and a big, crunchy vegetable salad. Then put it on repeat all summer long.
A morning listen: They dated for three years. One of them forgot it all.
Floral jewelry and natural ceramics: Try these recommendations from T magazine.
Cycle tracking: Syncing periods to workouts is becoming popular. But does it work?
Binge eating disorder: It’s the most common eating disorder in the U.S., but it is often overlooked.
Tick bites and heatstroke: Do you know how to survive summer hazards? Take our quiz.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Keep mosquitoes away
Trying to stay bug-bite-free as warm weather arrives? Here’s a tip: Citronella does little to deter mosquitoes. To keep them away from your deck or patio, get a spatial repellent. These devices work like a diffuser to vaporize liquid repellent into the air, creating an odorless, bug-free zone. After 65 hours of testing, Wirecutter experts recommend the Thermacell E90. Its rechargeable nine-hour battery lasts long enough to keep a 300-square-foot area mosquito-free for your entire barbecue. And you don’t have to slather yourself in sticky spray. — Elissa Sanci
Denver Nuggets vs. Miami Heat, Game 2 of the N.B.A. Finals: The Heat will be looking to bounce back after a Game 1 loss in which they looked outmatched. But it won’t be easy: The Nuggets have been among the league’s best teams all year, fueled by the star play of the two-time M.V.P. Nikola Jokic. No playoff opponent has given Denver much trouble, and virtually everyone paying attention expects the team to win its first championship. Still, the Heat, a No. 8 seed, have been underestimated throughout the playoffs. And when Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Caleb Martin are hot, they’re a dangerous duo. 8 p.m. Eastern tomorrow on ABC.