Not like the movies: Your summer romance and how to handle it this fall term

The chemistry that brews between lovers during the summer has been the fodder for an endless number of novels, songs and cinema. The magic of getting lost in another person and breathing new passion into a slow summer has roots in real life, but also in expectations that bud from …

The chemistry that brews between lovers during the summer has been the fodder for an endless number of novels, songs and cinema. The magic of getting lost in another person and breathing new passion into a slow summer has roots in real life, but also in expectations that bud from Hollywood dreams.

The sudden ease brought on after spring term ends can open up the opportunity to present your best self to someone else. Add a lack of responsibility within a certain time constraint, and suddenly you’re living in the moment.

In July, University of Oregon senior Courtney Capelle went to Taylor’s Bar & Grill with her friends. While she said she’s not someone who is stopped in her tracks often, this warm summer night held the exception.

“He was standing across the bar. I made eyes but not too much. I went up to the bar alone. I really tried to make myself available, but I wasn’t ready to make the first move either,” Capelle said.

Just a quickly as Capelle noticed him, he had disappeared and her friends wanted to go to a different bar to dance. She said a mental goodbye to the mystery man and walked across the street to Webfoot.

Capelle danced and drank with her friends until the clock ticked close to two in the morning.

“Everyone was about to leave because the bar was closing,” Capelle said. “But then I feel this tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was him.”

According to University of Oregon senior Hailey Cowlthorp, a summer romance is a short, low risk fling with many expectations — most of which come from the portrayal of such relationships in the movies. The cinematic moment Capelle experienced on the dance floor with the mysterious stranger was exactly what she meant.

Cowlthorp says she remembers watching movies about summer romance in disbelief when she was younger. “I thought that was so crazy,” she said. “I didn’t think that I would ever find somebody that I would only see for three months and then never see again. Until I was in that position. It’s not only this thing where you love this person and you’re not going to see them ever again. It’s a decision to not see them again.”

Making that decision can be difficult. Sometimes a relationship just might not turn out to be what it was at the start — a chance you have to take to find out, according to Cowlthorp. This notion extends outside the confines of starting a relationship in the summer, and can be true for anyone.

“In the books and movies you see, they end up falling in love eventually,” Cowlthorp said. “But that’s not always the case.”

A whirlwind connection can’t weather the storm if it’s one that functions under the assumption that you’re going to be able to focus on the relationship all the time.

When thinking through the post-summer discussion with her partner, Cowlthorp says she starts with a single task — she creates a priority list and then makes a plan. She asks herself, “Do I see myself continuing a relationship with this person? Do I want to put in as much effort into this as I am, now that I have school and work full-time?”

Cowlthorp and her summer fling decided to move slowly into the school year and set a date to check in again later with the hope of deciding whether or not they want to be a couple.

Climbing out of the summer fling limbo starts with yourself. Capelle says to start with knowing what you want before pressing someone else for answers.

“If your thoughts are clear, the conversation will be too,” Capelle said when asked how to start the conversation. She encourages moving forward with empathy because, in her experience, sometimes honesty is perceived as confrontation even when it’s simply an effort to not get lost in limbo with someone.

Looking back at that summer night on the dance floor, Capelle said, “That moment was like the movies. I remember thinking, ‘Did I just meet my Prince Charming?’”

“No,” she said. “It was just the heat of the summer. It’s the end that isn’t like the movies.”

Photojournalist and Sex and Relationships columnist

Dana is a photojournalist specializing in long-format storytelling — particularly regarding gender and social justice topics. She is the Daily Emerald Sex and Relationships columnist. This is her third year at the Emerald.