When I think of summer, I normally envision the vain and buoyant happenings that are included in Gossip Girl novels. Vacations on ritzy sandy beaches. Bikinis. Olive, tanned skin--tawny, they call it. Summer art festivals. Cocktails and walks and shopping and sunglasses. Toenails freshly clad with shades of magenta and "Are You Red-y?" Disposal flip-flops. Photographs that reflect sun drops and dew from the moist air.
Glitzy, glam, tan. Teenage girls are irriguous with summertime daydreams. They read these sexually-saturated, fashionably corrupted books and want hot and humid Manhattan nearby. They want Missoni tapestry-print bikinis. Sarongs. Mango-colored beach towels. They want a prince from the Upper East Side, a golden-haired god with sun-kissed hair.
Sorry to burst your bubbles, princesses, but that be fiction.
To employ a double negative, I can't say that I do not want the above list, either. However, it's quite illogical, given that Iowa is, first of all, landlocked. Our sand beaches are dark, littered with a few pieces of trash and found along the state's murky, cold lakes. Missoni bikinis are unheard of, as many of the individuals here would generally mispronounce the name. "Vursase?" they'll ask, instead of "Versace." Similarly, the short 'a' will resonate in "Dolsi & Guhbanna."
No, there will be no Missoni string bikinis here. Try Mossimo. Mossimo in varying shades of black, dark black and midnight black (all of which will be worn two sizes too small by the same slightly-overweight girls who read Gossip Girl). You won’t find us perusing the racks of Bergdorf’s, but arguing over how expensive Target beach-wraps are. We’ll buy them anyway, strolling impatiently through the automatic doors and into the humid Iowa air. Heat reverberates off the paved parking lot, and the hum of traffic on nearby I-80 drowns out the white noise of the fountainous “landscape.”
Our Manhattan is Omaha, "Gateway to the West." "Home of the College World Series." Forbes' "Best Bang For Your Buck City." “Steak City.”
There is no blue water here, only the ruddy Missouri, which is currently far beyond its banks, destroying homes and towns. We swim with ducks and geese and crappies, drying out our skin in itchy lake water. There is no sunset on the blue horizon to distract us. We tan with our tops on, avoid sunscreen and invite skin cancer. The boys are bronzed, but not from traipsing across waves in the East Hamptons. Here, the boys work. Hammer and pound and farm. They mow. Build. Saw. Drive. My cousin repairs roofs shirtless. My uncle, who resembles a Native American by the end of August, does not. Our boys and men may have sun-kissed hair, but they also have farmer tans.
Furthermore, unlike the sexually-stimulated, hot-mess atmosphere portrayed in teen novels, our summer can, thus far, be described as a flooded mess. A flooded disaster. Cool temperatures. Clouds. Muddled and muggy.
It can only get better.
It will be warmer, soon. Iowa may not be as bustling as Manhattan, but it can be just as sultry. And though we don’t crash parties at tacky Hampton nightclubs, we do host bonfires with live music.
I’m not a Gossip Girl. I’m just the spokeswoman. And though I may not have a designer bikini, I’ll still don it when I absorb the Rochester sunshine in a week. I’ll have a brightly-colored towel, sure, but I won’t be wasting time thinking about my next Aveda facial when I read time thinking about what I’m reading, be it Pulitzers, non-fictional language studies or junk teen novels. And I’ll have a boy there, too. He won’t be wearing Billabong shorts or be sporting a surfboard, but he’ll still smile and swim and canoe and laugh and drag me into the lake.
A small lake dimpled with turtles and duckweed, dew drops and sun-kissed mist.