So long, summer fling--it's been sweaty

In the old days (read: fifth grade), the last day at Camp Wabunsee meant it was time to let go of your true summer love. Fortunately, boys have gotten a lot better at kissing since then. Unfortunately, dumping your summer fling has gotten a lot more complicated.

The time has come to put away all things sweaty, sandy and summery and face reality. Gone are the days of spending eight solid hours crammed up against thousands of other slightly drunken folks at North Avenue beach, and your fair-weather romance must depart as well. Otherwise, [bleep] is going to get weird.

Drawing from my considerable summer flight experience, I’ve drawn up five steps to help ease your transition back into singledom. Crack that leftover Corona Light and listen up.

Step 1—Admit that it was a summer fling. Ask yourself this question: Do you feel like you’ve been on vacation with a really lovely person, but now it’s time to go home and sleep in your own bed? Get out immediately.

Step 2—Be honest if you want the situation to become something more permanent. The summer fling that turns into true love is kind of like the one-night stand that turns into a perfect outdoor barn wedding: It’s something that happens to your Facebook friend but is pretty rare, especially if distance is involved. But if you feel like this is the one, go for it. In my humble opinion, love is the only thing worth risking time, energy and sanity for, even if it involves awkward Skype sex dates and draining your bank account for cross-country plane tickets.

That said, usually there’s a reason you called it a summer fling. He’s trying to get his life together, you hate the way he chews gum, he has an alcohol problem, etc. If you’re having doubts, refer to Step 1.

Step 3—Don’t say goodbye until you have to, but then say it firmly. This one is the hardest for me. I tend to overthink the goodbye, planning epic poems months in advance. Don’t do this. Saying goodbye to someone who has become a temporary fixture in your awesome, warmth-filled summer is hard, like packing away your cute flowy dresses. Just remember that new seasons and relationships will come.

Step 4—Be OK with your emotions. I’m overdramatic, so I tend to feel all of the feels. Let yourself go through the experience—it might help to write things down or talk it out. Even though you miss your fling, it doesn’t mean he needs to stay in your life.

Step 5—Be grateful for your fling. Your summer brought you someone who filled your time, taught yousomething new, made you orgasm on a beach, taught you how to use a power drill, made you fancy pancakes—someone who temporarily added to your life.

Summer flings are unexpected, and sometimes we don’t know what to do with these gifts from the universe. Often, summer flings are not what we were looking for. We wanted a life partner, or we wanted just a casual sex buddy, or we wanted just to be alone and binge-watch “Battlestar Galactica” with our cats.

Instead we got summer lovin,’ which maybe was exactly what we needed all along. In my case, I got back hope: hope that winter ends; hope that wonderful, sexy people exist and will get naked with me; and hope that love is possible.

Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.