Washington - "Summer fling, don't mean a thing," Danny Zuko sings in Grease as he pops the collar on his leather jacket, bragging to his friends about hooking up with Sandy Olsson.
Their summer fling is thrilling, intense, a chance to date someone outside their usual social circle. It seems fleeting at first, but gee whiz - it actually works out for these two! As the movie ends, the couple drives off into the clouds and their friends down below croon about how "we'll always be together."
Grease's songs are still infectious, but the story is several generations out of date. Danny and Sandy met in a fictional 1958; the film was released in 1978. Back then, a fling was an exciting break from a reality where committing at a young age was common.
Now, however, flings abound. You don't need to happen upon a cute lifeguard or carry a watermelon into a rousing party in the Catskills to find one. All you have to do is hop on a dating app.
Wherever you are, someone is always in town for just a little while - travelling, interning, trying to get their life together - and short-term romance is no longer a break from routine. In the Tinder era, it is the routine. As a result, the summer fling has become more tiresome than thrilling - yet another relationship that'll inevitably cool off and leave you burned.
That summer glow can be deceiving. It seems like the perfect time to enjoy a few steamy nights. People are staying out later, relaxing more, wearing less. You meet people you wouldn't normally - the girl at camp, the guy by the hotel pool.
Serendipity is an aphrodisiac. "The novelty of a summer experience will drive up the dopamine in the brain and make you more susceptible to falling in love with a person," says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and expert on love.
"You're playing with fire," Fisher says, because even casual relationships can spark serious feelings. "You can go into what you think is just going to be a fling, and sure enough, at the end of the summer the person disappears, you disappear - and you're left with one of the most powerful feelings on Earth."
It is possible to find a fling that lasts. Back at the bar, just a few tables from Freed and Raps is Jesse Crane, 25, with a man who was supposed to be just a Memorial Day weekend thing two years ago. Tonight, they're celebrating their engagement.
Months after Raps's summer fling strayed before her eyes, he called her to apologize. "I was probably a rebound," she says of their time together. A rebound may be only acceptable way to have a meaningless summer fling, she says.
But how often are two people both looking for a rebound at the same time? Now that's a boardwalk game with tough odds.The Washington Post