Every smart girl knows that when the flip-flops and sundresses come out, summer romance isn't far behind. Whether you plan on a different date for every warm night of the week or to go Grease style and have a sizzling summer fling, here are some tips to stay safe and satisfied this summer. (As for staying cool -- you're on your own there!)
1. Brush up on your Hookup manners: Studies and generations of experience say there's nothing wrong with sex without the expectation of relationship, but there is a wrong way to do it. Make sure you lay out the expectations before hopping into bed -- how far both people are willing to go, if and when there will be morning-after contact, and whether or not to keep it on the down low. Make sure to ask if photos of you together on Facebook and tweets about how much fun you're having are a thumbs up or down.
2. Get Yourself Tested: Cue bikini season and the rush to make sure "down there" is ready for its close up! Why not make sure all is rosy "in there," as well? Getting tested for STI's and HIV is easy and, often, free. Use this tool to find a clinic in your area. If you're with a partner, take them along and if you're flying solo, take a friend -- there's no better way to prep for summer fun than knowing you're safe and healthy.
3. Get your Condoms/BC/EC: Speaking of being safe, the start of summer is the perfect time to take stock of your contraception and prevention options. If your condom stash has been around for a while -- or if you've ever left it in your car or languishing in your purse -- throw it out and get new ones. It's also a good time to stock up on emergency contraception just in case an "oops moment" happens during a summer hookup. There's a one-pill EC called Plan B® One Step that can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex (but the sooner you take it, the better it works), and if you're 17 or older, you can get it right at the pharmacy counter without a prescription. Keep a box in your medicine cabinet (or even in your beach bag) so there's no panic should you need it.
4. Text Before Sex: You've met Mr. Hottie and you're hopping in his convertible to head back to his place. Send a quick text to a trusted friend with your date's name and address so someone will know where you are. Also remember that the summer rays can get you dehydrated -- READ: drunker -- more quickly than usual, so drink water between every alcoholic beverage and keep in mind your inhibitions may be lower than you think. If you're too tipsy to walk easily, you probably need to take a rain check on hopping in the sack. If your catch is at all worth your time, tomorrow will be just as good as today!
5. Find your Passion: The beach and the bar aren't the only place to meet your summer fling. Spend time doing what you're passionate about, whether it's volunteering at the animal shelter, riding in a charity bike race, or heading down to the Big Easy to help with the oil spill clean-up. Chances are the people you meet will have similar interests, so strike up a conversation and see if the sparks fly. An after-work happy hour can lead to dinner, which can lead ... well, practically anywhere!
6. Focus on YOU: Summer fun is all about living in the moment but we all know winter -- and the real world -- will creep up in no time. Use the free time to figure out what you want to accomplish by this time next year. Want to study abroad next spring? Start the process by deciding where you want to go and how you'll pay for it, then pick up a couple of language books to study while sitting by the pool. It's a great time to try outdoor yoga or learn to roller blade or DJ, and none of these things has to be done solo! Instead of the same ol' dinner and drinks, use summer dating as a chance to try new things!
Follow Shelby Knox on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ShelbyKnox