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Life Lessons

Bro Summer Waits For Us All

Two men celebrate the July Fourth holiday on the Coney Island boardwalk in New York, one wearing a hot dog costume and the other in red, white and blue overalls.
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

A couple of years ago, I learned a little bit of science that immediately evolved into a cautionary tale. Years after its peak popularity, many men on the very staff of this website had begun dabbing ironically, throwing their arms up at random intervals. It was a joke, they promised. It was just silly. But then they kept doing it, and over time it seemed less and less like an ironic joke and more like ... something they just liked doing. The brain is a complicated, mysterious place filled with dark corners, but it cannot tell the difference between laughing at something you did ironically and laughing at something you genuinely like. The dabbing made them happy, and so they kept doing it.

Having learned this lesson secondhand, I decided to apply it to my own life: I would become a bro. I had needed to find a new way to exercise after the pandemic. My depression-riddled brain requires me to move my body lest it overtake me, and so I decided I would join a heavy weightlifting gym here in Philadelphia. I would simply go ironically! I would embody the bro lifestyle, culturally appropriate their happiness, and then I would become both swole and happy.

Very quickly, and surprisingly, this worked. It is both bullshit and absolute truth that exercise helps everyone's brain feel a little better. But the ironic-action-to-default-thought-process pipeline moved way faster than I expected. I began drinking protein shakes. I started fist-bumping people at the gym. I bought a trucker hat. Last week, I deadlifted 340 pounds. Going bro mode was supposed to be a temporary, gym-affliated experience and quickly became enjoyable. It was both shocking and thrilling.

So I have decided that it is time for BRO SUMMER.

Some of you may be understandably skeptical. Perhaps you, like me, went to a state school and had some truly horrendous experiences with bros. Bros can be mean and hateful and domineering. They can be dumb in a way that causes them to lack empathy. These are the types of Bros who have made life hell for many of us! We shun them. This is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the purity of bro-dom. The brotherhood. The high-fives. The desire, first and foremost, to be hanging out with the bros.

Here are some things Bro Summer can include:

  • wearing your hat backward
  • drinking out of cans
  • hanging out outside
  • hanging out at the baseball game
  • hanging out watching the WNBA on your bro's couch
  • eating hot dogs
  • creating a shared iPhone note with your friends to see who can eat the most hot dogs over the course of bro summer (I am currently leading in my division)
  • plastic pools
  • cutting the sleeves off your shirts
  • cropping your shirts
  • convincing other bros to switch to a 3-inch inseam
  • eating sandwiches
  • camping
  • getting really into the Olympics
  • becoming convinced that you should try to do an Olympic event
  • competition, generally
  • drinking games
  • saying "I love you, man"
  • kissing your bros
  • lifting weights
  • talking about lifting weights
  • doing pushups in public
  • assigning your other bros pushups if they say something mean
  • batting cages
  • ice cream cones
  • grilling or standing around the grill watching your bro
  • unbuttoning your jersey to the bellybutton
  • being a friend to children by throwing them around/ challenging them to race
  • joining a recreational softball/kickball/volleyball team
  • having a ball with you for unknown reasons
  • Innocent ass slapping as a show of encouragement
  • jumping up and down when you're happy
  • eating whatever you want all the time
  • cheeseballs in that giant plastic tub
  • light beer
  • always wearing comfortable shoes (with no socks)
  • letting your girlfriend/boyfriend/best friend dress you when it's time to go somewhere fancy
  • action movies
  • pumping your fist
  • joints
  • communal care (you gotta help the other bros!)

Bro Summer is not prescriptive. Bro Summer is a vibe. It is about community. It is about fun. There is a distinct difference between Bro Summer and something like Dad Summer. Dads have responsibilities. Dads have their little jokes. Bros can grow up to become Dads, but not all Dads are Bros. Part of the importance of Bro Summer is regression. Bro Summer is imbued with the brilliance that can only come from having a one-track mind focused on having a good time. It is not about ignoring all the terrors in the world, but about trying to make the world a little bit better in every way that we can via love and light roughhousing.

Here's a good example of Bro Summer behavior: A few months ago I was at the gym, and I was having one of those terrible body image days where you would rather die than see yourself in the mirror. One of the actual bros (who I admire and want to emulate) noticed that I seemed sad. I do not know this bro very well, but he noticed that I seemed upset and asked why. He is maybe 20 years old. And because I am very much not 20 anymore, I sometimes try to help him understand the ways of the world. So I told him and his other bros that I was having a body negative day.

This concept was new to them. What was body negativity? I explained it to them. They looked very upset and concerned. Unhappiness upsets bros because they want everyone to have fun. They conferred amongst themselves for a second and then they returned to me. What had I eaten that day, the bros wanted to know. So I told them. I had eaten a normal amount: a protein smoothie, a sandwich for lunch, some coffee, and some water. The bros conferred again. They had diagnosed my problem! A bro loves to help!

"You need to eat more," the bros told me. "You're not eating enough! You feel bad because you're hungry."

Their answer was hysterical to me, someone who is still learning to bro, because it was so counter from everything I expected to hear: that maybe I was tired, or it was a weird time in my brain, or the narratives of thinness are so loud right now. This is the beating heart of bro summer. There is a beautiful naivety in this answer. Of course my relationship with my body as a woman in the world is complicated by the media and our societal standards and the rise of fucking Ozempic. There are so many reasons why I might have a body negative day, but Bro Summer is not concerned with that. Bro Summer cares about all bros feeling good, and finding solutions. If you feel bad, you're almost certainly hungry! Have a snack! See if that helps!

No matter how bad the world gets, we always have each other. And this summer, we should embrace that literally and metaphorically. We should hug all our bros. It is Bro Summer, after all.

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