Life

Our Biggest Regrets of the Summer

It doesn’t get more regrettable than this.

A collage of a gel manicure, caprese, a neck pillow, concert tickets, and smores.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

It has been a regretful summer. Imminent climate collapse, unbearable heat, travel chaos, and oh so many “I have COVID” textsit’s hard to catch a break. Plans have been canceled, plans that should have been canceled were not canceled, and we’re still out here expected to make important decisions anyway!

In an act of public service journalism, we collected our biggest summer regrets (everything short of crimes, we had to put the limit somewhere). We share them with the hope that you, too, will learn where you should never brush your teeth. After all, those who don’t learn from history …

Children! (Organizing Them, That Is)

I regret spending my entire vacation panicking about child care. I did not solve the problem AND I annoyed my family. Great times. —Lizzie O’Leary, host, What Next: TBD

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I regret overscheduling my child, getting mad when she doesn’t want to do the “fun” things I arranged for her (and paid for!), and then beating myself up when I let her off the hook. Also, I regret not going to the beach. I like the beach! —Hillary Frey, editor in chief

My son, who recently turned 6, started to figure out how to read last spring, and I wish I had spent more time reading with him over the summer, both for educational progress anxiety reasons and because it would have been fun and heartwarming. I can take comfort, though, that we spent a LOT of time on our other favorite bonding activity, which is arguing about his absurd strike/ball opinions in backyard Wiffle ball. —Ben Mathis-Lilley, senior writer

COVID, of Course

I regret brushing my teeth in the Fort Worth airport. I was on my way back from Alaska and wearing a mask for the first flight, which was a red eye. We connected through Dallas Fort Worth and I was like, “Man, I cannot handle another flight in this mask without brushing my teeth.” Three days later, I had COVID. —Greg Lavallee, director of technology

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I regret going to my first pandemic concert. In July, I went to see Japanese Breakfast live in Bloomington, Illinois (no artist usually makes it all the way out here to the sticks, so of course I had to go). I hadn’t been to a concert since 2019, but I also hadn’t yet gotten COVID. I put a mask on and braved the small venue. The concert itself was unreal—I left on a high, and even told my partner: “We should be doing more of this!” Until three days later, when I tested positive for COVID and had a real shit time. The rest of my summer hasn’t fully recovered from that vibe shift. (And I’ll be rethinking those Bad Bunny concert tickets I was hoping to snag.) Paola de Varona, senior editor, advice

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I was at a beach house where, on day one, we learned that someone had COVID. That person was a baby, and for some reason, I let this fact, and her adorableness, convince me that it probably wouldn’t spread. It did spread. The porch of this house became essentially a zombie apocalypse situation, where one side, the COVID side, just kept acquiring more and more  people. Eventually, because I was supposed to fly somewhere soon, I departed the beach house. And in fact, I did not get COVID there! But I do kind of wish we had gamed the whole thing out differently: It is not fun to have COVID at the beach, and it is also not fun to spend your entire beach vacation avoiding COVID. I regret not taking a firmer stance (in either direction!) earlier in the process. —Susan Matthews, executive editor

Transit!

I regret not riding my bike more. I used to ride my bike a lot. Like A LOT. Before COVID I was zipping around going to all these functions, dropping by the homes of homies unannounced, floating across my beautiful neighborhood that has yet to install more than a couple blocks of bike lanes … It was awesome. My bike is hanging off a hook in a closet now. I store it there during the colder months. I’d tell myself, “as soon as the weather gets nice I’ll be back on my bike!” But I’m sad to report that I haven’t taken my bike anywhere all summer. Not once. And I’ve already given up hope that I’ll be free for a joyride anytime soon. There’s always next summer, I guess! —Aymann Ismail, Staff Writer

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Over the summer, I took my first pandemic-era international trip. Since it was only up to Montreal, I thought I had very little to worry about. I’ve flown D.C. to Southern California quite a few times during the pandemic to visit family. What’s the worst that could happen?

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Well! Our first flight initially got delayed about four hours, then canceled entirely. We ended up getting rescheduled for a flight nearly 20 hours later. It was inconvenient, but at least we could spend the night at my friend’s place. Then, on the way home, the second leg of our flight, from Toronto to D.C., was canceled. We, alongside hundreds of others, were right in the middle of summer 2022 air travel hell. Since there were so many of us, there were no hotel rooms. We spent the night (miserably) in the airport. And this brings me to my regret: My out-of-practice-self forgot a travel pillow! I would’ve given anything for even the smallest pillow to rest my head on. Luckily, I don’t regret the trip itself. —Madeline Ducharme, producer, What Next

New York City and Chipped Nails

I’ve always wanted to see Manhattanhenge, which is the name for the rare time the sunset lines up with the grid of Manhattan’s streets. It happens four times a year, which means that in more than 10 years of New York City living, I’ve managed to miss it upwards of 40 times. How is that possible? Shouldn’t I have wandered into it accidentally at least once? What was I doing on all those nights instead? What silly little obligations and preoccupations seemed more important than witnessing a legitimate astronomical phenomenon?

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Luckily, astronomical phenomena are very predictable, so the dates for next year are more or less confirmed. That means I already know exactly what I’ll be doing on the evening of May 29, 2023. —Heather Schwedel, staff writer

This summer, I had to move. My building has an intractable bug problem that I cannot take anymore, one that my landlords seem determined to never adequately address. It’s time.

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New York has long been infamous for bugs and inhumane prices for inhumanly small real estate, but as someone who’s lived here for a decade, it really is worse and more criminal than ever this year. Perhaps you’ve read the stories about this crazy market. It is as bad as you’ve heard. A representative anecdote: One broker refused to even show me an apartment in my neighborhood—practically across the street and smaller than my current place—because my salary is under $100,000. (Slate Dot Com: Give me a raise?)

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The trap of NYC apartment hunting is always that you know people who somehow found good deals. So you go into your search hopeful, convinced that yours is out there, somewhere, just waiting to be found. This dream can be so powerful that when you see places that you know you could live with, but aren’t your Goldilocks ideal, you think: Why settle?

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Well, reader, I regret not settling. I saw two apartments that tempted me. One was a big, underpriced place. Sure there were flaws, but they were livable flaws (laundry across the street instead of in the basement, for example). But I dawdled, and a couple days later I got an email alert that it was in contract with someone else. The second place was a beautiful little apartment in a perfect location with great amenities; it even had a shared yard. But it was a lot smaller than my current apartment, and most importantly, it cost more than $200 more in rent per month. That one I put in an application for, nervously and semi-regrettably, a few days after I looked at it. The kind Australian guy who showed it to me hasn’t gotten back to me about it since. I assume that it too was snatched up while I dithered.

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I should have just jumped on either spot. My current lease expires on Aug. 30, and I’m still scrambling to land a home. I know I’ll just settle, almost inevitably for some place worse than either of those two pads in multiple ways. There will probably still be bugs. —Seth Maxon, associate editor

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I became completely obsessed with the heat this summer. It was very hot much of the time in New York City, and I became convinced that I could conquer the weather if I carried a frozen water bottle everywhere, wore breathable clothing, and never went out at the hottest part of the day. I was so afraid of being sweaty and miserable outside, I ended up being clammy and miserable inside. I don’t regret adopting a more rational mindset (I spent most of my early 20s perpetually sunburned), but I do regret not going for the occasional 12 p.m. walk, even if it meant showering three times per day. —Cleo Levin, audience engagement editor

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I regret getting two gel manicures. I never get gel manicures, because they are kind of expensive. But while on vacation with friends, I thought that it could be a treat.

I forgot the second problem with gel manicures: The “gel” goes on your nails, and then it does not come off. It becomes this sort of additional layer of your nails. It doesn’t chip easily, which is sort of the third problem—for a week or two, your nails look really, really, REALLY good. Then, it starts growing out and looks a little messy, and it chips a bit, enough to bother you. The removal process for gel manicures involves a very patient person scraping the gel off flake by flake. It is akin to a dental cleaning, but also, your nails look bad at the end of it, because they have just been scraped within an inch of their life. And guess what the solution to those bad-looking nails is? Shannon Palus, senior editor, science

Food!

I regret caprese. I was recently invited to a gathering at a new friend’s house, and asked to bring a “little snack.” The stakes immediately threw me into a panic. After much deliberation, I settled on a caprese salad: simple but elegant, classy but carefree. Surely a “little snack.” The troubles started soon after. The grocery store was out of basil. But at that point, I was already in too deep—mozzarella and tomatoes in my basket, my dog barking incessantly outside the store. I decided I could substitute oregano.

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My friends, you cannot substitute oregano. Oregano, compared to basil, is very ~eh~. Also the leaves are very small! To make matters worse, most of the olive oil I had left had a reallll strong truffle flavor.

Nevertheless, I persisted. I discovered, upon sheepishly arriving at the shindig, that it was much more of a potato chip situation. I returned home with a Tupperware full of soggy mozzarella. Covered in oregano.  Mia Armstrong, Future Tense managing editor

I haven’t had a single s’more and it is KILLING me. I don’t think I’ve even had a marshmallow. —Cheyna Roth, senior producer

My biggest regret is not taking more vacation time.

My second-biggest regret is the spectacular failure of the single tomato plant I tried to grow this year in a planter. The leaves at the bottom are a splotchy mess, and many of the little tomatoes are developing brown patches on the bottom. (Apparently this can be caused by either overwatering or underwatering, which seems like a cruel environmental joke.) Also, some critter in my yardI suspect it’s either squirrels or this massive groundhog hanging aroundseems to be feasting on its rather paltry output; I keep finding the small green tomatoes on the patio with little bites taken out of them. A single red tomato seemed to be coming along, but now it’s disappeared. At least the perpetrator ate that one whole instead of taking a single bite and leaving the rest behind?

When I bought only one starter tomato plant, the folks at the gardening center laughed at me. “This is the one I’m going to kill but learn from. Next year I’ll buy more.” I was close: I have pretty much killed this one. But I’m not sure I am going to try again next year. —Torie Bosch, Future Tense editor

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