Ahhh… Summer Love: the hot romance so common among our youth is actually almost unique to American culture and sometimes incomprehensible to others. It can only be understood based on the exclusively American interpretation of what “love” is, in contrast to “hate.” Although all people may share the psychological ability and need to love, the cultural system of Summer Love is based off the American concept of a love that can be fleeting, mindless, dismissed.
The best way to describe what Summer Love symbolizes in American culture is through popular music. Clifford Geertz believes that culture can be found in the public performance of symbols, and what is more public and cultural than music? Songs are “vehicles of culture,” holding vast meaning and significance and are easily communicated between and within cultures: learned, shared, influenced by and adaptable to change in the culture. Society responds to, recognizes, learns, and shares the lyrics, and they are easily identified as cultural symbols. So, based on songs about “having fun all summer long”  “running barefoot and feeling free while the love in our hearts blend,”  “on an island in the sun, playing and having fun…we’ll run away together,”  “fell deep in love and now we ain’t speaking…summer girls come and summer girls go,”  “I don’t recall a single care…then Labor day came…and we left our love,” a symbolic anthropologist could characterize Summer Love in America throughout history as liberating, relaxing, fun, and intense but of limited duration. Friends, family, even the two lovers shrug off Summer Love as a phase of growing up.
Of course, there are songs in direct contrast to these happy tunes regarding the same subject of Summer Love: Taking Back Sunday’s “You Are So Last Summer,” with a chorus of “maybe I should hate you for this” is about the hurt of one youth when a summer fling didn’t last, was a lie. The binary opposition between the carefree love quoted above and the hate described here is a topic a Structuralist would be interested in. Levi-Strauss would show that despite being opposites, the concepts of love and hate mutually constitute each other: to hate someone does not make sense unless you compare it to loving someone. The unity of opposites theory shows how the concepts work together to create social meaning and structure.  Structuralists would reveal how the social structure of this romantic relationship mirrors the “psychic unity” of human love; specifically, the American mentality of the freedom to and be in love. The cognitive structure of the need for love but reluctance towards commitment created the cultural structure of Summer Love in America, where love is a not always taken seriously. Because it is linked to the thought process that is so deeply ingrained in American culture, Summer Love has become the norm here. Although all humans share the same basic psychological make-up, concepts of love are culture specific and each retains its own social structure: Summer Love is not a universal phenomenon.
— Kendall L.
 Carole McGranahan. Lecture: Symbolic Anthropology. ANTH 2100: Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology. 10-13-10.
Carole McGranahan. Lecture: Symbolic Anthropology. ANTH 2100: Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology. 10-13-10.
 Beach Boys 1964 “All Summer Long,”
 Dolly Parton 1979“ Sweet Summer Lovin.”
 Weezer 2001 “Island in the Sun”
 LFO 1999 “Summer Girls”
 Death Cab for Cutie 2005 “Summer Skin”
 Conrad Phillip Kottak, Cultural Anthropology (New York: Mcgraw Hill, 2009) 69-70
 Carole McGranahan. Lecture: Marriage, Structuralism. ANTH 2100: Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology. 10-6-10.