If you needed a little inspiration for your summer, walk right this way. A bucket list, found in the changing rooms of an Urban Outfitters store, has gone viral. And it’s like stepping back in time.
The list – carefully written out in alternating green-coloured gel pens – is a heart-warming frenzy of teenage experience. This year, says the author – who is presumed to be female due to the nature of some of the items on the list, like “buy seven bikinis” and “[get a] boob hickey” – wants to “have sex”, “star gaze”, “tie a message to a balloon and let it go” and “go to a party”. She’s already checked off “get drunk all the time” and “decorate room” and even “make a summer playlist (10 hours long)”. “Hook up with Jacob again” has also been ticked off. “Get a manicure” and “get a pedicure” are written as separate goals, presumably because we all need list fillers to trick ourselves into believing we achieved more.
Some have rightly pointed out that, for a teenage girl – or anyone, for that matter – the exposure and attention is the stuff of nightmares. After it was found by an Urban Outfitters employee in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it has been tweeted more than 14,000 times. But, thankfully, the author is anonymous. And she’s already attracted support from around the world, as the list is hailed as “inspirational” – and a massive, fuzzy dose of nostalgia.
And reading the list does take you back. It’s a monument not just to teenage aspirations, but youthful summers – the sunny six weeks that once felt synonymous with reinvention and transformation, when the long stretch between school years was a time portal harbouring endless possibility. The lists I remember writing at the beginning of each summer were less bucket lists, more “serious” life plans or maps to follow, which would lead me to become the person I desperately wanted to be – or thought I should be – come September and the start of the next school year.
Each list was a step-by-step of milestones that, once completed, I knew would make me as close to an adult as I’d ever been
I wrote them as a blueprint for Future Me: seeing the bands that the “older boys” I idolised thought were cool, going to the parties that would make the most memories, reading the sexiest, darkest books from the locked-up cupboard in the school library (I still have the copy of The Bell Jar I “borrowed” one summer). I would exercise and moisturise (“every single day!”) and drink two litres of water every day, like my best mate did, to make my hair healthy. I would definitely snog loads of people on holiday.
I would go on adventures with my best friends, dye my hair, drink beers on Skegness beach and have perfectly sweet romances. I would volunteer, be kinder and master my favourite Beatles songs on the piano. Each list was a step-by-step of milestones that, once completed, I knew would make me as close to an adult as I’d ever been. By the time I’d ticked off the list – in just six weeks’ time! – I could be a Woman. I would be worldly and have perfect skin and shiny hair and I would be quietly cool (naturally, since I’d have a nose ring and at least one tattoo by then). Maybe I would graduate from shy virgin, whose sexual finesse amounted to a prolonged fumble outside the back of Argos, to the type of person who has intense, spontaneous sex on the beach. Or, at the very least, in the back of a Peugeot 206.
Not surprisingly, I rarely achieved anything on the summer bucket lists I made – not least because, as an embarrassed late developer, many of them also included the somewhat unattainable goals of “finally get my period???” and “GROW SOME BOOBS”. And I didn’t even know anyone with a Peugeot.
But each time I set out on a summer plan for self-improvement, I was determinedly optimistic. Just like the goals of the author of this latest viral bucket list, the goals were often vapid and shallow and oddly specific (“give two blow jobs” is fourth on her list). And, like her, I’m pretty sure I believed anything was possible. Even “going to a party”, instead of bingeing on films on a Friday night. Maybe making a summer bucket list isn’t such a bad idea after all.