Last summer was, by most accounts, a disappointment. Calls for a “hot vax summer” were quickly silenced by the realization that most of us had entirely forgotten how to interact with others during the pandemic, and the Delta variant put a kibosh on all of our plans anyway. So rather than enjoying the freedom and flings we hoped vaccination would afford us, we stayed home yet again, absolutely crippled by an awkward sense of horniness with no sense of how to fulfill it.
With that in mind, it would be naive to prescribe a vibe for the forthcoming summer so early. Not only are there endless new strains of COVID to taunt us, there’s also the impending threat of nuclear war, neither of which bode well for bikini season. Nevertheless, the girls of TikTok are ready to make some predictions. Namely, they’re calling for the institution of pure animalistic chaos, and the addition of a certain barbaric quality to our actions. More specifically, summer 2022 will be about scurrying around like a little rat. It will be about ripping things apart with your claws, and gnawing at raw meat with twigs in your hair. It will be about going absolutely feral. Ideologically, anyway.
It’s hard to imagine that “going feral” will translate to much more than a quicker willingness to get Taco Bell at 3 a.m. or falling asleep in your makeup, but it does reveal something about the current state of mind. Over the last year, TikTok has been obsessed with the concept of being “that girl.” To be “that girl” is a malleable state, but it’s marked by certain traits: “That girl” wakes up early. She drinks green juice. She does pilates. She never goes to bed without doing a full skincare routine. Essentially, she’s the pinnacle of modern standards of cleanliness and put-togetherness for the childless, Gen-Z/millennial set who works from home.
The hashtag #thatgirl has 3.2 billion views on TikTok. It’s filled with videos like “How to Become ‘That Girl’ in 2022” — which advises routines like making your bed — and “Amazon Finds for ‘That Girl’” — which appears to shill water bottles and acrylic trays for breakfast in bed. Wrapped deeply in the politics of class and “wellness,” the “that girl” aesthetic is one that appears effortless while requiring intense self-discipline and self-policing. In the absence of much other structure or order in our lives, it’s basically a means of inflicting HR-approved workplace standards upon oneself. The new emphasis on going feral is simply a rejection of that polish.
TikToker @horrible.glitter broke it down in a recent TikTok in which she hashtagged #feralgirl and #athleticgreens (a powdered green juice supplement). “That ‘that girl’ lifestyle is the most garbage consumerist propaganda — it’s unattainable, and the aspiration is to do what, exactly?” she wrote in the video. “To have absolutely zero stories? To have a collection of overpriced athleisure and beauty products? To spend your youth on a moralized vague goal of self-improvement? Put down the Athletic Greens that were hawked to you by a white woman whose hair appointment costs more than your rent and [go] get kicked out of a Chili’s Express.”
While going feral is more of a state of mind than a literal behavior, some other examples cited in TikToks include eating raw pasta as a snack, not answering anyone’s texts and being perfectly okay with having drunk nearly 20 vodka sodas over the course of a weekend.
An extension of the “feral girl” axiom is the “rat girl.” In early March, @rajyaatluri made a video documenting various “rativities” one could pursue with their “rat-pack besties.” The list is deeply tame, like watching a mid-2000s rom-com or going overboard on an outfit (for example, she dressed up as Pitbull for a Pitbull concert). Nevertheless, the framing of them as rat-like is itself an obvious contrast to the usual purity and restraint promoted by whoever “that girl” is.
Taken together, the promotion of going feral and rativities marks a shift away from any sense of holding back we might have been doing over the last year. For some, that might manifest in watching 27 Dresses; for others that means getting arrested outside of an Applebee’s. Regardless, it seems to be about pleasure for pleasure’s sake, and not framing capitalistic notions of “self-care” as moral or aesthetic obligations.
Again, we already know that our predictions for the exuberance of last summer didn’t play out, but perhaps we can consider it a trial run. At very least, we’re starting off with the right mentality.