The Fourth of July: how to celebrate in your 20s and 30s

The Fourth of July: how to celebrate in your 20s and 30s

With age comes political awareness, higher alcohol tolerance, and an earlier bedtime. But its possible to be an adult and still enjoy yourself this weekend

The Fourth of July used to be one of my favorite holidays, but the significance of the day has changed since the halcyon days of slipnslides and flat soda pop. When I was a kid, it was all fireworks and good cheer, plus the kind of pure, unadulterated patriotism that only the young and blissfully unaware of our countrys international foreign policy can tap into.

As an irresponsible 20-year-old, I made the Fourth a bit of a blue-collar bacchanal of cheap hot dogs, lukewarm beer, and far more illicit fireworks purchased from Mexico. Now, all I can think about is how to keep my dog from freaking out over the constant popping sounds in our neighborhood, whether or not the people at my barbecue can see my bald spot, and how soon I can go home. My point is that getting old is awful.

With age comes political awareness, higher alcohol tolerance, and an earlier bedtime. But its possible to be a responsible, perpetually harried adult and still enjoy yourself this weekend. Heres how.

Age 10: Indulging at an early age

Ah, the ignorant bliss of youth. Photograph: Alamy

Fun: As a kid, the Fourth means indulging in carbonated beverages in unlimited quantities. I could drink an entire two-liter bottle of Pepsi by myself if I really applied myself. The rest of my Fourth of July barbecue experience was running around, avoiding pools (I couldnt swim, as you might know) and appreciating the rare opportunity to go sans-shoes without my mother worrying Id step on a nail and get tetanus.

Patriotism: Its easy to be a patriot when youre a kid, especially in my case as my father was in the Air Force. He was sent to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf war, which meant we were even more patriotic than usual during that whole period. I was the proud owner of numerous Gulf war trading cards and at least one plastic Army tank toy. In short, I thought of Americas role in the world being similar to a game of Missile Command.

Fireworks: My dad was really particular about safety with fireworks. Wed have to stay at least 15ft away from the explosion, and he always kept a bucket of water handy in case things got out of control. Every year hed get those snakes that all kids hate. You light a black disc on fire and it expands into something that resembles rat excrement. If you get to hold the sparkler, youre really doing well for yourself.

Age 20: Heavy on the drinks

In your 20s, the Fourth means getting blackout drunk and usually throwing up on someones backyard. Photograph: image net

Fun: In your 20s, the Fourth means getting blackout drunk and usually throwing up on someones backyard. The question isnt so much what to drink, but how early to start? My evenings always ended the same way: eating leftover potato salad and watching Fight Club on DVD or bootleg torrents of Family Guy. I had horrible taste.

The biggest difference in Fourth of July festivities in your 20s is that you dont have a backyard any more. You probably have some crappy apartment or dorm that may or may not have a hardly luxurious patch of astroturf. Maybe you can dupe your one friend who has a rooftop to throw a party, but is it really the same? Youre older now, but not old enough to appreciate that you arent dead.

Patriotism: Americas a bummer, man. My 20s took place during the Bush years, so I was especially angsty about the United States. The Fourth became an ironic occasion for me and my filthy leftist friends. Who could wear the tackiest flag-themed outfit? Who could recite the entire monologue from Independence Day? Look at us, drinking Budweiser and smoking Marlboros. America, LOL! It was insufferable.

Fireworks: Fireworks in your 20s are usually influenced by the amount of alcohol youve had beforehand. In my mid-20s, I would routinely go to a party hosted by my friend Josh. Hed get really drunk and try to light a sparkler with his cigarette. Illegal fireworks became a bit like scoring drugs back then. You knew a guy who knew a guy who could get you a crate full of shit that could set your entire block on fire.

Age 30: All about the grub

Food becomes far more important when youre a proper adult. Photograph: Morgan Lane Photography / Alamy/Alamy

Fun: Heres the same conversation I anticipate having at every party I attend: Do you have any IPAs? My wife loves IPAs. I brought ros. Its such a hot day. Doesnt that sound refreshing? Wheres your bathroom? Whens your wedding again? October. Oh, the ros? I just finished it. Well, good to see you again. Give your parents my best. Im just going to wait outside for my Uber. Can I bum a cigarette? Ill give you a dollar.

Food becomes far more important when youre a proper adult. There will be vegans at your party. There will be guests who are gluten-free. There might even be some pregnant women who demand pickles dipped in ranch dressing.

Its polite to bring something to any party, but especially a Fourth of July barbecue. These are communal affairs, and you need to chip in. But what do you bring? Bearing in mind the unique restrictions that govern your fellow partygoers, you must bring something thats edible for everyone: healthy, but not too healthy; vegetarian-friendly, but not veggie dogs or veggie burgers. Invariably, veggie dogs get eaten by non-vegetarians, who then feel put upon by carnivores who steal their food. Best to not create that clear division.

I suggest apple pie.

The point is not to make yourself happy, its to satisfy a social obligation, so just purchase a thing that has a patriotic significance and can be consumed by just about everyone. Pro tip: get a gluten-free one and only tell the people who are gluten-free. That way, no one turns their nose up at it.

Patriotism: By the time you hit 30, your country has let you down numerous times. No matter what side of the ideological spectrum youre on, you will probably end up finding something to complain about: taxes being too high, taxes being too low, the damn Democrats, the shifty Republicans, the cost of medical care, the proliferation of guns, the lack of guns, the crummy US soccer team, and of course, whomever the president is. The United States to a person past the age of 30 is nothing more than a stuffy debt collector that also happens to be a huge prude.

Fireworks: Fireworks? What fireworks? Who wants to put their kids in harms way like that? At most, maybe you can light them at least 15ft away from your house and keep a bucket of water on hand just in case things get out of control.

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