When I was a kid, Fourth of July wasn't a huge deal. My small family typically made some burgers and hot dogs outside, and typically there were multiple types of "salads" — potato, pasta, and even tuna noodle. (I have to state here, tuna noodle salad isn't as gross as it sounds. Something about those two words thrown together make it seem like the most unappetizing dish in the entire world, but it was simply a staple of summer for the Belz family.) Obviously we had a day off from school, and since my parents were educators, it was like we all had an additional Saturday together. Sometimes we heard fireworks from a distance, but we definitely didn't light up our own — I mean, hello. We liked having fingers.
Years past, my now-husband and I kind of designated the Fourth to be our "dating anniversary," which obviously got tossed to the wind when we got married. I mean, two anniversaries? What were we, high school students? The holiday is typically spent with his family, including the cousins, uncles, and aunts. It's usually a nice little gathering. But, I'm not going to forget about the in-between years. You know — the years where I was away from my family, and living it up as a single person in a dingy little apartment that was slowly falling to pieces. Those are formative years for people, and they serve as the perfect time to carve new traditions. I was a vegetarian throughout that span, so my "tradition" for the Fourth was typically heating up a Morningstar-brand black bean burger. Hey, I never said I had it all together.
Since I'm now older and (probably) wiser, I definitely wish I celebrated my own independence a little bit better. Here's what I would have done back in the day — and what I advise for all of you happy singles to do now — to celebrate July 4th.
1. Go To The Movies
There's nothing wrong with seeing a film by yourself, and if you go during prime BBQ time, you might be able to enjoy a pretty empty theater. It's the perfect time to kick back, enjoy some theater popcorn with no guilt, and watch In The Heights.
2. Break Out The George Foreman
If you live by yourself, you might not have invested in a big grill. You might, however, have a tiny little George Foreman grill laying around. Dust it off, and let it shine today. Just because you're by yourself doesn't mean that you have to settle for boiled hot dogs and microwaved burgers. Pot dogs? Gross. Step up your game, and treat yo self.
3. Try To Replicate Mom's Old Recipes
My tuna noodle salad would probably look like a can of dog food, if I didn't allow myself some time to practice. There is something absolutely amazing about cooking for no audience. You can really go wild, and add your own touch to old recipes that might actually help enhance the flavor. Make sure you write down your techniques, so you can (sniff) hand over your off-centered potato salad recipe to your currently-fictional grandchild someday.
If Mom's still around, but lives a distance away, ask her if she has any cooking secrets that she'd be willing to divulge. She'll be more than flattered that you're thinking of her and her amazing food. Plus, it's always good to call your mom.
4. Check Out The Nearest Fireworks Show
Just because you're celebrating solo doesn't mean that you're undeserving of a killer fireworks show. Fire up Google, and see what neighborhood events are happening. Nobody will question why you're alone, nor will they really care — I mean, you're all there for the same purpose. You might be able to find some day events as well that you can partake in. Most towns and cities are all about bringing the community together on holidays.
5. Make Experimental Hot Dogs
Back in the day, a tiny place called Hot Diggity Dog existed in the middle of a Pennsylvania intersection. After going inside, I realized that the owners were intent on creating an ultimate (albeit a little strange) hot dog atmosphere. A large variety of specialty dogs included toppings such as strawberry preserves, swiss cheese, barbecue sauce, applesauce, you name it. And know what? They were amazing.
Hot dogs are extremely versatile, and now is the perfect time to craft your own signature dog. Get crazy with it, and then try to convince your friends that cream cheese and mustard is actually an intriguing combo. Ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut? So yesterday.
6. Dress Up Your Pet
If you're not the type of person to run to the store for a flag shirt, consider a cuter alternative — dressing up your pets to be festive. Listen, I've had pets that hated clothes, and pets that loved clothes. If your dog doesn't mind wearing a goofy red, white, and blue t-shirt, remember how blessed you are for owning a chill canine, and celebrate both his willingness and the holiday. Know who loves pictures of festive pets? Instagram.
7. Invite Friends Out For A Drink
If all of your friends are tied up at family barbecues, there's a chance that eventually they'll need a reason to flee. You can be that reason! Contact some of your closest girls, and see if they're down to grab a drink later in the night. Hopefully they'll still be lucid (since there's a chance they've been day-drinking), or can at least sober up enough to get a second wind and accept the invite. If they can't find a way to leave, they might end up inviting you over to their own soiree.
8. Buy Yourself A Pricier Beer
If you're normally a PBR kind of girl, it might seem intimidating to try a craft-ier brand. If you live in an area that lets you create your own six-pack (or buy beers individually), take a risk and go for something you've never tried before. This will be a beer you savor, and not a beer you chug, so keep that in mind when making your selection.
Plus, think of it this way — if you had a barbecue, chances are that you'd end up with questionably warm cans of Miller Lite. By not hosting a party, you'll be able to step up your individual beer game a little bit.
9. Watch Some Feel-Good Movies
TV is always there for you. Have a mini-marathon with yourself, and watch a bunch of movies that you cherished during childhood. If you have Hulu, it might be the perfect time to start your Seinfeld marathon. I mean, nine seasons will take you a while to get through. Especially since the episodes you caught on syndication were only a very, very small sample of episodes that were originally broadcast.
10. Construct The Ultimate Fourth of July Playlist
Then, take a random road trip to nowhere. Open the windows, and just drive where your heart tells you to drive. Enjoy the scenery and the freedom.
I'm not just suggesting this because I'm from New Jersey, but a Fourth of July playlist isn't a Fourth of July playlist without Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA." Add a little of Simon & Garfunkel's "America" when you want to truly reflect, and don't turn your nose at Miley Cyrus' "Party In The USA" when you feel like rocking out.
11. Lay Out In The Sun
There are a few simple pleasures in life, and laying out under the warm sun, relaxing with nothing to do, may just take the cake. Plus, it’s the Fourth of July, and I don’t know anything more summer than a nice sun-kissed glow, and a fun, fruity drink on the side. Just don’t forget the SPF!
12. Take A Nap
Hey, chances are, if you’re anything like me, you’re busy, and I mean, very busy. These days you probably are lacking some much needed z’s, and what better excuse than your day off to catch up on them?
13. Craft Up Some Cocktails
The Fourth of July is the perfect excuse to try out all of those refreshing summer drinks that you just haven’t had time to do. My personal favorite? A boozy lemonade seltzer. But did you know that you can easily make a one-of-a-kind cocktail creation by taking that seltzer and added all sorts of fun additions?!
Use your day off and experiment with a ton of great recipes, and hey, maybe you’ll even find your next signature drink!
14. Learn How To Grill (On The Real Thing)
If you’ve mastered the George Foreman, it’s time to move on to the big guy. Plus, grilling is a great skill to know. Being solo this Fourth of July gives you the perfect excuse to try a new hobby because, 1) You have some extra time, and 2) You don’t have the added pressure of entertaining the people around you. So, feel free to mess up, because practice makes perfect!
15. Read A Book Or Magazine
There are a few common thoughts that run through my head quite often: I wish I had time to start that new book, I will start reading again, and, why did I ever stop reading? If that sounds a little bit like you, take this opportunity to pick up the hobby, once again, and give a little TLC to those dusty books sitting next to your bed.
If you can’t commit to a full novel right now, dip your toes in the water, and grab a few fun magazines to get back into the swing of things!
Additional reporting by Siena Gagliano.
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