Hanging out with your significant other’s family can be tough at any time, but is especially so on a day intrinsically connected to the notion of being an American.
Fail at July 4th activities and you have failed a lot more than just being a boyfriend/girlfriend, unless your in-laws are professors, in which case your lack of patriotism is sure to make you a treasured “comrade” of your radical father-in-law, whose name is Dr. Lucas Lewis-Weisenhauser. But, otherwise, here are the nine things you need to know how to do to thrive at a July 4th get-together:
1. Throw a baseball with confidence and aplomb.
This is a big one. Did you have parents who never taught you to throw? Do you think calling baseball the “national pastime” doesn’t properly reflect the interests of a 21st-century country for which football, basketball, NASCAR, and, yes, even soccer are more compelling games — if we’re even going to be so testosteronormative as to insist that the national pastime must be a competitive sport? That’s unfortunate, because even the most tolerant among us are going to see your weenie throw and think to ourselves, “Looks like [your name] might be better off moving to Quebec.”
2. Send someone out on a football pass pattern.
Still sports-related, but less physically demanding. Footballs are a weird shape and only like one out of every 10 people can actually throw one, probably because they were born with weird crooked hands. Don’t feel bad about not being born with weird crooked hands. The only important thing is whether you can say “go deep” with the right tone of voice.
3. Maintain competitive equilibrium in badminton.
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The goal here is to keep it chill, but not too chill. You don’t want to get skunked every time; you also don’t want to end up screaming at kids about their lack of “lateral court coverage.”
4. Say the right things about America without betraying that you have actual political views.
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Tricky. It’s not just about being positive. It’s also about knowing when to shake your head slowly, as if to say, “Things just aren’t what they used to be in this country, that’s for damn sure.”
So what do you say about Obamacare? I don’t know. Don’t get caught talking about Obamacare.
5. Open a beer with a lighter or with the corner of a table.
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Doing it with a lighter is cooler but, if you’re not really a master of the maneuver, this method more likely to end with you asking your in-laws/prospective in-laws for a Band-Aid to cover the mangled flesh where your left index finger used to be. “Sweet Baby Jesus, my left index finger is a bloody, mangled nightmare of flesh, blood, and tendon. I’d like to marry your daughter.”
6. Make a charcoal pyramid with structural integrity.
A lot of people have gas grills that turn on automatically or “chimney” cans that you stuff charcoal and kindling into for easier lighting, but making a charcoal pyramid and talking at length in a circle of people about how to best start it is just more fun. I would’ve gone with a narrower base and more imposing height than whoever made the pyramid in the picture above, but that’s the beauty of the whole thing: Everyone gets an opinion and in the end it’s nearly impossible not to be able to get a fire started with industrially prepared charcoal that’s been sprayed with a half-gallon of lighter fluid.
7. Have a few board game tricks up your sleeve.
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For example: Knowing the weird two-letter words you can spell to get yourself out of jams in Scrabble, like “KI” and “JO,” is a good way to convey your intelligence and depth after a day that’s mostly about physical activity and friendly chitchat.
8. Obtain and safely light illegal fireworks.
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A risky move which has the big potential advantage of making you look like someone who can get things done, can be trusted in delicate situations, AND knows how to have a good time. The downsides are obvious and fiery.
And last, but not least…
…not least by a long shot…
…this may in fact be the most important item of all…
9. Don’t be Richard Nixon.
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That’s Richard Nixon and a huge quantity of sausage in a dirty field. It just comes up when you search “barbeque.”