The sun has set and the sweltering midday heat has dissipated. A few mosquitoes circle around you, waiting for their chance to strike. The sound of children at play echoes off brick walls and metal swingsets, interrupted by the soft scolding of their parents. The sky is still with anticipation. A single flare breaches the darkness, exploding into the first of many radiant bursts that will color the night. Each new blast casts the park in an off-white glow, forcing you to face one unchangeable, anxiety-inducing fact:
It’s the 4th of July and you’re watching fireworks alone.
Sitting outside in the dark might normally be a great way to hide the fact that you’re sitting by yourself. (Although if you find yourself sitting alone in the dark frequently, we might need to talk about finding a better use of your time.) But the 4th of July takes no prisoners, illuminating every nearby location and viewer at the show. The heart-shaking explosions and the repetitive spotlight effect make the fireworks one of the most uncomfortable parts of our nation’s independence day, but it’s just one of many landmines for introverts. Here are some tips to help you get through the holiday and bring out the flag apparel without looking like Kid Rock.
After going through some basic tips, I’ll list the Fox Valley’s biggest celebrations so you can take your pick.
Help, It’s 8am and It’s Already 75 Degrees
The 4th of July is one of the most difficult holidays for anyone trying to look good and remain comfortable throughout the day. When it’s sunny, the intense heat and humidity pretty much rule out any shades of grey (unless you don’t sweat, of course). When in doubt, go for light, breathable clothes- it’s always easier to throw on a light jacket at night than it is to cool down once you’re overheated. This means t-shirts, shorts, and skirts with comfortable shoes. Nobody is going to judge you if you’re not wearing business attire to a barbeque.
How Many Flags Should I Wear?
The 4th of July means you should go all-out on patriotic gear, right? Yes and no. Red, white, and blue are all so ubiquitous in American fashion that it’s really not hard to find anything within the general patriotic theme, but you can definitely run the risk of going overboard. I’d recommend representing the colors of the U.S. in your overall outfit and I’d avoid wearing large flags in general. (Also, if you’re in the know about American flag etiquette you know that you’re technically not supposed to wear the flag anyway.) If you find yourself looking like Mr. T, it’s time to try again.
I Got Invited to a Barbeque and I Want to Stay Home
The 4th of July barbeque has developed into one of the iconic staples of the holiday, along with “pretending you normally spend this much time outside” and “firework accidents.” Even if most of your friends are also introverts, there’s a good chance you’ll get invited to someone’s barbeque. Your first instinct might lead you to search for an excuse for declining the invitation. Before you do, let’s consider the rationality of that impulse: It’s a national holiday and nobody is working. A lot of businesses are closed, so most normal excuses won’t work. Finally, most of your friends are going to be out and about and they’ll notice you’re not around. There’s not much of a way to avoid the barbeque, so try to focus on ways to make it tolerable.
Tip #1: Always bring something. Bringing any item of food/drink will make people react positively to your entrance and give you a little confidence boost right off the bat. If there are going to be a lot of people at the barbeque, bring some beer or other alcoholic beverages. If it’s a smaller shindig, bring some chips, dip, or other appetizer options. After you lay out the food/drinks you brought, ignore it completely. Don’t spend the day worrying about whether or not people liked your queso dip.
Tip #2: If you only know one or two people at the barbeque, don’t run over to them right away. If you talk to them first, it’ll be harder to talk to strangers later. Try introducing yourself to someone you don’t know at first and then give up and accept that you can only talk to the same two people you normally do. Problem solved!
Tip #3: Before the barbeque, set a minimum time that you’re willing to stay at the party. If you know you have to be there for at least an hour, you’ll be less likely to pull an Irish Exit before anyone gets the grill going.
I Want to Watch Fireworks But I Don’t Want to Sit in a Crowd
It’s possible that so many people love fireworks because they’re akin to deadly animals in zoos and aquariums: they’re some of the most dangerous natural phenomena we can ever encounter, enclosed in a safe environment so we can enjoy them at our leisure. No matter why we enjoy them, it’s important that there are options for everyone to watch the incredible shows if that’s how they hope to spend the holiday. If you’re going to be in a large crowd, getting a foldable lawn chair is the way to go. Sitting hunched over on the ground will exacerbate any feelings of loneliness you might have, but a nice lawn chair will make you feel at ease.
Most parks don’t allow alcohol without a pavilion rental, but feel free to bring some soda to drink during the show. Any introvert can tell you that feelings of nervousness are made a little bit better by having something to do with your hands. Besides bringing a lawn chair to the park, there’s an even more effective solution to feeling lonely: find somewhere else in the city where you can watch the fireworks without being in a large crowd. Firework shows are a massive spectacle and they can be watched from just about any angle. Pick one of your favorite spots to hang out and enjoy the show.
Once the 4th of July is in the rear-view mirror, you can enjoy the sweet, long stretch of time without any major celebrations until Halloween rolls around. Good luck with that one.
Here are some of the Fox Valley’s 4th of July celebrations:
Appleton: Festivities in Memorial Park begin on July 3 at 5pm and run until 11pm. Fireworks begin at dusk (around 9pm).
Neenah/Menasha: Neenah and Menasha cosponsor the CommunityFest celebration, beginning in Menasha at noon on July 3. The Annual Parade of lights begins at 9:15pm at Riverside Park in Neenah on July 3. Neenah’s July 4 festivities begin at 8am and Menasha’s events kick off at noon. Fireworks begin at 9:30pm in Neenah. For more information, visit http://www.nmcommunityfest.org.
Oshkosh: The Veterans’ Parade rolls out at 9am on July 4, beginning at the intersection of Ceape and Main. Fireworks begin in Menominee Park at 9:45pm.
We’ll be off next week but check back on July 10th for some great advice on camping!