It's no secret that America is one of the most visited and most loved places in the world. From Alabama to Wyoming, the United States of America has something going on in every state with something for everyone to enjoy. Some of those things are more iconic than others. Here are 26 of the most iconic American things ever:
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The people that spend their summers at the lake are a unique group of people. Whether you grew up going to the lake, have only recently started going, or have only been once or twice, you know it takes a certain kind of person to be a lake person. To the long-time lake people, the lake holds a special place in your heart, no matter how dirty the water may look. Every year when summer rolls back around, you can't wait to fire up the boat and get back out there. Here is a list of things you can probably identify with as a fellow lake-goer.
1. A bad day at the lake is still better than a good day not at the lake.
It's your place of escape, where you can leave everything else behind and just enjoy the beautiful summer day. No matter what kind of week you had, being able to come and relax without having to worry about anything else is the best therapy there is. After all, there's nothing better than a day of hanging out in the hot sun, telling old funny stories and listening to your favorite music.
2. You know the best beaches and coves to go to.
Whether you want to just hang out and float or go walk around on a beach, you know the best spots. These often have to be based on the people you're with, given that some "party coves" can get a little too crazy for little kids on board. I still have vivid memories from when I was six that scared me when I saw the things drunk girls would do for beads.
3. You have no patience for the guy who can’t back his trailer into the water right.
When there's a long line of trucks waiting to dump their boats in the water, there's always that one clueless guy who can't get it right, and takes 5 attempts and holds up the line. No one likes that guy. One time my dad got so fed up with a guy who was taking too long that he actually got out of the car and asked this guy if he could just do it for him. So he got into the guy's car, threw it in reverse, and got it backed in on the first try. True story.
4. Doing the friendly wave to every boat you pass.
Similar to the "jeep wave," almost everyone waves to other boats passing by. It's just what you do, and is seen as a normal thing by everyone.
5. The cooler is always packed, mostly with beer.
Alcohol seems to be a big part of the lake experience, but other drinks are squeezed into the room remaining in the cooler for the kids, not to mention the wide assortment of chips and other foods in the snack bag.
6. Giving the idiot who goes 30 in a "No WakeZone" a piece of your mind.
There's nothing worse than floating in the water, all settled in and minding your business, when some idiot barrels through. Now your anchor is loose, and you're left jostled by the waves when it was nice and perfectly still before. This annoyance is typically answered by someone yelling some choice words to them that are probably accompanied by a middle finger in the air.
7. You have no problem with peeing in the water.
It's the lake, and some social expectations are a little different here, if not lowered quite a bit. When you have to go, you just go, and it's no big deal to anyone because they do it too.
8. You know the frustration of getting your anchor stuck.
The number of anchors you go through as a boat owner is likely a number that can be counted on two hands. Every once in a while, it gets stuck on something on the bottom of the lake, and the only way to fix the problem is to cut the rope, and you have to replace it.
9. Watching in awe at the bigger, better boats that pass by.
If you're the typical lake-goer, you likely might have an average sized boat that you're perfectly happy with. However, that doesn't mean you don't stop and stare at the fast boats that loudly speed by, or at the obnoxiously huge yachts that pass.
10. Knowing any swimsuit that you own with white in it is best left for the pool or the ocean.
You've learned this the hard way, coming back from a day in the water and seeing the flowers on your bathing suit that were once white, are now a nice brownish hue.
11. The momentary fear for your life as you get launched from the tube.
If the driver knows how to give you a good ride, or just wants to specifically throw you off, you know you're done when you're speeding up and heading straight for a big wave. Suddenly you're airborne, knowing you're about to completely wipe out, and you eat pure wake. Then you get back on and do it all again.
12. You're able to go to the restaurants by the water wearing minimal clothing.
One of the many nice things about the life at the lake is that everybody cares about everything a little less. Rolling up to the place wearing only your swimsuit, a cover-up and flip flops, you fit right in. After a long day when you're sunburned, a little buzzed, and hungry, you're served without any hesitation.
13. Having unexpected problems with your boat.
Every once in a while you're hit with technical difficulties, no matter what type of watercraft you have. This is one of the most annoying setbacks when you're looking forward to just having a carefree day on the water, but it's bound to happen. This is just one of the joys that come along with being a boat owner.
14. Having a name for your boat unique to you and your life.
One of the many interesting things that make up the lake culture is the fact that many people name their boats. They can range from basic to funny, but they are unique to each and every owner, and often have interesting and clever meanings behind them.
15. There's no better place you'd rather be in the summer.
Summer is your all-time favorite season, mostly because it's spent at the lake. Whether you're floating in the cool water under the sun, or taking a boat ride as the sun sets, you don't have a care in the world at that moment. The people that don't understand have probably never experienced it, but it's what keeps you coming back every year.
The Fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday. My experiences growing up made it a day of community, of new and old friends, of recklessness and excitement, good food and better music. At home, I would see neighbors and listen to a bunch of old guys playing fiddles and banjos before lighting fireworks much to close to the house. At summer camp, we would watch the counselors reenact the major events of the revolutionary war, sing patriotic songs and watch a professional firework show light up the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was the only day of summer camp when friends and family were allowed to visit. People were brought together in the middle of summer to celebrate not only our history but also our current lives and the hope for a bright future. In those days it was simple...
I was American. I was proud of my country. I was proud of what we did and what we stood for.
As I have grown up this simple sense of patriotism has grown more complex. In light of current politics and through my own growing understanding of America outside of the rural south, it can be hard to see how we can call ourselves a unified country.
While traveling around Europe, I felt a little lost. I was both embarrassed by my country and eager and excited to share about it. I loved comparing cultures and experiences with the people I met, but I felt dishonest because I only represented and understood a tiny portion of what America is.
America is a HUGE country. So big that most Europeans I met had a hard time conceptualizing how big and exactly how different each portion of the country can be. To me, California or Boston are as culturally different from me as England was. I grew up in the rural Appalachian Mountains. I also grew up in a college town. I grew up as a liberal in a conservative area. I grew up as the granddaughter of a career military man and WWII veteran. I grew up religious. I grew up skiing and climbing in an area where people truly value nature. All these things are connected to my sense of identity as an American. But I know that many other Americans cannot relate to my life, nor I to theirs. My experience as a middle class, white, cisgender, female with Scots-Irish blood, a rich family tied to the military and an intense love for rural places and adventure is not THE American experience. It is one of the thousands of different and all equally American lives.
So what does it actually mean to be American? That's the question I have been asking myself (and others) for the last few months. What - if anything - ties us together?
How can we feel unified across such great differences and divides even as our country grows more and more diverse?
While traveling I met a woman who asked me what America is really like. "I know you guys like freedom a lot, but I don't really know what that means," she said. And I laughed. It was so simple and obvious. But she was right. Americans are fiercely protective of whatever they think their rights are. Those rights are different for every American, ranging from the right to birth-control and public access to national parks (things close to my heart) to the right to equal consideration under the law no matter religion or skin color, from the right to own personal protection, to the right to a home and enough food to eat, from the right to safe and accessible education to the right to ancestral homelands. Americans feel like they have a right to the life they want and will fight like hell to protect it. This drive creates division. It creates as many problems and differences as it solves. But it ties us together and it reflects the reason our country exists in the first place.
I think Americans admire adventurers, people who are brave and curious and willing to try new things in order to grow and progress. We can think of the pioneers and the pilgrims, crossing rough seas and uncharted wilderness in pursuit of something better. We can think of the waves of brave souls venturing forth ever since, searching for a new place. Americans will move across the continent for school or a job in search of what they want. We have a tradition of great road trips. The biggest historical figures for us tend to be people who were not only good leaders or good people, but also ones who pushed boundaries, asked new questions and who kept searching for what they wanted, be that equal rights, a plot of land to farm, or the next best piece of technological progress.
Lastly, I think Americans are communal creatures. I believe that all humans crave community and companionship, but I think Americans make that desire into a national ideal. Our holidays and celebrations point towards this. The ones that are strictly and uniquely American - the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving - are centered around people. Holidays like memorial day are celebrated with cookouts and traveling to see other family members.
I admit I am taking a very optimistic and idealistic view of our country. I know that all these things are corrupted by hate and greed and ignorance. And unfortunately, many people believe that these values belong only to themselves and people like them.
I only have my experiences to draw from but at this point, in a time of change and division, I like to think these values can tie me to others across the continent and give us a sense of identity.
So, happy 4th of July. I would challenge everyone to use this holiday as a jumping off point for thinking more critically about the commonalities you have with your fellow countrymen. Even if at first they might seem like differences, these similar motivations and values can serve as a first tiny thread tying us together and making us a better nation.