My older sister Laura is a pro wrestler who goes by Stevie Kixx. We were in both a metal band and All-Stoned Auxiliary Reading Club while we were in high school; in recent years, she spray-painted her crutches gold after breaking her ankle skateboarding home from the bar. She’s the most fun person I’m aware of, and she taught me early on that you absolutely must not just passively have, but actively make, your memories.
It sounds a little corny, but it was utterly convincing in practice. “Makin’ a memory!” Laura said as we snuck away on a mandatory family trip to Disney World to smoke a blunt on the Buzz Lightyear ride. Should we set fire to this old couch at a house party? “Makin’ a memory, dude!”
“Makin’ a memory” means coordinating in advance the kind of situation about which you and yours can later say, “Oh my god, what about when we got those lobsters for our Captain’s Platter, ended up returning them to the briny deep because we felt bad, and they almost pinched off your bikini top?” or, “That human pyramid was so close to working out.”
During the pandemic, it became clear that the stock of memories I’d put together before February 2020 were really crucial for getting through a time when I largely couldn’t make many new good ones. (Except for Activities Day.) It mattered a lot to have memories I’d made with those I love to return to as proof that things could be good again, someday: to have had Jenna pause our Fire Island dinner preparations to race down to the dock with me every evening just in time to catch the sunset; to have given and gotten bro tattoos with Laia on Julianne’s home office floor; to have snuck into a country club pool at night with Sarah, even though the ocean was seriously right there. What I achieve, party-wise, helps me later, too: I’m able to draw on these brighter, hotter times whenever difficult circumstances pounce on me and shake me around in their teeth.
You have a beautiful summer ahead of you, whether you know it or not yet—and if you don’t, you can engineer it in that direction. Here are some ideas about memories worth making with your friends, especially in groups, now that you have the opportunity to hang out again.
1. Anything you commit to doing with your friends can become your “thing,” aka, a memory you can keep on making. It’s so chic when a friend group takes up a trick-based card game like bridge, or goes to tennis, or starts a magazine. They’re into D&D; they have band practice every Sunday. Making a new interest into a shared summerlong project is also a technique for marking time—“That one year that we got really into boxing,” or whatever pursuit holds your collective interest. As my friend Rachel also mentioned to me: Regularity/routine is nice because knowing you're going to do something a few times makes it easier to relax and enjoy it; there's less pressure to have the one single flawless and most fun hangzone.
2. Dress like seeing one another is a special occasion, and it’ll feel like one. I know many people who like for their home team of friends to get ready together before big nights out, and I am such a person myself. It’s mooring to squeeze in some less-crowded time together by having a preliminary cocktail and trying to fortune-tell gossip about the coming night. Pragmatically, I also like to lightly think, as a group, about how the pictures will look before we’re in full swing, trade clothes, and do one another’s makeup (for those who observe).
If this sounds a little draconian to you—wear the predetermined friendship uniforms, or be cast out from social life—it really doesn’t have to be? To less calculating minds, it’s more like, my friends’ll specify, “Dress for a picnic!” and, even though I already thought I understood that I was going to a picnic? It changes how I want to see myself there. It’s interpretative.
Whatever the little label—if we’re doing “slutty chateau,” or “tropical avant-garde” (as Laia and Jack invited us to conceptualize, for their summer wedding)—I find that people have a slightly better time if they put thought into personifying the occasion at hand with their clothes, however they do.
Listen to XTC as you pregame outfits.
3. Have a mass birthday event for everyone who spent theirs indoors this year. Just tell all your friends it’s their birthday and to show up at the park. Cut up a supermarket sheet cake, put it on paper plates, stick a candle in and put a matchbook beside each piece, and lay out slices across a picnic table—this way, everyone gets to make a wish. Put pizzas around. Making it BYOB is totally fine. Better than “totally fine” is also making a deranged vodka punch and ensuring that the non-alcoholic version is just as inspired—and that both come with little paper umbrellas.
(And if you’re like, “Mass birthday event, or mass group hang, after only talking to four people for a slow-passing year-plus? Who exactly do you expect me to invite, bitch?” about this, or any of these ideas: Trust that many people feel similarly at a loss about how to beef up friendships right now, or are especially down to hang in our current moment and would love to be invited far and wide. Please go ahead and hit up your acquaintances for inclusion; someone has to play host, and if it’s you, you’ll find that people are more than willing to reciprocate.)
4. Go see sports for the sake of spectacle (and fine dining). You must eat whatever overpriced dream snack bar food the stadium serves out of a miniature helmet, you must heckle and jeer and jump to your feet when something fantastic/terrible/mysterious happens on the field, you must go with a friend supporting the opposing team and wear team colors. Observe the sky over the field, just as much a part of the landscape as the Astroturf. As my bro Alex taught me: Take ho pics in your jerseys. (Except if you’re showing out for a local youth team. In that case, take ho pics at the bar after.)
5. Have a yard sale and donate the profits. My friends Sarah and Alyza are deft organizers of events that are swanny and convivial, but which exist first to generate resources and cash for community organizations. Yard sales are handy for these purposes: There’s nothing that screams “FRIENDSHIP” more than (a) extended hangs on the sidewalk together and (b) wearing one another’s clothes. By setting up some racks and tables, having your Close Friends on Instagram purge their closets onto them, and selling things to one another and the general public for like $5–$20, you can make a shocking amount of money for, say, Trans Lifeline, No Kid Hungry, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA, the reentry-after-incarceration organization A New Way of Life, or The Russian LGBT Network.
6. Learn how to surf with your best friends, or with new friends you want something incredible to do and talk about with. I’m an uncoordinated weakling, so when I say I love to surf more than just about anything else in the world, please rest assured that you’re likely more than capable, too. (For those with physical disabilities, Move United has a state-by-state list of sports-based organizations that offer recreational events and programs, many of which are outdoors; plenty of coastal states include surfing-focused ones.)
Learn to kneel first, and always paddle for two strokes more than you think are necessary. The first time you stand up—which will happen sooner than you expect—it’s like having a secret handshake with God which signifies feeling at one with the natural world. It feels like religious communion, especially if you’re stoned. Learn with friends and you’ll associate one another with the water forever; plus, it’s sick to catch a party wave.
P.S. Did you know the Beach Boys couldn’t actually surf? It would be fun to tell someone that factoid as you mutually feel prayerful in the water.
What a hack.
7. Put on a SUMMER PRODUCTION. Musical theater isn’t usually my idea of “anything I want to be even proximal to, in any capacity,” but I had this weird daydream the other day, just as it was getting sunny and some of my most outrageous friends were heading over to sit on my roof. Walking home from the wine store, it hit me: There was nothing I wanted more than to put on a SUMMER PRODUCTION.
Would we do A Midsummer Night’s Dream—hella classic—dwarfing Shakespeare in the Park’s sorry flailings forever after? Maybe we could stage an experimental and exploratory bare-bones version of Heroes of the Fourth Turning, multiplying modernity by modernity, relying on our spare and forceful performances more so than elaborate production… uh, tableaux?
Well, no. Back at my house, the homies immediately screamed “MAMMA MIA, MAMMA MIA!” when I floated this idea. So... the musical based on parent-swapping and the music of Sweden’s gummiest and most glamorous pop export? I think! I’ve never seen it! That’s what we’re doing in the next few months, if we can ever figure out rehearsal times. Places, people, places!! (I’m also the costume designer, and I’m so far very inspirited by the fact that ABBA’s spangly stage outfits were wearable tax evasion. I know I can really coax out that subversive approach to performance onstage, also via sequins.)
8. Expand your grilling repertoire. Second only to the ocean, in terms of personal sacraments: a paper plate with a burger and dog on it; a plastic cup of wine on the grass next to me. What if this is the summer you all got into shish kebabs? (Note, again, that construction of “the summer you all got into…”—that’s really the implicit key to everything on this list, I want to reiterate.) Or grilled pineapple brushed with honey and vanilla, and finished with powdered sugar? Perhaps you grill a pizza topped with otherwise-unpizzalike components? Whatever you do, please wear a “fun” apron about it—for example, perhaps the cook is looking for a kiss?
9. Make statement food the centerpiece of a party. I call this move the “ice cream socialite” because it’s so easy to make conversation about a semi-uncommon food: a low country boil; a rack of ribs; Ina Garten’s flag cake. And I wasn’t kidding about the ice cream element in play, either—just get one of everything from the ice cream truck, then make your friends fight over who gets what and keep the rest in the freezer for those who couldn’t make it (and so deserve the dregs!!! just kidding… or am I).
I have to come clean, though. While I believe it’s honest in what it says, I mostly wrote this entry to give you another timeless and broadly applicable improvement to whatever it is you’re doing. That is the song “Ice Cream Castles” by The Time, aka, the song of the summer, every summer. Please press play and see what I mean as we continue through this prescriptive guide to seasonal recreation, and even if you’re not into the rest, you will have gotten something incontestable out of this.
We are young, we are free, on Earth together. Let's fall in love.
10. Badminton: It’s the sport for you. Badminton represents the right level of effort for a given summer calling: It asks you to know little going into it, but to try your best anyway for the sake of the afternoon. To make things happen with other people. To accept, without mean commentary or aesthetic resistance, if Steve Miller Band happens to be on FM radio—any worthwhile summer will make The Joker of all of us, if we are smart enough to let it. (The “midnight toker” kind, not the one people kid around about online.)
11. Get serious about a cannonball contest. Kind of freaked up that this test of physical aptitude feels like a vestige of the past. Let’s repair that. This illuminating Popular Mechanics guide may help you take home the liquid gold—but also like, just do a cannonball. Don’t get it on any of your pretty non-participating friends’ hair in your haste, is my only non-negotiable rule.
12. Meet in another city. This is a surefire memory-making technique. I count the summer of 2019 as the best one I’ve had because it included time with people I love in Boulder, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico. Anywhere works, as long as most or even all of you don’t live there. Don’t crowd one another every last minute if you’re not the kind of guy who likes company around the clock, but do see each other for a few days in a row—I strive for a little of that to be room service or pool–based loafing time, too, no matter how many sightseeing opportunities people may have familiarized themselves with via internet slideshow ahead of time.
13. When you go: Get matching souvenirs, especially those you can wear, which are always, always worth it. In Boulder, my then-new boyfriend Jonathan and I bought everyone in the group hemp sweatshirts, which was so funny and cute… not to mention COLORADEAUX CHIC. I copped coordinated camo-print bathing suits on super-sale at Walmart for some of the team one year—we looked so hot! Airbrushed T-shirts from the boardwalk? Why would you ever hesitate? Which is to say nothing of friendship bracelets—that’s a no-brainer, Jack. Take more pictures than you think you’ll need, too!
14. Get tattoos together. My friend-based tattoos are the best ones I have, easy. I’ve never once regretted liking someone enough to want to commemorate that for keeps. If you can’t agree on matching ones, (1) try harder and (2) going at the same time counts just the same. Obviously, this is among the most notorious methods for immortalizing a moment in time.
15. Much as Laura and I loved to spend warm summer days indoors, feel free to do a miniature book club in the air conditioning. One friend told me that the key to this is doing it with just one other person, which makes it more private and expressive. Consider summer literature: Read “The Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield and figure out how not to be an insensitive freak to others. Read Summer Crossing for city friction. Read Memorial for desultory heat/halting despair and sex. Mrs. Dalloway isn’t actually that long, and is a sad party-girl story all about a June day that holds life in its palm and regards it from different class-based heights. Print out and make notes on Tobi Haslett’s “Magic Actions.” The official book of this and every other summer is Eve’s Hollywood.
16. Elevate your park hang with a wild-card element. A piñata. A Twister board (sexy!). People tend to like croquet more than they think they will.
17. Ambiently set your single friends up at parties. If you are normally an outrageous flirt but are in a relationship, this is a conciliatory and still-fun means of channeling that ol’ skank feeling, which I always want to! Remember that, if it works out, this is their origin story, and you’re both in it and helping out with it! Look at your guest list: How’s the mix? Should you tell people to bring a friend? Fresh blood helps with healthy potential-hookup circulation. Make introductions, as a habit.
If you’re not the type to make introductions with ulterior motives, focus more on the setting at hand. I first got together with my still-boyfriend Jonathan at a party Ben threw in a bodega that had an events room in the back one summer, for example: The idea was, you bought your beers out of the big fridge in the front and went in the back alley to smoke near the industrial fans. Guess if we made out against one of them as the rain gently began to fall?
Ben’s odd vision for choosing a party setup indirectly set us up, too, because it was easy to be charmed in that environment. When you’re planning a party, keep in mind that someone might get laid—either once or for a good long time—based on the mood you set into motion, if not your active matchmaking. It’s so special to me that Ben is a part of that particular memory for us; we get to blame him for our bizarre union. Be that friend.
18. Just get a little loose and hang out however, as much as you can, in casual settings—you really don’t have to overthink it. All of the above only works because it builds on what’s already world-class, aka, getting to hang with your friends in any capacity without worry, just because. At the moment, you really don’t have to put out cloth napkins or charter a boat to have an excellent time with other people (although, if you are doing those things, hit me on my private cell). It’s more than enough just to keep one another company, no scheming required. So: If you have expensive sunscreen, share it! Pile everyone onto one picnic blanket! Freak what you feel as you stock up on new memories. Just remember to let them wash over you while you’re actually making them, too.
19. If all else fails? Ask your friends to revisit this wise list someone allegedly found in an Urban Outfitters dressing room, and, as a group: Take 8 ho pics for Instagram; get a little tan; tie a message to a balloon and let it go. Have a legendary summer.