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Above-Ground Pools Are the Working-Class Heroes of Summer

Every summer, my mom would spring for an inflatable Intex pool. And while it wasn’t as fancy or dependable as the in-ground kind, that’s what made it all the more refreshing

It’s the week of Fourth of July. And while we appreciate you being here, we really hope it’s from some stretch of sand or some body of water relaxing enough that your problems can be put on the same kind of ice as the booze in the cooler next to you. If not, throw on your shades anyway, and join us for our weeklong package, “Life’s a Beach,” a celebration of all things sand, sun and summer. Of course, if you’re already on vacation, you’re welcome, too — just be sure to reapply another layer of sunscreen, as these pieces burn bright. Read all of them here.

The majority of my best summertime childhood memories took place within the confines of an inflatable rimmed pool made out of blue rubber. I’m hard-pressed to think of any activity more fun than climbing off of that arched ladder, getting some good distance between me and the pool and running full speed toward the tubular circumference, launching myself back into the water over the rim like an otter at an aquarium. 

You know what you can’t do that shit with? A fancy in-ground pool. 

The in-ground pool is, of course, the gold standard. You go to someone’s house, and if they have an in-ground pool, you know that refrigerator is gonna be fully stocked. They probably even have a secondary one in their garage filled with Gatorades from Costco, because they’re just that well off. And while I lusted after these pools for much of my childhood — especially those with a water slide or the ultra-classy kidney bean shape — I see now that the above-ground pool deserves far more respect than society is willing to give it. 

Throughout most of my youth, my mom dutifully assembled those aforementioned Intex inflatable pools every summer, each often only lasting a summer or two before a hole in the lining would render it useless. Come early June, I’d have to resist standing there watching the hose fill it up for hours on end, like waiting for a pot to boil. I’d often climb in with the hose still running, the pool only half filled and the water too cold to last more than a few minutes in it during those late spring afternoons. Sometime around when I turned 13, my mom invested in a used permanent above-ground pool, the kind with a fixed structure that remained in place year-round. That was a big change for the Taylor household — we really looked like we were stepping up in the world, whether that was reality or not. 

We still have that same pool today, but frankly, it’s a fucking pain in the ass. Each year, my mother easily has to spend more than the cost of one Intex pool — which currently go for $150 to $400, depending on size — just to fix some niche little filter part or something. I can’t even imagine, then, what a nightmare maintaining an in-ground pool would be. Per HomeAdvisor, the average in-ground pool owner spends $1,200 to $1,800 a year, with some dropping up to five grand on their watery oasis. Meanwhile, Bob Vila says the average cost of installing an in-ground pool is $51,833. You could probably have several lifetimes of Intex pools before the in-ground one would financially break even. 

And what’s so great about the in-ground pool, anyway? “Oh, look at me, I can just step right into it. It’s like a little lake.” Okay, and? Lakes already exist. Where else but in an above-ground pool can you stand at Earth-level and be submerged in water? Where else can you stand on the ground and then literally jump up into water? It’s an experience you truly can’t get anywhere else.

But even so, there’s something about the above-ground pool that many consider subpar. People think this because it’s predominantly working-class people who have them, and that makes them “trashy.” To that, I say fuck ‘em. You can’t reason with these types of people — they’ll never get it. They’ll never appreciate the ease of just retreating to a shitty Walmart pool, or of just being glad to have a way to cool off at all

Above all, they’ll never know the fun of sprinting toward that cerulean oasis to slip in like an otter. That, frankly, is priceless.