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Becky Graebner


June 26, 2013 - 7:00 am
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photo 2

Le Venue

So, what’s it like living in Washington, D.C.?

I get this question a lot—especially when I’m home in the Midwest.  D.C. is a semi-mythical place to the outside world.  The national view of the Capital is a dichotomous. To some, this city is like that shown in Independence Day—our president flies fighter jets and we give aliens “the finger.” The residents all wear flag pins on their suits as they save the world each day.  View #2 is that everyone who lives in the swamp (D.C. is built on a swamp) is unfeeling and bloodsucking, like the mosquito, and is out of touch with the outside world.

Honestly, Washington, D.C. is like a group of bumbling, young girl scouts on a camping trip. I can say this because I was both a little girl and a girl scout—so no harm in my making fun of myself and my “troop” of friends.  Not many little girls get up in the morning bent on creating chaos and pain—and, like them, most people in D.C. go to work meaning well.  They want to get things done and receive praise—like selling the most Girl Scout cookies, bringing their troop greater glory, and helping people in their community.  Of course, there’s always that one girl who refuses to help paddle the canoe and just wants the next colored sash…but, you can usually win her over by trading some beanie babies—or political favors.

The second-most popular question that I get is; How is the bar scene–how are the people?

I think the biggest surprise after I moved to D.C. were the bars and their dating scene.  Back in good ‘ole Wisconsin and Ohio, bars were primarily dark, low-key places that tended to have a Badger game playing.  You show up in whatever you’re wearing: suit, flannel, hunting gear, wedding dress (it’s happened) and you’re welcomed with open arms.  You also make friends with whoever you’re sitting next to—you might even join friend groups and move on to another bar en masse.

In Washington D.C., people dress up to go out—even to patronize dive bars.  D.C. bars are the salons of revolutionary France–they are where the young, political gentry hang out and talk about themselves–and where the bourgeois go to get noticed.

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Sooooo, THIS is the reason everything's so screwed up in th' District.

Doesn't anything get noticed outside of the Bar Scene?

Pretty shallow stuff, here.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was introduced to capital city dating in the late '80s. I was recently divorced and had not really dated since high school. Wife v. 1.0 and I had "hooked up," before that was really a common phrase, in college and stayed hooked up for almost 16 years, or about 15 1/2 years too long.

I was at one of the tonier bars in town, met an attractive woman, and things were looking good - and then I learned about the "where do you work" question. It doesn't matter if you look like Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, are wearing an Armani suit, have a Ferrari in the parking lot to take her to your private jet to fly to your mansion on a private island, you AIN'T getting past that question!

But I didn't know that at the time. If I'd just left it at "I work for the federal government," I'd have probably taken her home and might have been with her still. Who knows? But, I went on to tell her I was working my notice and was going to start work for the State in a couple of weeks and told her for whom and doing what. A steel door clanged down and it was probably twenty years of fairly regular contact with her before we ever had a civil conversation other than strictly about business.

Capital cities are more segregated than even a small Southern town in the '50s was! They're not just segregated by Democrat and Republican but by where and for whom you work. I represented the State in contract negotiations with its unions and in the late '80s we were at war with the unions because the price of oil was in the toilet. AFSCME represented our largest unit and we were most at war with them, and they with us. Guess what union the vast majority of young, attractive, single women were in! For awhile I just gave up on dating in Juneau and found lots of pressing State business in Anchorage and Fairbanks. The other part of the segregation is between "government workers" and those who work on the staffs of elected and appointed officials. The elected and appointed officials are the nomenklatura and their direct reports are the highest caste of the non-elites. Everything is in a rigid heirarchy and only pretty women can move outside their caste though the usual method of movement is the horizontal career move. All of that can be sorted out and your place found in it in "Where do you work?" or "Who do you work for?".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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