At a recent convening of the “female minds” during a birthday party celebration, I was reminded of the challenges posed by the D.C. dating scene. A fellow friend at this birthday dinner was regaling the group with her predicament: she had to leave the birthday party early for a date.
Normally, this topic is the launching pad for well-wishes, compliments, and giggles. In this case, the poor girl was dreading her impending date. Subsequent conversations with the male in question after agreeing to the date had made her a little wary. He was cocky and pushy–which made her question if he was interested in anything more than a quick hook-up. However, she didn’t want to back out of the date 40 minutes before they were supposed to meet up.
We tried to psyche her up. It’s great to meet new people! A night on the town will be fun!
No go. She was all frowns and pessimism as she slid off her stool and collected her coat and purse.
“Why is dating in D.C. so hard?” she asked as she turned for the door.
We all knew from personal experience what she meant, but none of us had an answer…
Washington D.C. is always a nominee for those lists with titles like “worst city for singles” or “worst city for dating.” It’s not surprising, really. Washington, D.C. is not a normal city. Although the representatives of the nation live and work here, The Capital is in a fantasy land of its own, shielded from the real-world by a thick bubble. It makes sense that this removal from reality in the workplace would also translate to the playground. I do know good people who have met, dated, and married people that they met while living in D.C. However, these people seem to be either part of the lucky minority or are D.C.-dating-warriors who persevered after several harrowing attempts.
Here are three reasons why dating in D.C. is particularly difficult:
1. Not a Priority
People move to D.C. to climb the ambition ladder. Therefore, the city is chock-full of people who are here solely to get ahead. Don’t get me wrong, there are ambitious people in this city who are also decent humans, but a fair amount of the potential partners you meet at a bar, gala, or social event aren’t talking to you unless they want an easy hook-up or a networking connection. They’re not in D.C. to date, find a long-term partner, or start a family. Their goal is to get that job title, the contacts, and move up the ladder. This isn’t necessarily an evil way of thinking–it’s just how it is here. Unlike other cities that seem to balance work and play, D.C. is all work all the time. Dating isn’t always a priority; it’s a fun side dish with few rules. It’s best to just ask potential partners what they are looking for and be honest when someone asks you the same question.
2. We Rent Instead of Own
Washington, D.C. is made up of transplants. You’ll be hard bent to find a “D.C. native” wandering the streets. When meeting someone new, after shaking hands and trading names, the first question is bound to be, “so where are you from?” This isn’t a super-personal question posed by a potential stalker, it’s the honest assumption that you probably originate from another state. Idaho. California. New York… Everyone assumes you’re not from around here.
Mix together being a D.C. transplant with a potent shot of ambition and you get a Class A D.C. Vagabond. Washington, D.C. is like the political version of movie star L.A or artsy New York City—you move there to try and “make it.” If you fail, you pick up your dreams, make new plans, and move to a new place. Most people in D.C. don’t stay for more than a few years. Some people got bored with D.C. or change their career plans and move out. Others climb the ladder and leave with the contacts to their dream job in another city. Many depart with a pulled muscle from climbing fatigue. Nobody stays here for long—which can make serious dating difficult.
3. Not Exactly a Town Built on Family Values
D.C. is the seat of America’s political power–and ground zero for careers in politics to be made or broken. Politicians are constantly bombarded with ladder-climbers–some who offer whatever they can in order to secure a favor, a piece of power, or to make a name for themselves. Scandal is Washington’s middle name. Clinton and Lewinsky. Kennedy and Monroe. Petraeus and Broadwell. Edwards and Hunter.
The Capital is rough, competitive, and power, not love, is the currency that fuels the D.C. machine. Finding a partner who is focused on a family in such an environment can be difficult. It is a little easier for those who are not submerged in the government bubble, but for most of the D.C. population, that is the dating field. It’s like looking for an “honest” pirate on an island full of treasure. You might find a Jack Sparrow or Will Turner, but you’ll have to wade through the Davy Joneses first…