This past week I have come across two pieces on that perennial topic, dating in D.C. One concludes it sucks — for women, at least — so much that heading for testosterone-heavy Alaska seems like a good idea. The other doesn’t disagree, precisely. Rather, it suggests that Washington’s incestuousness, compactness, and convenient public transportation makes pairing off much easier than in other young-skewing locales, like New York and Los Angeles. Writes Amanda Hess*:
Washington, D.C. is the closest real-life dating scene I’ve experienced to that of a college campus, or else a nursing home — the city where single people go to die. In D.C., the culture of coupling was contagious. Unlike other coastal locales, District singles shack up with a Midwestern zeal.
Hess talks about the ease of running into a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend or hooking up at the regular happy-hour scene, of falling into cohabitation with group-house roommates. “Claustrophobic” is a word she throws around. Also, “intimate.” And “organic.”
By contrast, Tara Bahrampour and Annie Gowen, the Post reporters who find themselves man-magnets in Alaska, sum up their take on the D.C. dating scene thusly:
We live in a metropolitan area that has one of the largest percentages of single women in the United States. Add to that the idea that many guys here are more interested in power than in romance, and you have a potent recipe for single-gal gloom.
In fact, Bahrampour and Gowen’s experience seems to directly contradict Hess’ portrait of easy — and organic — pick-ups:
In other places I’ve lived, relationships seemed to take root organically: in neighborhood cafes, at pickup soccer, at the beach. I could walk into a party, whether I knew the people or not, and make connections on an intimate, open level. Here, meeting people can feel more like a business deal. People seem to come to Washington to build résumés, not to find love.
I’ve been thinking: How could different authors have such oppositional takes on essentially the same topic? My conclusion: age. With a little web-sleuthing, I found college graduation dates for Gowen and Bahrampour, which would, barring exteme precociousness, put them in their mid-40s. My highly unscientific — i.e., guessing — assessment of Hess, based on her website, is that she’s at least 15 years younger.
Sure, when you’re in your twenties, it’s acceptable, albeit potentially awkward, to hook up with your roommate or the guy you met at the 2-for-1 intern happy hour. When you’re 45, not only is it not okay — it’s highly unlikely that even if, like Bahrampour and Gowen, you persist in going out to the bars, you’d meet someone. (And God help you if you have a roommate.) A man above 35 in this town — married or gay. How do I meet the right person, or any person, is something professional women in their thirties grapple with.
At the risk of sounding stuck on myself, I think I’m attractive enough. In fact, when I travel, I meet men, in parks and pubs, bookstores and bars, at cafes and concerts and even conferences. That doesn’t happen here. Or, rather, let me qualify: I do occasionally meet boys here, in part, I suspect, because I look younger than I am. But even if I do still get carded, it doesn’t mean I want to play cougar to the new guy in town.
Ultimately, the demographics simply don’t add up. As Hess herself notes, nearly half of Washington households are singletons. If we’re nesting, it’s with the cat**.
*Author, BTW, of the single-best typo of all time.
**For the record, I’m pet-free.