5 Ways Living In Washington DC Has Hardened Me Against My Own Will


1. I now have a “Metro Face.” One morning during my commute to Farragut West, I caught a horrid, horrid reflection in the window. No. NO. That can’t be me. The human face of the misery that could only be the product of being jostled into the elbows of unmerciful strangers on our respective marches to our K Street jobs. I raised one hand, the reflection raised one hand. My jaw was doing this weird puckered up thing, and my eyes were stone-cold dead eyes. The face said, “We are all miserable workaholics, and if one more elbow touches me, I might have a meltdown.” This face has, amongst my friends, family, and boyfriend, officially become known as my “metro face.”

2. Paying over 10 bucks for a salad = normal. I will willingly pay over $11 for a bed of lettuce with several “artisan” ingredients tossed and chopped together with a fancy contraption at a dizzying pace. But when I see someone with a clipboard trying to save the forests — or my rights as a woman — or someone asking for change by the metro, I’m like “I can’t afford that. I work at a nonprofit.”

3. White Rabbit Syndrome. A la Lewis Carroll: I’m late, I’m late… for a very important…” um, it’s 9:15 and those invoices can still get processed at 10:15. Nevertheless, I’ll swear under my breath while forging past the swarm of people and having another mini-freak out. I can’t imagine I look like a very fun person to hang out with during these moments.

4. Merriam-Webster just got SERVED. “Lonely”: adjectiveˈlōn-lē a: being without company b: cut off from others. Wrong. “Lonely”: being confined inside the walls of a new unfurnished apartment with only a map-of-the-world shower curtain to break the pattern of white-and-beige, and, more timid than a child on her first day of kindergarten, not likely to call up any of her maybe four contacts. Too afraid to make a trip to TARGET because seeing strangers in groups having fun leads to emotional difficulty. Now that I’m over that hump and through the woods months later, the “lonely” that’s associated with only kinda-sorta knowing one person at a crowded party doesn’t seem half bad.

5. Pulled-up bootstraps will forever be in style. The only thing worse than staying here would be walking away. Every day I see it in the distance: the Washington Monument staring me in the face, as if to say, “You don’t want to stay here? Alright, head on out. I dare you.” And I don’t think I could go down that road. Even if DC kicks you to the curb on occasion, it ensures that the first thing in your line of vision upon standing up will be a gorgeous view of the tidal basin. Or a text from your new friend asking to meet you at Busboys and Poets. Or someone playing violin in the metro. Some reminder that tomorrow is a new day, and look how far you’ve come.

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cover image – Matt Mansfield