DC No More

Hello! Sorry for dropping off the face of the Earth like that! But I’m baaaaaaaaack, and hopefully will be writing more regularly.

But first some news: this is no longer the blog of Ella in DC, the DC girl. Because I don’t actually live in DC anymore! Surprise! Where in the world is Ella?

The answer is…. *drumroll*… London! I’ve hopped the pond, and am now living La Vie en Angleterre for the next year. I’m attending grad school, scrounging around for part-time work, and geeking out over all the lovely history and architecture and Harry Potter references this town has to offer. (confession: I’ve already been to Kings Cross station, and worn a Slytherin scarf at Platform 9 3/4)

I have to say, leaving DC has been a tremendous relief. Part of that is to do with shedding a budding, unwanted political career in favor of home sweet academia, part of that is living on my own in a new city instead of with my family in my hometown, and part of that is just general Anglophile Feelings talking. But…still. Maybe all my good-natured ranting about how I hated the transient nature of DC, hated how everyone was a “suit”, hated how the city itself has very little sense of rooted identity (at least in the part where I live, and grew up) was not actually that good-natured. Maybe I wasn’t kidding, or half-kidding, about not just loving, but also hating DC. When I realized I was going back to school (which was not at all a sure thing, I got accepted into my program at the last possible minute), I thought, Hallelujah, I’m going home. When I realized I was leaving DC, and that, in all likelihood, I never have to live there again if I don’t want to, I thought: Hallelujah– I’m getting out.

What We Write About When We Write About Abuse

Content warning: Talk of various kinds of abuse.

I’ve noticed something in writing about abuse. There’s this terrible reluctance to mention the good parts. See? Even writing that feels foreign. How can there possibly be “good parts” to being abused? Abuse is horrible!

Well yes, abuse is horrible, but here’s the thing: neither abusers nor their victims are so flat-out stupid as to create or uncomplainingly stay in a relationship/circumstance that’s 100% Bad Things literally all the time. Think about  it: abusers want to have and maintain power over their victims, right? And that means they’d do well to have their victims loyalty. And what better way to build loyalty than by getting someone to trust and care for you? As for the victims, who on Earth (except maybe people with EXTREMELY damaged self-image, which is actually only a small portion of abuse victims) could justify, even in their own head, being hurt so constantly, seemingly with no motivation but pure hatred?

As someone who was abused, the portrayal of abuse as Pain and Pain Alone doesn’t just bother me for its inaccuracy– it’s dangerous. This is the kind of idea that leads for people, children especially, to have no idea they’re being abused unless by some miracle they get out. And even then, it takes a lot of horrified looks from friends when you tell a “funny” story about your childhood, a lot of therapists saying things like “you know, it’s okay to be angry, right?” a lot of panic attacks you don’t fully know the cause of until you realize that what was done to you was not okay.

I think that inaccurate/irresponsible portrayals of abuse tend to fall into one of two categories:

Category One: These are people who’ve never been abused themselves, but are extrapolating based on things they’ve read. This is REALLY common when writing about child abuse. Because everyone knows what child abuse is, right? It’s Harry in his cupboard with no meals, it’s Sara Crewe in the attic, it’s trans and gay kids whose parents try to force them into conversion therapy and call them “abominations”. These people I understand and have sympathy for: they’ve heard the very worst examples and are trying to spread the word. The only problem is, abuse victims themselves pick up on the idea that only the very worst cases even count. How could someone be abusing you if they’re also the person who read you bedtime stories and fixed you tea when you had a cold? They were just punishing you because you deserve it. They only called you a freak doomed for loneliness because you are. Because they love you.

But it’s not true. That’s abuse too. That’s WRONG. And while the people who write otherwise are incorrect, they generally are sympathetic and shift gears if gently called out.

But then there’s Category Two.

Category Two tends to show up more in criticism of institutions as abusive, particularly religion and bdsm. These peope love to make broad criticisms of their chosen institutions, saying ALL religion is damaging and hurtful, that EVERY aspect of kink is a form of abuse. And, unlike Category Ones, when someone (anyone!) tells them about a positive experience they had, thy shut them down, tell them they don’t care, whether that person is a survivor, a defender or both (because institutions are BIG– people raised in cults can still go to houses of worship, people abused by a kinky partner can find healthy love with a different one. And looking at it another way, does having been abused by a parent mean you’ll never want a family? Will you become celibate forever after an abusive relationship? Maybe, but maybe not.).

I have no sympathy for these people. They don’t care about helping anyone. You can explain to them that “When you say ‘all religion is always evil’ there are people who will think of their abusive church’s soup kitchen, and conclude that ALL your criticism is invalid. When you say ‘kink is always abuse’ there are people who will remember that trying bondage with a friend made them feel at home in their body for the first time, and conclude that you’re full of shit, and that having a safeword ignored is no big deal so long at it ends quickly. People who are truly on lockdown and fearing for their life almost certainly aren’t reading your blog– but other abuse victims might be. When you paint with such a broad brush, you discredit yourself to those who might really need to hear the warnings you have.” But they usually won’t listen, because they don’t really care about helping people. They just want to scream about something they don’t like, and they’ve found a way to get sj-points doing so. I believe that’s monstrous.

Just because something doesn’t kill you doesn’t mean it makes you stronger. And when you want to warn people or help them, you have to listen first.

Can We Talk?

Please?

No, really, I want to talk to you.

Maybe I’m the only person in the world who genuinely wants to talk to people. It feels that way sometimes. I read article after article about how it is VERBOTEN to strike up a conversation on public transportation (I do this constantly), about how EVERYONE HATES calls and voicemails, please just text (I loathe texting. It is a necessary evil. Please, if you can, save us both the time and me the anxiety over your vocal inflections, and just call me).

And I’m an introvert! No, really! This is maybe one of my biggest pet peeves– how people use “introvert” to mean “shy”. To quote a little classic cinema, You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means.

Being an introvert doesn’t automatically mean you’re shy, or intimidated by people, just like being an extrovert doesn’t make you automatically outgoing. Being an introvert means you draw your energy from being alone. Being an extrovert means you draw your energy from being around other people. Say you give Ingrid Introvert and Edna Extrovert both all-expense paid trips to private cabanas on deserted tropical islands, because you’re generous like that. Ingrid will find this super-relaxing, and come back feeling refreshed. Edna might also have a great time, but she’ll come back exhausted, needing to catch up with people RIGHT NOW. Similarly, Ingrid might have a blast at Edna’s 24-hour birthday extravaganza, but afterwards she won’t want anyone to so much as LOOK at her for a few hours before she has energy for more than watching Downton Abbey.

I’m an introvert, like Ingrid, but I’m pretty damn outgoing (incidentally, my brother is the opposite– a shy extrovert). And so, after a nice quiet evening to myself, I’m tickled to have a chat with someone.

Is this a gendered issue? There’s this archetype I see of women in public places not wanting to talk. And while I hate being sexually harassed same as everyone, I don’t really care what the gender is of the person on the Metro who says “Oh, is that Storm of Swords you’re reading?” Let’s talk Red Wedding!

I grew up in the era of “Stranger Danger,” but somehow that was warped to my mind as “Get to know ALL THE PEOPLE– then they won’t be dangerous strangers!”

Again, context is everything– I’m not quite so obtuse that I can’t see why it’s a horrible idea to chat someone up alone on a dark street, or any other isolated-to-semi-isolated place. If you’re engrossed in your paper, I’ll leave you alone (although if you’re reading my favorite book, all bets are off). I have enough manners to know not to just start yammering to someone in a coughing fit, or who looks like they’ve been crying (except maybe a gentle “Are you okay?”).

But when soda companies base an entire ad campaign on the idea that it’s unusual for people to return smiles, when actual scientific studies show that a polite few words with someone on your morning commute will make you happy, when I literally would never have met one of my best friends in the world if I hadn’t commited a faux pas and commented on her awesome Fezzik notebook, I have to wonder if we’re all getting a bit too cagey. Maybe it’s not hideously awkward and weird to exchange a few words with your fellow creatures. Maybe it would lead to a world that feels less lonely.

Your thoughts? Talk to me. I’m listening.

Cutting My Hair

“Today’s the day.” My mom, who has been wanting me to do this since I was eleven, is excited. My stylist, who has been cutting my family’s hair since I was in elementary school, who my mother and I followed from a snooty spa to a noisy salon in the far suburbs to, finally, her own trendy salon not too far from where the snooty spa had been, is excited. This is the sort of project a stylist can really enjoy, fun in a way “take an inch off” never is.

Me? I know that if I don’t do it today, I never will. “Get rid of it,” I say, shaking my head into the shaggy mess it’s always one step away from becoming. “I’m sick of the whole damn thing.”

I’ve been home and rocking the freshly-unemployed-new-college-grad life for a month and a half, inasmuch as anyone can “rock” such a lifestyle. It’s Halloween, which seems like as good a time as any for a big transition. In ancient times, when Halloween was Samhain, the dark-bright holiday, tonight meant offerings and masquing. Does this count as either? Or both?

“I finally talked her into it,” my mother says, with pride. This is only half-true. I was making noises for weeks about wanting to change my appearance in a big way, and it was either this or becoming a redhead. My skin, though pale, has olive undertones that make me nervous about trying any color besides my natural dark brown.

Getting your hair washed in a salon is always a treat. Laying back, feeling the flow of warm water and the gentle massaging of shampoo is enough to make the world melt away even if the shampoo chairs don’t have a massage feature, which these do.

When I see the thick dark dripping mat hanging past my shoulders, I don’t see anything I’ll miss. My hair, in and of itself, has never received a compliment from anyone. Not once that I can remember. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it– it’s terribly thick and healthy, it’s never once been dyed; “virgin hair,” stylists call it. It’s a dark brown, almost black color that, while not sparkling red or sunny blonde, is not unpleasant. It certainly doesn’t lack for body or natural volume. It’s just not friendly. It is the Semitic hair of my forebears. It frizzes up in heat, falls into my face and gets in the way at inopportune moments, and escapes in wispy tendrils from even the strictest ponytail. The one time I can remember being truly delighted with it was the night of my senior prom. I’d had it done in something near enough to a French twist– I called it a “New Orleans twist” in honor of its crypto-French roots, and my prom’s Mardi Gras theme– with the help of roughly three pounds of bobby pins and half a can of hairspray. It may have been nearly as much metal as hairdo, but I looked downright regal.

As the first few cautious cuts begin, I wonder at how late in the game I realized that this would be considered a radical act by some. It was only after I’d more or less decided that my tresses’ days were numbered and began to do a little research into particular cuts that I became aware that short-haired girls were not just uncommon, but controversial.

It hadn’t been that way for me. In my family, short hair for a woman was more or less the norm– my mother, my grandmother, a handful of cousins. I’d seen Emma Watson cut off her hair, and I thought she looked beautiful, almost like Audrey Hepburn, my highest compliment. Friends of mine had donated their hair to charity and received nothing but praise for it–my hair could never get long enough without puffing up like a cotton ball. A gentleman caller, frustrated with my hair getting in the way when he was trying to kiss me, told me I’d look hot with it short, going so far as to joke about the profusion of barbers in the area, and how we could resume our business more comfortably once my hair was gone.

It was only after I’d dipped my toe into the internet that I saw anything else. “Why do straight women cut their hair when they know men don’t like it?” articles would ponder. Well, actually, no, I didn’t know that. All I know is that if I’d had the fashionable hairstyle in high school, waist-length and Japanese-straightened, I’d have looked like a honeydew in a novelty “Cousin It” wig.

Apparently, I’m making a political statement. It’s a good thing I’m already a feminist, because apparently only feminists would be so bold as to cut off their long hair. Apparently I’m telling the world that I don’t care about its opinions.

I’m far too weary to make such a statement. I’m so tired of seeing the same reflection day after day, year after year. I’ve had the same hairstyle, more or less, for a decade. Thick hair gets so heavy. I’m so tired, deep down in my bones, tired of feeling the same for so long. Maybe if I looked different, I’d feel different. Maybe it’s good I’m becoming an accidental radical; maybe if I have the hair of a brave person, it will make me brave.

Half my head has been shorn; there is clearly no going back. I rifle through every objection I’ve ever heard to short hair in my head: It’ll make you look older. Well in that case, bring it on! I’m short enough that I was mistaken for a middle schooler the other day. Anything to make the news that I’m a twenty-one-year-old college graduate a bit less shocking.

Guys won’t hit on you as much. That may be true, but you never know until you try, right? Then again, after the aforementioned age issue, at least I can be sure the ones who do aren’t pedophiles.

Your hair won’t look as healthy. We’ve been over this before; if my hair was any healthier or more vibrant it would be approaching near-prehensile levels of mobility, and it still isn’t doing me any favors.

You’ll look like a boy. Oh.

Uh oh.

“Francesca?” I ask the stylists’ daughter, a chic young woman who works at her mother’s salon. “You don’t think I’ll look like a boy when it’s done, do you?”

My mother and my stylist, who’ve been swapping travel stories this whole time, turn towards me and laugh, quick to reassure me. Francesca looks more confused than amused. “Are you afraid of looking like… a particular boy?”

“No, more like boys in general.”

She shrugs. “I’ve seen a lot of haircuts. Many on boys. You have nothing to worry about.”

I relax my shoulders and let them finish. I spend the remainder of the haircut half-zoned out, looking into my own eyes or glancing at the growing pile of hair on the floor, wondering out loud how much it will weigh when we’re done.

I hear the click of a blowdryer being shut off, feel a hand ruffling my new bangs. “Well, we’re done. What do you think?”

“Oh.” I look at myself, completely objectively, before anyone has a chance to say anything. My shoulders really do feel so much lighter. With my hair trimmed back to scale, my largest and most noticeable features are my eyes, which, with the new bangs, seem to take up half my face. I turn my head and am astonished not to feel anything rush toward my face, nothing getting in my way. The layers cut into my hair show the darkest parts of it, which have never been bleached by the sun and are a black that has hints of indigo. There are gentle curls brushing at the nape of my neck, and I think of all the earrings that will stand out so well now.

“What do you think?” I hear again.

I have no way of knowing how many “likes” my new hair picture will get on facebook. I do not know how many men will offer to buy me drinks the next weekend, when I take a trip to look at grad schools. I don’t know if I really do look like a radical revolutionary or Audrey Hepburn or anything. All I know is what I see.

“I look so different,” I whisper at my reflection. I turn my head slightly, touching my new hair as delicately as if it were a baby animal, and smile.

“I look so pretty.”

Scenes From a Childhood in the War On Drugs

With the big news in Colorado, I’ve heard a lot of talk about the effect legalization will have on that nebulous but honorable population, “The Children.” Now, there are large swaths of the population which I really can’t speak for (underprivileged and minority children, for instance–although I imagine that they, like anyone, will certainly benefit from the projected drop in crime and drug-related violence that will come with widespread legalization, as well as the drop in incarceration rates). But such people despite being, yes, innocent and impressionable children, rarely seem to be part of “The Children” anyway. “The Children” are generally suburban and middle-class, attending good schools, with enticing college prospects ahead of them if only they’d buckle down for the sake of their “potential.” Having been one of those Children not too long ago, I feel I can speak for them.

I was raised in the War on Drugs era, with D.A.R.E. and all its attendant trimmings. It seems the next generation may be raised slightly differently. With the legal status of marijuana changing, there’s bound to be a difference in the way we talk to our kids about drugs. While sex education in this country proves that there’s nothing America hates more than explaining the complexities of life and the concept of risk management to those under 18, I think a change in tone might be a good thing. At any rate, whatever’s coming can’t be much weirder than what I grew up with. Here’s what I remember:

Scene 1:

I am three years old and during the commercial breaks on my favorite cartoon show, various animated characters and colorfully-dressed celebrities sing, dance, and beg me not to do drugs. I do not know what drugs are, or how one “does” them, but I’m certain they must be something just terrible, and I’ll never go near them.

Scene 2:

I am six years old. A package of prescribed pharmaceuticals has arrived in the mail for my father. I ask what’s in the box and my mother replies, “Oh, just some of Dad’s drugs.” I am horrified, a is my four-year-old brother. “Dad does drugs? Should we even have these in the house? Is Dad going to be arrested?” Once my mother has stopped laughing, she introduces us to the concept of illegal drugs versus medicine, which can also be called “drugs.” This is news to us, and quite surprising. It is still unclear why anyone would do the “bad drugs,” but we walk away with the idea that they’re a type of mildly poisonous pill that some people believe is medicine. In retrospect, this is not a terrible way to think of most of them.

Scene 3:

I am ten years old, and in my very first health class. Here is where I first meet the concept of the “drug pusher”: someone, usually a stranger or near-stranger, who is very hostile and aggressive in their attempts to give you drugs for free. Why anyone would do such a thing is not explored. We are told that in middle and high school, we will meet many of these people, and it is our duty to turn them away. This doesn’t sound hard to do.

Scene 4:

I am fourteen years old. High school health class is not taken especially seriously. By now we’ve all figured out that our parents most likely did drugs back when they were hippies, we’ve heard jokes about stoners, we know that one kid who smoked weed one time and now talks about it like an evangelist who had a divine vision of Paradise. A few of our friends have smoked joints to more subdued response, half the class drinks, and we’re just getting through this nonsense as quickly as possible. The focus is on memorizing the scientific names of different drugs. Has anyone ever been asked, “Psst, you want some cannabis?”

Scene 5:

I am fifteen years old. I witness a drug deal on my school bus. The buyers have been told that this is a special, extra-potent strain of weed, that grows purple. They are very excited. Glancing at the goods, they are pretty clearly radicchio, but my classmates smoke them anyway, and claim to get an amazing high.

Scene 6:

Someone I’m close to has accidentally gotten high. His friends brought in a tray of brownies to school, and he ate one without knowing there was a “secret ingredient.” He runs to me in a panic. “Help me, I think I’m stoned!” The school administration has absolutely no idea what to do in this scenario (somehow, my unwittingly baked friend had the presence of mind to turn himself in while claiming to have “forgotten” who gave him the brownie). It will be years before Shoshanna and the “crackcident” on Girls, but when I first see that episode, this is what I’ll remember.

Scene 7:

I am eighteen years old. I go to college in a state where medical marijuana is legal. The few times I am offered drugs, it’s in a spirit of friendship, or even romantic interest. I know that if I say yes, I’ll be met with smiles and a lighter, and if I say no, I’ll be met with smiles and an offer to go to Jimmy John’s instead. The one time I am offered something harder than weed, my frankly terrified refusal is met with a cheery “more for me!” My school-sponsored drug education looks incredibly weird in hindsight.

Scene 8:

I am twenty-one years old. Colorado has legalized marijuana. If I went there, I’d be old enough to buy some. Journalists in national newspapers are wringing their hands and clutching their pearls. “What about The Children?”

Yes, it will perhaps be difficult to talk to your children about something that previously had been a simple boogeyman (“It’s dangerous and illegal and will eat your soul.”). But surely honesty and sound advice and an open dialogue with The Children has some merit. Surely it’s better than this.

Subway Buddies

I think I’ve decided that Nora Ephron is going to be my new 2014 subway buddy. Really, she’s perfect for the task. She’s smart, and funny, and tells great stories–anyone who’s had three husbands, met JFK in person, and written When Harry Met Sally is bound to have some truly Grade-A stories, and when that person is also a great short-essay writer, well, how can you go wrong? I can’t think of anyone better to enjoy my commute with.

I think Nora will really enjoy the Metro. She’s a New Yorker, so she’ll be impressed with how much cleaner and easier to understand the Metro is than the New York subways. She’ll probably giggle at the ‘70’s carpet on most of the cars, but out-of-towners always do that. Nora and I can swap stories of our underwhelming meetings with famous womanizing presidents (she was disappointed to learn that she may have been the only intern Kennedy never hit on, while Bill Clinton wasn’t even the tiniest bit flirtatious when we met. Although in all fairness, I was eight years old at the time). We can even play Metro games, like guessing at people’s occupations, or trying to spot a man under 40 who can wear a suit without looking like the guy on top of a wedding cake. We’ll have a wonderful time together.

Please don’t bring up the fact that Nora Ephron tragically passed away in 2012. Or the fact that I never met her when she was alive. These are irrelevant. Being physically present is a totally unnecessary quality in a subway buddy. In fact, it’s rather discouraged. There’s never any worry about one of us running late, or getting on a different car by mistake. If I had a bad day and don’t want to talk about it, she won’t pester me to tell her what’s wrong, but can cheer me up with a funny sweet story about her uncle or the people in her old apartment building. If I feel like chatting with the person sitting next to me, or texting my friends instead of spending time with my subway buddy, she won’t feel hurt or jealous. It’s a beautifully simple relationship.

I have another subway buddy, of course, who’s quite different. It’s Erin Morgenstern. She’s not as boisterous as Nora, and is not really into Metro games or swapping stories about our weekends, but she can make the whole world fall away so beautifully. Her background is in visual arts, and it shows. She’s only written one novel so far,  The Night Circus, but it’s incredibly lovely, and luckily it has almost no plot. A great novel with no plot is truly an underrated thing. When a book’s whole strength rests in its plot, you read it once, enjoy the story, and then you’re done. There’s very little point in going back. But with a book where the plot is secondary or even incidental to things like great characters or an extraordinary setting, you can go back plenty of times and still thoroughly enjoy yourself. That’s how it is when I’m riding the Metro with Erin–I’m spending a few minutes completely forgetting I’m on a train, looking into a beautiful place with characters I love, and what they’re doing doesn’t really matter.

A good subway buddy is harder to find than you think. I’ve tried dragging J.R.R. Tolkein along with me, but he’s so bothered by the noise, and how the trip ends just as he and his cast of hobbits and elves and the like are getting comfortable, that it just seemed cruel to subject him any further. Jane Austen gets motion sickness and trips over her petticoat. Neil Gaiman keeps forgetting that this is the Metro, not the London Underground, thank you very much. And Douglas Coupland’s complaints about consumer culture seem more depressing than funny if you’re listening to them while underground in a metal tube.

But no matter. Nora and Erin and I will suit each other just fine. I think the two of them will get along, even if they are so different. And it will be nice, at the end of a long day, to descend the Metro escalators (there’s a Bob Dylan song I always think of when I’m on those escalators), swipe my farecard, pull out my Kindle, and see my subway buddies waiting for me.

Native Daughter

Here’s the thing about being a DC native. It makes it hard to read the paper.

After reading Sam Youngman’s “Take This Town and Shove It,” and Chris Cillizza’s rebuttal, “Why Washington Journalism Doesn’t Suck,” I felt, along with deeply identifying with Mr. Cillizza, a familiar muscle twitch near my right cheekbone. It was the same muscle that twitches when I hear some politician talk about “the Beltway crowd,” or boast about how they’re not a “Washington insider.” But to give some more perspective, I should start with a little background story:

Welcome to June 2011. It is 3pm on Capitol Hill, and if one more person asks me “what I think of DC” or “isn’t this so different than where you’re from?,” I will, in a symbolic if not particularly effective gesture, bash them repeatedly over the head with a copy of my birth certificate.

When I interned for Congress the summer after my freshman year of college, I still had absolutely no perspective on how most of the country thinks of DC. I was born in the city, and there were enough DC transplants attending my university alongside me that I didn’t think myself unusual. On the Hill, though, the other summer interns were often mystified to hear that not only was I a DC native, but that anyone was, that such people even existed. They thought everyone in DC had moved here to work in politics. Forgetting the classism involved in such sentiments (surely you’ve noticed the thousands of blue-collar workers who keep this city of over half a million people running?), this kind of talk always hit a nerve with me.

That internship was the first time it really hit me that large swaths of the country know Washington for its political scene, but don’t really recognize that there’s a city full of people here, too. This would bother me far less if the people who think of Washington as a political ambition playground or a place to spend a few years after college before moving to a “real” city didn’t have the habit of moving here, seeking out a somewhat ridiculous way of life, acting surprised when they find it, and then blaming my hometown for getting them into this mess.

“Take This Town and Shove It,” struck me as a perfect example of this phenomenon. Youngman’s story was a repackaged version of an age-old tale: ambitious young person comes to the big city, gets caught up in the decadent life, finds that the life they’ve sought out is unfulfilling, and must return to the humble roots of their original passion. There are movies about this–from “Moneyball” to “The Devil Wears Prada.” The only bizarre part was that Youngman seemed to think his dissatisfaction with his time in DC was due to some inherent evil present in the city or its “culture,” as opposed to a fairly typical reaction for anyone who lets their ambitions run away too far with them.

This is simply nonsense. Growing up here, in an upper-middle-class environment, I knew plenty of people, mostly the parents of people I went to school with, who worked in government or journalism, and they were not particularly different from anyone in any other profession. They certainly weren’t whiny, lecherous boozehounds like some of Youngman’s acquaintances appear to have been, or scheming “Beltway insiders” like a politician might make a speech about. To my admittedly untrained eye, they seemed like people who went to work every morning, helped their kids with homework at night, and watched football on the weekends. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the Insidious Beltway Insiders!

I understand that this phenomenon is not unique to DC. Poor New York is a symbol of about a dozen lifestyle stereotypes, and certainly fills to the gills with people looking to embody them. (At this point, you will be unsurprised to hear that I have friends in New York, and while they range all manner of occupations from software engineers to comics artists, none of them are portraits in flashy debauchery, nor would they make good fodder for a tv show about “New York Dreams”) But at least there’s a counterbalancing stereotype of the curmudgeonly native New Yorker, so popularized by Woody Allen. Perhaps DC needs a famous filmmaker to write it a few love songs?

Chris Cillizza worried about looking like a “Villager” defending his tribe. I suppose what I am trying to say here is that I am exactly that. This city is my village. I saw “Peter Pan” at the Kennedy Center when I was barely old enough to walk. I was horrified at the age of ten to learn that in most cities, people have to pay admission to go to museums. I was more delighted with Teddy finally winning a race than with the actual Nationals victories that preceded it. So please, when you write about Washington, please try not to portray it as merely an oozing blob of toxic “culture.” There is a city here as well, and it’s one I’m happy to claim as my hometown.