Dispatches from the frontlines
“I knew he was Secret Service. We’d be texting, and he’d send me pictures. It was like, ‘Hey, I’m at work,’ and that just happened to be him holding a sniper rifle on the roof of the White House. It was a little surreal. We went to Zaytinya, then afterwards we drove around in his truck. He darted into this underground parking garage that wasn’t marked, and it turned out to be a Secret Service bunker. He took me to the artillery room—rifles, grenades, automatic weapons just everywhere. He was giving me meaningful glances. In retrospect, I don’t know if this was his move and he was expecting me to jump his bones in the gun room.” —Tina, 42, federal worker
“I connected with a girl on Bumble, and all I could see on her bio was that she worked on the Hill. The night we decided to meet, we were both a little buzzed when we got to the date. It was the middle of the Kavanaugh hearings, so we’re talking politics. I made a joke about Chuck Grassley being bad at his job. About 90 seconds in, she responds, ‘That’s my boss. I love Chuck. He says hi every morning and he’s so nice.’ It got awkward. She gave me a good 60 seconds of a chewing-out. The takeaway: You should know which congressman or senator the person works for before shit-talking them on a first date. There was no second.” —Eli, 24, consulting
“I created the nightmare myself, I guess. It was a speed-dating event for professionals. I was matched with someone who worked at PBS. I said I watched sometimes. She asked if I ever donated to support it. There was a long pause. ‘No, not really,’ I said. She didn’t really say anything. She just left. I think I was too embarrassed to reconnect with her at the end.” —Richard, 35, government affairs
“We were six or seven dates into it, and we met up for drinks at the Ritz-Carlton in the West End. He shows up and proceeds to pick a fight about politics. We are of opposite parties—he did health-care policy, I did health-care policy. He couldn’t stand the fact that I was going toe to toe with him. He was telling me how Medicare should work this way, and I was like, no, Medicare should work this way. We were, like, deep in the weeds of payment policy, right? Five minutes later, he’s like, ‘I don’t even like you.’ So he just got up and left.” —Sery, 41, lawyer
“Through Tinder, I matched with another reporter. We had an okay time. Later on, she told me she was an investigative reporter and that she called the FBI agent in the city where I used to work to ask, ‘Have you ever heard about this guy?’ He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, him. He was totally the town gadfly.’ I laughed—I thought it was great. It felt like one of the more DC things to do: call a source and get information on this person you just met.” —Gene, 38, journalist
“We met on Hinge and went to Calico in Shaw. He asked me what I did. He worked for some government agency and said he was very liberal. I said, ‘I do digital marketing for a political organization.’ I typically don’t tell people where I work right away because in DC it’s just saying, like, ‘Hey, this is my political party.’ And because where I work is a libertarian organization, people sometimes conflate that with being extremely conservative, when it’s not. He was like, ‘No, no. Just tell me.’ I was like, okay. He looked at me and went, ‘Yikes, this isn’t going to work then.’ And left. It was really bad. Thankfully, the bartender was super nice and gave me a free drink.” —Sarah, 29, digital marketing
“I went on a date to one of the inaugural balls, and I wore my prom dress [from ten years before]. It was so tight I couldn’t get up the stairs of the Portrait Gallery. My date [a Wall Street Journal reporter] had to carry me up the stairs two or three times before we found out there was an elevator. We didn’t go out again.” —Andrea, 31, journalist
“I was on Tinder looking for someone to meet up with, and he asked me to meet him at his parents’ apartment in Farragut North. I was like, Okay, if you live there, you guys must have some money or some ties. We walk into the apartment complex, and it’s fancy—like hotel fancy. I’m looking around and I notice there’s a lot of White House paraphernalia. It looked like the inside of a gift shop—almost every White House Christmas ornament is there. Then obviously we go and hook up. It wasn’t until after that he told me, ‘My mom has a very important job here in DC.’ Of course, after I left, I looked his mom up by their last name and found out she was one of Trump’s economic advisers. All the decor clearly showed that his mom was very content with her job.” —Christina, 22, student
“I’ve been asked out on the Metro three times, and the first and third were almost five years apart and on the same Metro platform [Gallery Place]. No one else I know has ever been asked out on the Metro, period. And I’m not one of those girls that’s, like, super hot and walking around with dates on dates on dates. I want to be clear about that. After I said no, I felt a little silly. Like, I go out on dates with strangers from the internet—why does it feel sketchy to go out with someone who actually introduced himself?” —Julia, 25, sales
“I worked at NPR as an intern. I would go to parties and the host would introduce me as the NPR person, and everyone would lose their minds and huddle around me. You get a lot of people who want to go on dates with you if you have a holiday party or some sort of work-related event. Over the summer and fall combined, I probably got 50 to 60 Tinder messages about ‘OMG, NPR,’ which was kind of stunning. That did not happen when I worked for the DC government.” —Greg,* 22, public relations
“Things were going great. We had dated on and off for almost a year and had coffee every day at Compass Coffee by the White House, where he worked. One day, he texted me saying he wanted to have coffee urgently. He couldn’t tell me why over the phone. He sat me down and said we needed to end this because he just came back from the FBI and he’s being investigated by the White House for being a leaker. He didn’t want me to be pulled into this. Three months later, he texted me to let me know he was cleared. Fast-forward a year or two after we were already broken up and out of touch—he texted me again to say he quit his job at the White House. I don’t know why. I refused to meet with him.” —Hanna,* 41, international development
“This guy was super self-important. He told me how important his job was—something on the Hill, of course. He asked if I had any pets, and I was like, ‘Yeah, actually, I have a cat.’ He kind of got excited, like, Oh, we have a connection! Then he goes, ‘Oh, my God—I hate cats. I once put one in a coma.’ Obviously, I was shocked and offended and asked him how he put the cat in a coma. He was like, ‘Well, I was cat-sitting and the cat had diabetes, but I didn’t want to touch it because I hate cats. So I just didn’t give it its insulin shot, and it just went into a coma.’ He asked me what beer I wanted and came back with a different one. He was like, ‘I want you to try this one—it’s from my hometown and blah blah blah.’ I was like, That’s kind of sweet. Then he goes, ‘Yeah, it’s the cheapest one. It kind of tastes like shit.’ I left pretty abruptly after that. I actually ran into him once later at a house party in Georgetown. It was Halloween, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God—that’s the guy I went on the worst date ever with.’ He heard me say that, because naturally I was loud and drunk, and he was like, ‘What? You thought that was a bad date?’ ” —Emma, 27, marketing
“[When we first met, I was moving into] a new apartment in Columbia Heights. [It was a] total steal for the price. It should have been a red flag. I discovered all these tiny bites all over my body that I didn’t recognize at first as bed-bug bites, but then someone pointed it out to me. I basically was like, ‘Jack, I have bed bugs.’ ” —Min, 23, communications assistant
“Yeah, so Min told me this after our fourth date. I said, ‘If you need a place to stay, you’re welcome to stay with me.’ I think to the surprise of both of us, Min took me up on the offer. So after we had been on four dates and only known each other maybe two weeks, she moved into this really small studio apartment in Foggy Bottom with me. She ended up staying ten days. I think we started officially dating exclusively on the day Min moved in.” —Jack, 24, government relations
“One time, I met a guy at Franklin Hall off 14th Street and we went back to his place. We were hooking up, and he kept running his hands through my hair. It didn’t feel good. He did this for maybe ten minutes while we were making out in his bed, and it was kind of starting to hurt. I thought, I’m going to be bald. He’s pulling out my hair. He went to the bathroom. He had white sheets and I have black hair, and I got up and I looked around the bed. It was covered in my hair. It looked like he had shaved my head. So I just started grabbing it all up with my hands and made a hairball in my hands that was the size of a baseball, like a dense hairball. And I shoved it in my purse. When he came back from the bathroom, I was like, ‘You know, I’m just, like, really tired—I need to go.’ My head was throbbing in pain. I was just like, I want to get my hair and go. I wish I had a picture of that hairball. I showed that hairball to so many people. I was like, ‘You have to see what happened to me last night.’ It was as if one time he was hooking up with a girl and she said, ‘I really like when you run your hands through my hair,’ and then in his drunk mind he was like, ‘Let me just run my hands through this girl’s hair as much as humanly possible.’ And he did.” —Hannah, 27, operations at a nonprofit
“A lot of guys took me to different Smithsonians, and clearly they had their spiel. This lawyer took me around the National Gallery and would tell me about, like, the painter and what the painting was about. It was like, Okay, he looked these up. I had one guy try to take me on a date to see Billy Graham lying in state. He worked for somebody on the Hill and was going to get us in to skip the line. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll go grab a drink and then we’ll go see [Graham] lying in state.’ I didn’t think that was a good first date.” —Alex, 27, pastor
“On our first date, we talked about how in DC a first date can be weird because everyone is programmed to get into professional kind of small talk. Like how you could end up texting about the next date with ‘I’ll circle back,’ using that irritating jargon. I worked on the Hill then, and two days later I’m sitting in a hearing and I get an e-mail from him. He said, ‘Please review the attached material and let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing back from you.’ I thought that was funny because he was obviously playing on our conversation. The attachment was a full spreadsheet with photos referencing stuff we talked about: hobbies I liked, these joking charts measuring our compatibility, and proposing activities for the next date. I’ve always wanted to go back and look at the hearing footage to see if you can see my face when I’m opening it. I was like, I don’t know if I should be concerned. But in the end, I think it was very sweet, but very DC.” —Jessica,* 30, lobbying
“I was talking to this guy for a while at a bar, and when we were leaving, he asked for my number. I started to give it to him, and he was like, ‘Actually, why don’t you just add me on LinkedIn instead and we’ll connect that way?’ I added him on LinkedIn, which is the most embarrassing part in my mind: that I was like, Oh, yeah, this is an okay idea. It’s, like, literally 1 am in a bar in Adams Morgan and you’re like, ‘Oh, let me just add you on LinkedIn instead.’ ” —Tess, 22, digital marketing
“We work together. We would text all the time, like it was a thing. There was a Caps game, and he was like, ‘We should get a group of people together and go.’ It was five couples. He gets my ticket, and then the day before he’s like, ‘All right, so I got your ticket, my ticket, Stacy’s ticket. We’re going to sit a little further away because I couldn’t get tickets by everyone else.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, who the f—’s Stacy?’ He was like, ‘Oh, Stacy’s this friend of mine.’ So I’m like, weird, but fine.I meet Stacy and we sit down, and he’s sitting in the middle of us. Then I’m slowly realizing that they’re whispering to each other and they’re super friendly. He goes to the bathroom and she’s like, ‘Hey, how do you know Connor?’ and I was like, ‘Ummm, we work together—what about you?’ She’s like, ‘We play kickball. I’m so glad he invited me—I’ve been wanting to hang out with him for a while.’ She thought it was a date and I thought it was a date. He came back and I was like, ‘I have a headache. I have to go.’ Then I left and my phone died and I had to Metro back to Court House. It was, like, really shitty.” —Julie,* 28, sales
“I’m from here, and most of my exes all seem to have moved back. One invited me to his run group, which was way more popular than I realized. It’s for young black professionals. The second time I go, I see another ex. And then a guy I used to be involved with sees me going and wants to know when he can come. There was one day when I was there with all three of them, and none of them knew who the other was. I had to introduce them all. Then I met this other guy in Dupont Circle and we hit it off. He invited me to his run group, which turned out to be mine. I didn’t want to see all four of them at once. I stopped going. I was like, Whoa, I completely forgot what a small place DC is.” —Katherine, 31, speech therapist
“I met him on Tinder. He had recently moved to DC for a job at the State Department. We went to Cantina Marina. He was new, so there was a lot about DC he was really enamored with. He had only recently discovered the whole ‘LA for ugly people’ thing, where we have our own celebrities. The ones he had run into at a party were Sebastian Gorka and Kellyanne Conway, and he was very excited to have seen them. I’m a registered Democrat. I was pretty horrified. I stuck it out because it was raining and I had taken my bike. But I never saw him again.” —Quinn, 30, journalist
“We met at the Pride parade. Our second date was supposed to be at the National Portrait Gallery, but I went to the National Gallery. I was still fairly newish to the area. She was saying she was near an auditorium, and I was looking at maps and couldn’t find it. Finally, after about an hour, I just asked this random guard, and he was like, ‘Oh, that’s a few blocks north.’ I was like, Oh, my God. It ended up not being a total disaster, because she’s my wife now.” —Marisa, 23, audiovisual engineer
“I was working as a hostess at Barcelona. A lot of personalities and politicians would come by. I gave one my number, and he took me to Tabard Inn for brunch. He was talking about his job and said, ‘I work for ICE. There’s this Hanukkah reception at the White House—do you want to be my date?’ After, he sent me an e-mail saying, ‘This is probably odd after one date, but if the government trusts me with its secrets, so should you. I need your Social Security number and date of birth to get your clearance.’ So I got all dolled up and went. I was pretty much arm candy the whole time. But it was great—we saw Obama speak, and the First Lady came out. We saw each other a few more times, but he was always on his BlackBerry responding to these urgent issues related to immigration.” —Alicia, 33, writer
“Right on 16th and R streets, Vice President Pence comes flying through, and we’re all caught up by the motorcade. There’s a guy next to me, and we’re both, like, rolling our eyes, aggravated. And that was how the conversation sparked. We wound up going to dinner at Lupo Verde a week after. Meeting randomly on a corner, waiting for a motorcade, led to a really fun evening.” —Jamie,* 47, lobbying
“I was working at Smithsonian. After going on a couple dates with a Hill staffer, he said he’d give me a private tour of the Capitol. The day before the date, Trump announced the government shutdown would be ending. The guy said there was a possibility he would have to work and that he would text me to let me know if we were on or not. I awoke to no text, so I shot him one. He responded three hours after we were supposed to meet with a text that just said ‘working.’ I responded with a passive-aggressive ‘Thanks for the heads-up.’ He then said, ‘Um, I don’t know if you know this, but the government is RE-OPENING this weekend, like I am here to RE-OPEN THE GOVERNMENT JANE so like it’s pretty important, and when all of your precious Smithsonians are open on Tuesday THAT WILL BE BECAUSE OF ME LIKE I AM DOING THAT.’ It should be mentioned that he worked for a senator in the infrastructure committee and had nothing to do with the Smithsonians. I proceeded to curse him out over the phone in the Columbia Heights Target line and dump his ass.” —Jane, 23, journalist
*Name has been changed.
Dear Dating in DC
Relationship advice for oh-so-Washington predicaments
Dear Dating in DC:
I recently went on a few dates with my dream woman. There’s just one problem: I live in Brookland and she lives in McLean. Neither of us has a car, and that makes for roughly an hourlong commute. Also . . . McLean? Am I being a lazy, geography-obsessed snob for not wanting to go out of my way to see someone I could have a real future with?
I will acknowledge that’s a crappy commute. And I’ll admit that eating your way around the stalls at Union Market is a little cooler than hanging out at the Tysons Corner food court.
But if the juice is worth the squeeze, you’ll figure it out. The distance means you’ll have to be more intentional with your time, sure, but that could be a good thing! Think of fun halfway points to meet, or have staycations at each other’s homes. (I’m sure you can find something to do in McLean.) Otherwise, you can always ditch your SmarTrip. That’s why God invented Getaround.
Dear Dating in DC:
I just graduated from college and live with my parents in Herndon. How do I handle going out and hooking up? I don’t want my mom and dad to feel uncomfortable, but I’m also trying to live my life. (Okay, fine, I want to get laid.)
Horny in Herndon
Respect those ’rents! They’re letting you live at home for free and eat their food. To start, if you’re using a dating app, don’t tell them. Baby boomers do not understand Bumble. (“You’re too good to meet someone on the internet!”) Tell them you met your date on your kickball team. Better yet, don’t tell them you’re going on a date at all.
Also, do not under any circumstances stay the full night at a hookup’s house. Your dad will call the cops. Metro starts running at 5 am—after you get down to business, make sure you’re on the first train en route to your parked car in the burbs. Turn those headlights off before you hit the driveway, then sneak into bed. They’ll never know you were gone.
Dear Dating in DC:
I’ve been seeing this guy for a couple months, and I’m pretty sure I have to end it. There’s just one problem: I’m a die-hard Capitals fan, and every time we watch a game together, they win. I’m afraid if we break up, the Caps will never make it to the playoffs. Is it wrong for me to stay with him through the end of hockey season?
Crushing on the Caps
First of all, I appreciate your commitment to our hockey team, and who am I to issue judgment? Perhaps there is some cosmic equation in which their success hinges completely on your actions.
But probably Ovechkin and Oshie have no clue you exist. Have you seen Fever Pitch? If not, Netflix it because you could learn a thing or two. (Hint: You’re Jimmy Fallon in this scenario.) Let this dude go. Plus, won’t it feel better to make out with someone you actually like in the middle of downtown once the Caps win another Cup?
How to Stalk a Washington Dating-App Match
A manual for avoiding a DC cliché
1. First, a study of the subject’s prof pics.
Male on the Speaker’s Balcony and with his brethren at Hawthorne? Wearing a “Badass Feminist” pullover with her tribe at the Outrage’s book club? Doing a sorority squat around the giant Moscow Mule at 801? All integral to species identification.
2. Then evaluate the bio.
Singles with mating calls such as “Ilhan Omar for everything 2020” or “Politico, GWU ’18” are creatures of easy taxonomy. But the subject with a vague “legal assistant @ DOJ” or “government economist”? The researcher must turn to Google for further analysis.
3. Deconstruct the chat.
If the male’s opening line is “Did I see you last weekend at Wet Dog?,” the examination should be terminated. Also grounds for termination: He messages the researcher on Grindr from ten feet away on the same Metro car to say “nice ass.”
4. Begin the search for the public Insta account.
Is the female an aspiring influencer with solo shots of herself in a fedora by the Blagden Alley LOVE mural? Or is there evidence of the subject getting arrested outside the Capitol with Jane Fonda? A diligent scroll is imperative.
5. Also crucial: the Venmo profile.
A “Drinks @ the Christmas bar pop-up!!!!!!” or “Ezra Klein at Sixth & I tix” charge will provide the intrepid researcher with (almost) all necessary data.
This article appears in the February 2020 issue of Washingtonian.