Monday, January 29, 2007

That Little Hellhole that I Call Home

Sure, there are a lot of drawbacks to living in Washington. It’s expensive, it’s pretentious, and it’s full of workaholics, traffic, crime, and guys who try and pick you up by flashing their business cards. The climate leaps between frozen tundra/wind tunnel and swampy humidity, with maybe one or two nice weeks in between. D.C. will never be as hip as New York or Los Angeles. But that’s why I love it here and don’t want to ever leave again. So, here is a tribute to the dreadful overpriced hellhole that I call home.

I love that DC is so transient. Nobody who lives here is from here, and that’s the way I like it. I enjoy the fact that, compared to most people, I’m considered a hometown girl. (I’m from Woodbridge, for the record, it’s an outer suburb.) It also thrills me that we have a ten-second test for spotting a local. Simply use the phrase, “The bitch set me up!” If they laugh, they’re one of us.

Washington is a dorky, fashion-challenged hick town. You get the occasional preppy hipster, sure, but for the most part we never could let go of cargo pants, shoulder-padded skirt suits, and the dreaded white commuting sneakers. It isn’t beautiful to look at, but it means that today I went to work with visible bra lines, ill-fitting corduroys, and a prissy pink sweater, and I was STILL the hippest girl on the Metro. I imagine in New York or L.A., the Fashion Police beat you senseless before you can even leave the house.

I actually missed the Jersey barriers, the constant paranoia, and the fact that if you dropped a nuclear bomb on the Capitol, my apartment would be in the “instant kill” radius. The rest of you suburban suckers can mutate then die, or just mutate, I’ll be vaporized within seconds. Instant kill is the height of hip.

I never cease to be amused by the stupid rolling briefcases that people bring onto the Metro. Every morning, at least one person will run over my feet or hog the escalator. Seriously, what do these people carry around? Maybe a book, their lunch, gym clothes…what on Earth else do they need? Does anyone really have to lug that much crap around? Only in DC do people pack for eight hours in a cubicle as if it’s an African safari or a lunar expedition.

I love Adams Morgan. I don’t know whether that neighborhood got nastier, or I just got older, but either way, the sheer ick factor fascinates me. The puking frat boy 22-year-olds, the dirty sidewalks, the three women wearing two outfits (seriously, all women who hang out in Adams Morgan look the same to me). It’s the only place you’ll hear a woman brag to her friends, “I didn’t want to make out with that guy, but there was nothing else to do!” Uh, crochet? Jogging? Whatever, Adams Morgan is people watching at its finest.

I am very happy that my old apartment building is now an abandoned crack den. I’m not pro-drugs, it just pleases me that I’m such a badass for having once lived there.

D.C.’s Bluetooth mania is fascinating. Every day, I see well-dressed people ranting to themselves. Since it always seems like they’re talking to me, I’ve started to play along. “No, you want the skim milk.” “So dump the boyfriend already, OK?”

“Black Cat, Black Cat…gimme some money!” I like to picture Black Cat Guy on vacation. “Margaritaville, Margaritaville…gimme some money!”

I love that every time I walk across the Mall, a family of tourists will ask me to take their photo with the Capitol. Invariably, I cut off their heads.

I’ve been here so long that all of my hairstyles since 1991 have been dutifully cataloged and mocked. I wither as soon as I leave. D.C. is home, and I don’t see myself ever leaving again. My town is backward and gross and work-obsessed, but that’s the way I like it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Year’s Resolutions and Personal Growth

Every year, I resolve to eat more vegetables and have less drama. And every year, I exist on a diet of cheeseburgers and drama.

Does this mean that I never change? Or that people in general never change? Yes and no. I think the basics are forever. On my good side, I’m brave, loyal, funny, creative, generous, and genuinely happy to be alive. I can cheer anyone up in five minutes or less. On the negative side, I’m hopelessly na├»ve, self-absorbed (I have a blog, ‘nuff said), I get stuck and worry too much about things I can’t fix, and I am neurotic enough to make a detailed pro/con list of my own personality traits. (An earlier draft of this posting included a personality trait pie chart.)

Growth isn’t about throwing out the old and replacing it with the new. You can’t control your basic nature. However, you can control what you do about it.

For example: the drama. Oh, boy, do I have drama. Divorce, international moves, demented kidneys, new careers, romantic mishaps, financial issues, and launching myself into a whole new life (which, on the surface, looks a whole lot like the old one, creating weirdness). And I’ll never completely figure it all out. A younger version of me would view all this chaos as a great calamity. Why can’t I ever get my life under control? If I work hard enough, why won’t everything fall into place? The old me usually sulked, blamed herself, or complained when things fell apart.

The New-and-Improved Me, however, accepts that I don’t control the universe. Damn shame that I don’t, I know. So, New Year’s Resolution #1: I am not responsible for the behavior of others. I cannot control every circumstance. I can’t control what other people do, but I can control my reactions to it.

Also, drama is funny. I've learned to have a sense of humor and deal with personal problems more graciously. The older you get, the more perspective you have, and the funnier it gets. When you’re 30 years old and watch “The O.C.” on DVD because you can relate to it, yeah, that’s hilarious. I think my life will always be a bit chaotic, because otherwise I’d be kind of bored. Also, judgement isn't one of my strengths. Accepting my drama is healthier than denying it, because it's a part of me that won't ever completely go away. (Though, here's hoping 2007 is a bit more quiet.)

More on the theme of control issues, I've also learned that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. I just had to learn to be specific about what I need. People do want to help, but sometimes they need to be told what to do. Over the course of 2006, I've flat-out asked for sympathy, a free place to stay, an apology, help finding a job, free meals, rides to Target and hugs. And I've gotten every last thing on the list. So, Resolution #2: Rather than pointlessly complain about my life, I will learn to be specific about what I need to do to make things better. Less talking, more doing.

Last year was the year from hell, and sometimes I considered giving away all my stuff, changing my name, and leaving the country. Except that, well, I already did that. So New Year's Resolution #3 is to know the difference between moving forward and running away. Also, I might eat a vegetable or two.