Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Washington Social Diary

Who likes the snow? This snow bunny likes the snow.
The Wintry Mix Of Love
by Carol Joynt

The seemingly endless winter is making all of us urban east coasters just a little bit bonkers. Cabin fever is the least of it. The most recent blast of snow was beautiful, especially in the lovely quiet of the wee hours, but the sunsets are taking on the warmer hues of spring and stir yearnings for spring fever. I did see pussy willows in bloom, but we want more. Apparently Washington,  buried in the wintry mix, is also starved for love.

What got this thought on my radar was a Valentine’s story I wrote for Washingtonian magazine. Part of the research involved scanning through Craigslist personals, where an otherwise routine “men-seeking-men” post had a remarkable point of view: “It’s Valentine’s Day. The woman I was seeing broke up with me about three weeks ago. But a guy has needs—and everybody knows that it’s easier to find a guy to screw in this town than a woman to date.” And by screw he did not mean out of a job.
The snow in Georgetown at 3 o'clock in the morning.
In hibernation now, but soon these boats will be out on the water.
This little fella wants spring, too.
Pussy Willow sighting on the C&O Canal in Georgetown.
A day earlier, the Wall Street Journal posted its own discouraging take on romance in the capital, in a WSJ-commissioned Facebook survey of “the best places to live if you are single and looking for love.” Washington came in next to last — out of 50 cities! I know that’s not scientific, but still, yikes.

Does this mean don’t come to Washington to find love? I wonder, especially when there are so many other reasons to live here, not the least of which are well-paying jobs and a boom in modern (though high-priced) apartments.

Valentine's Roses that were given out to guests at a Hillwood Museum Valentine's night soirée.
There are so many cultural attractions, plus a vibrant hipster-foodie-craft cocktail scene where most of the people at the tables and the bar will have a college degree (or two). Washington over the last decade has transformed into what its devotees consider a world-class place to call home (take or leave the government).

Washington has figured itself out, too; it’s not about the government but it is about this century. It’s a mecca for youth, but with a peaceful co-existence among generations. The Millennials, the generation that got the short end of the Great Recession, respect the elders because they do the hiring and they know how to do the work.

In DC, it is sexy to be smart. And fit. Yes, there is a coterie of bored women (and some men) who let doctors destroy their faces and bodies, but they aren’t the driving force here. What does drive the city is a health minded populace who take a certain pride in not being pretty for pretty’s sake. What thrives are members-only gyms, yoga and pilates classes, Crossfit, with SoulCycle on the way; young women parade with yoga mats slung over their shoulders, and it seems that every other person is a runner. There are Hash House Harriers and cycling clubs. As soon as spring arrives the Potomac will host dozens of people on paddleboards, and in kayaks, canoes and sculls.
The Washington National Symphony Orchestra, taking a bow in the Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center, just one of DC's many cultural attractions.
Modern apartments are a boom industry in DC. This is one of the $1.4 million 2-bedroom condominiums at the new CityCenterDC complex in downtown.
In DC these days a new scene opens almost weekly. This is the new hot spot, Joe's Seafood, Steaks and Stone Crab.
DC is fun: this is at the new Pinstripes bowling alley that just opened in Georgetown.
The new Malmaison on the Potomac river waterfront, and only a short walk from kayak and paddle board rentals.
Taking a break on the Potomac.
My previous thinking was that 20-somethings should graduate college and head straight to New York to pump up the resume with serious East Coast cred and then take that and their brains to Los Angeles to cash in. But I’ve reconsidered. Washington may be the best place to hone the resume, followed by a beeline to Austin.

But what does any of this have to do with love?  Obviously it happens here — the bridal biz is thriving — but what makes it happen at a rate that is so desultory?  I have a friend who is divorced and who would like to meet Mr. Right II (and is not alone in that quest) and is obsessed with this issue and she has a simple theory: this is not the best city in which to be straight, but it’s a great city in which to be gay. Any kind of gay — young and gay, old and gay, public or private sector gay, power or artsy gay, media gay, lawyer-doctor-academia-diplomat gay.

Washington, D.C. takes the (beef)cake.
She could well be right and she gets a back-up from The Advocate, which just labeled Washington “the gayest city in America,” moving up from fourth place last year and easily out-ranking San Francisco, which came in eleventh. What makes Washington so gay? According to The Advocate, a high number of gay-friendly neighborhoods, and gay elected officials, and a growing population.

DC leads the nation in being home to people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to Gallup, who last year put it at 10 per cent, well beyond the national average of 3.5 percent.  

On the matter of elected officials, the publication said this: “Though they’re ostensibly right-leaning, we think hunky young pols Rep. Paul Ryan and Rep. Aaron Schock are subtly demonstrating their LGBT friendliness by indulging in well-known gay customs: Ryan lifts weights and exaggerates his stats (how fast was that run, Paul?), and Schock likes his shirtless photo shoots and pink fashion accessories.” They like, too, that House Speaker John Boehner dabs away the tears with the deftness of a Nancy Reagan. Pols aren’t the likeliest to come out, though. There’s a rumor a high diplomatic post is about to be filled by an openly gay man who lives with his partner. That’s a big step.

Socially, I see it all around. At a few galas in the last year there were tables of only men. At first I wondered if this was some seating mishap, but no. They were gay couples, married or on dates. I’ve been to dinner parties at the homes of married gays with children. No big deal; just another family.
Seating mishap? No.
When I hang out with friends who happen to be gay, or go to a dinner or party they host, I’m struck by the vastness and diversity of the community, and the reach across so many professions, and especially the relaxed and happy mood. They are into each other, they enjoy the freedom and acceptance they’ve achieved, and in a city that reflects and respects their values. Even some of the veteran walkers, always famously closeted so as to support the illusion of the “available bachelor,” or the “extra man,” are slowly, tentatively coming out.
Maybe not all couples, and maybe not even all gay, but still it's becoming more common at galas to see tables of only men.
The lesbians are not nearly as pronounced or obvious but, again, my friends who are gay tell me they are everywhere, too, have their own power circles, their own mafias, are in some of the city’s top jobs, are getting married, having children and going on about life. I often meet male couples who introduce themselves as married or partners but only once, and recently at a dinner party, has that happened with a female couple. A gay friend said, “Lesbians don’t need the spotlight like we do.”

Maybe. I don’t know. What I do know is that somebody is having all the fun in this town and, Tinder excluded, it doesn’t seem to be the boom trend among straight people. There’s a distinct feeling the tide has turned and it’s the heteros who stand on the sidelines of the action, watching and complaining about no dates, no sex, and no love. Subtract us from the Wall Street Journal/Facebook survey and the results would probably flip, making DC not only the gayest city in America but also tops for finding love.
Not soon enough ...
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt