Tuesday, August 12, 2008

DC: Hot, Buttery, and Just out of the Oven

New York is “the Big Apple”. There’s Motown, Chi-town, and LaLa Land; Steel City, Charm City, and the City by the Bay. It seems that every major city in America has a nickname; every city, save my present home, Washington, DC. It’s about time that we remedied this, and I propose that DC’s nickname should be something along the lines of “the Big Pie on the Potomac” or “the Crusty Capital”. Why? Because Washington, DC is just about the flakiest place I’ve ever been.

I haven’t spent much time out west, and I can imagine that the laid-back left coast lifestyle might lend itself quite well to flakiness. As far as east coast cities are concerned, however, DC has to be right at the top of the list. There seem to be entire relationships out there based on the mere idea of maybe, one day, spending some time in the same place. Look at all the Facebook wall posts that say things like, “Hey, miss you. We should hang out… soon!”

I think it’s funny… when it involves other people. When it involves me, I just find it annoying. The older I get, the less desire I have to be friends with anybody and everybody. I surround myself with people who bring something to the table. And, although I have no problem in groups, my ultimate test of whether someone is worth getting to know is based on one-on-one interactions. When someone takes the effort to make plans with me, I expect that they feel the same way. My expectations have been sorely let down.

If one, or both, of us doesn’t think enough of the other to actually make plans, and then keep those plans to the exclusion of whatever else might come up, why go through the pretense in the first place? There are plenty of people out there who I am fine seeing whenever we happen to run into each other, and yet some of those same people seem dead set on roping me into making plans that I know they won’t keep. What’s more, when I call them on it, they look at me like I just kicked their puppy in the face.

So, I’ve got two questions: what is it about DC that breeds this flakiness and what the fuck can I do about it?

Here are some possible answers to the former:

- DC is a political town, and therefore almost everyone in it is to some degree a politician. Does that mean that everyone aspires to be either king or kingmaker? No, but it does mean that most people here are naturally concerned with their status and, therefore, the line between socializing and networking is continually blurred. Most of these people aren’t so much looking for friends and acquaintances as possible connections, entries in a rolodex.

- DC is a town where so many people’s social groups are an extension of political movements and causes. Fostering actual friendships with people can take a backseat to securing one’s place in the group. These are the people who ask “so, who’s gonna be there?” every time plans are being made.

-DC is a town full of kids; recent grads eager to prove themselves real-life adults with schedules full of interesting plans. No more keggers and trips to the dining hall, they’ve moved on to cocktails and brunch. The prospect of having an evening without one of these social events penciled into their planners can fill some people with existential dread, so they overbook and promise to be places they have no intention of ever going.

These are just thoughts. I won’t pretend to have a definite answer. I want to hear what other people have to say. I also want to hear what people think about how to handle it. It’s hard to stop making plans with flaky people without coming across like anti-social hermit or a raging asshole, but at the same time, my tolerance for this kind of thing is definitely waning. Any and all suggestions are welcome.


Lemmonex said...

I find just saying, "Sure, you call me" when I get those half-assed offers does the trick. It is a weird acknowledgment that it is all a bluff.

Lance said...

that's usally what i do. the problem is delivering the line in such a way that it doesn't give off the sense of either complete gullibility or utter contempt.

women are just so much better at that sort of subtlety.

KassyK said...

I think it is like this in DC also because its a transient city...you have people here who already have close groups of friends from home and college and then are constantly making more and more friends in the new city...it gets hard to keep up with all the social events.

For me, I just don't make plans anymore unless I can keep them (with the exception of being sick).

I know I used to flake out because I had so many obligations (a few years ago when I was younger) and I would just "yes" people to death because I felt bad saying "no" when someone wanted to see me, even if I had no interest in seeing them.

No more of that.

I make plans. I keep plans and I do not say yes unless I feel truly obligated (work event-wedding event) or really want to go. I am still overbooked--but now it is with plans that I want to have and so cancelling is out of the agenda.

Very interesting post.

Sorry for the babblefest!

Lance said...


don't apologize for babbling. what else are blogs for other than babbling?

and the problem as i see it is the serial flakers. we all get busy, or just want to take a night off sometime. the ones who do it habitually just end up making it more complicated for the rest of us to make serious plans.

Zipcode said...

good post and you are right -- dating in this city is just as bad - more single women here then single guys - make sense. I have way too much competition, there are a lot of pretty girls here.

I digress - I am with kassyk - I usually stick with my plans unless work or illness comes up.

The G Manifesto said...

DC does have a nickname. In fact it has two:

1. "Chocolate City"
2. "The Nations Capital"

Also, DC is an interesting place for many reasons.

When you generalize about DC you have to make sure you are generalizing about either DC The City or DC The Capital.

Two different places.


Lance said...

zip, i have some very definite ideas about dating in DC; more, much more, about that to come.

g, 'the nations capital' seems more like a description, and 'chocolate city' can be any city with a majority of black residents. it can describe newark, nj; gary, in, new orleans... neither of those count as real nicknames, but the post wasn't really about that anyway.

The G Manifesto said...

I got it that the post wasn't really about that.

"'chocolate city' can be any city with a majority of black residents"

I agree. But "Chocolate City" has been the nickname of DC ever since George Clinton broke it down with the Track Chocolate City:

"There's a lot of chocolate cities, around
We've got Newark, we've got Gary
Somebody told me we got L.A.
And we're working on Atlanta
But you're the capital, CC"

Good article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dc/dc6898/funk.htm