Washington: A Culture of Single-ism

Photo courtesy of Karl Johnson
courtesy of Karl Johnson

A culture of single-ism. That’s what we’ve developed. A culture where being single is the preferred lifestyle. A culture where working your ass off, obtaining as many college degrees as possible, constantly striving to get ahead and catching up at a daily happy hour all at the same time is much preferred to finding that one person to invest your time in for a happy life together. Our priorities are different in D.C. This is not small town America where finding a mate and settling down to start a family is your primary focus as you enter your late twenties. This is a town where being single at 30 means you are doing just fine. But why? I refuse to believe it’s because Washingtonians are selfish and only think of themselves. We have huge social networks and work for causes we truly believe in, often times dedicating our lives to helping others. So why, and how, have we developed a culture of single-ism?

D.C. is often referred to as a “top” city for being single in. Arlington was ranked number 2 in the entire country as the best place to find rich, single bachelors and bachelorettes. Every possible dating service seems to have setup shop here too, including some very interesting ones. We even have the transportation dating system, otherwise known as Metro! While I haven’t tried all of them by any means, I’ve tried a few of the online ones (and..um…the Metro). And I’ve met some great people because there are seriously a lot of fantastic people in the area who just happen to be single. The stigma around online dating is slowly going away and more and more people are coming to accept the fact that it’s ok to meet someone through a website. After all, it’s not like you actually date the person through the site. You just get introduced to them through it. The virtual-ness of it ends there. So with all of these increasingly viable local options to meet the love of your life, why are we still the way we are?

It’s cultural. And it’s cyclical. With so many eligible singles in the D.C. area, it’s much harder to actually settle down with a particular person. Forget getting married, it’s hard in this area to even call someone a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or get beyond a casual date or two. When there’s a good chance that the cute girl you run into at the Harris Teeter tomorrow is going to be single, or that the hot guy you see at the Gold’s Gym has no lady to go home to, taking the plunge of being in an actual relationship is less appealing. Someone better is always potentially around the corner. The grass is always greener. So the more single people there are, the harder it is to stop being single.

Photo courtesy of
‘Capitol – On the Move – 3-9-09′
courtesy of ‘mosley.brian’

But why are we uniquely single in the first place? Well, for starters, the transient nature of D.C. contributes to this a lot. Hill staffers, college students and recent grads, federal workers and their supporting contractors and consultants – a larger percentage of these people come from out of town and usually at a young age with a “woohoo-I’m-not-tied-down” mindset. They may or may not be here for long either, so jumping into something is rarely on the must-do checklist. The other major factor is that everyone in the area is so freaking busy. The average young professional is working well over 40 hours a week, trying their best to prove themselves and show why they deserve that big promotion, and, at the same time, usually going back to school to pick up a graduate degree or two. Not to mention how many group social events we inject ourselves into in the name of networking or blowing off steam. Kickball, softball, even wiffleball. Great, great ways to meet people. But networking to make business or political contacts, or drinking for the sake of drinking until you forget about the stress of the office, is not a good way to make a special connection with someone you could spend the rest of your life with.

Photo courtesy of
‘Day 249/365 – Ballin”
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

This paragraph would usually be where I answer all of my self-imposed questions asked above. It would also be where I tell you exactly how we can fix this cultural “challenge” that faces us single folk in D.C., or where you can go to meet someone that ends up being more than anything from a drunken hookup to a two-or-three-date-ship. But, ladies and gentleman, I’m still single. So anything I tell you about how to find, and keep, a great match in this city would be nothing but a hopeful bunch of lies. But I do know this – it requires a change in attitude. The culture of single-ism may never end, but you can do your part to stop searching for Mr. or Mrs. Perfect and dreaming of how much greener the grass is on the other side of that imaginable fence. Instead, start taking potential mates seriously and start seeing them as someone you could realistically be with. They might just be perfect for you, even if that hot attorney on K Street keeps catching your eye. Only you can end single-ism, and you can only do it for yourself. Now, if only the men of D.C. could figure out how to meet those “at least twenty hot single lady friends that can’t figure out why they haven’t had a date in months” that KatieT talks about in her post!

Karl is a Washingtonian who lives and breathes everything that is DC. Politics, ethnic restaurants, sad sports teams, the Metro and pretty much anything in between. Karl’s life is kind of like going to a Nats’ game while eating Ethiopian food and discussing the latest legislation to pass the House. Then cramming on the Metro for a ride home. That ’bout sums it up. See why Karl loves DC or check him out on Twitter.

17 thoughts on “Washington: A Culture of Single-ism

  1. It’s not just here, it’s an international movement !
    TWITs (Teenage Women In their Thirties)of the world unite.

  2. “Now, if only the men of D.C. could figure out how to meet those “at least twenty hot single lady friends that can’t figure out why they haven’t had a date in months”

    Yeah, tell me about it. It ain’t easy.

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  4. Umm, every major city is like this. It’s not unique to here. Small town America is where you wanna go for love, not a major US city.

  5. Having re-committed to a more positive mindset about DC dating, I find this post very timely and spot on! Ultimately, dating is a process of trial and error, but at least the bad dates make for AWESOME stories.

  6. The problem with a lot of the singles in this town is that they are not looking for so much a partner as a status symbol. This town is highly status driven, i.e. I went to this ivy league school here, and worked for this big important muck-de-muck, and did that big important international brew-ha-ha. It leads to a dating culture where people are reduced to their CVs. A dating culture where you are competing to get the “best catch” and your significant is just another resume bullet point showing just how damn successful you are. The thing is the grass is always greener, there is always someone better, there is always someone smarter, there is always someone more successful, but the point is not to find the “best” since there is always better. The point is to find someone who makes you happy. Dating is simple when you don’t treat it like a job interview. Get over your sense of entitlement and what you think you deserve and enjoy what you have, or learn to enjoy your single nights of eating lean cuisine and watching tivo’d Gossip Girl.

  7. I’m a single girl in DC and I do stay busy with volunteering, social events and work but I also find the time to go on dates. I think if you really want it you’ll make the time. I do agree that we need a change in attitude and that the big pool of singles make things harder. I don’t think however that this is a DC problem; I believe this a generation problem. What I have seen amongst my single friends (girls, guys and myself included) is a great tendency to end something when it becomes difficult or inconvenient. As you said, everyone is looking for Mr/Mrs. perfect…in our culture if something breaks (cell phone, ipod, computer, couch, whatever) we throw it away and buy a new one, we want everything to work perfectly and we want everything fast, unfortunately many of us are treating relationships the same way. I’m not saying that we need to put up with stuff, all I’m saying is that it’s time for some honest self appraisal on this age of narcissism. Because as you said when you get to the other side of the fence you’ll find out that other person is not perfect either…ask anyone that has been married for 40 years if they never had problems… . Just my thoughts.

  8. This is one of the great things about DC and yet, so meh. IF any of you single ladies are looking for dates, you know where to find me… (Does that sound desperate?)

  9. I’ve been saying since I moved here that if I weren’t already married when I relocated from the midwest, I would probably never get married (at least not here) for the reasons metnioned above. But it goes both ways. There are a lot of uber educated, gym obcessed, seer sucker wearing alpha males in DC, but a LOT of them are incredibly douchey. I like to think that I maintain a pretty active social life for a 27 year old who lives in Fairfax (gasp!), has a dog and a husband of four years. And whenever I go out with my single girlfriends, it saddens me to see what’s “available”.

  10. I married at thirty so did live the single life in my twenties. I think it is a combination of the things people have mentioned status symbols, large pool of applicants etc….but the big thing in my opinion is that most people live here because they are dedicated to a cause or addicted to the drama and spend the majority of their time and efforts to these causes. Marriage takes an enormous amount of work and time. In my experience the reward is well worth it.

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  13. To RL:
    one of my least favorite terms is “brew-ha-ha”
    Perhaps my laundry list of deal breakers like people who use words like “brew-ha-ha” is the reason why I am single in DC.

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  15. I found this article incredibly ironic considering I went on a few ill-fated dates with the author back in the day, but that’s ancient history. I’ll give Karl the benefit of the doubt that it was pre-attitude adjustment.

    D.C. was where I ultimately met the guy I went on to marry, as was true for three other of my late-20s girlfriends. It’s true Washington has a greater proportion of people with one eye on the door than, say, Denver, but once I instituted a “don’t date anyone in politics, law school, or the media” rule, I found my happy ending. The District doesn’t always sleep alone tonight.