Monday, September 8, 2008

inevitable questions

If you've managed to escape from this big, retarded village called Washington, DC, even for just a weekend, it's inevitable that you'll face this most confounding question: "What's it like to live in DC?"

There are several different ways to answer that question. For instance, you can qualify the "DC experience" using adjectives like "horrendous," "soul-sucking," "douchey," and if you're insane, "great." However, if you answer in the first three ways, be prepared to face an additional inevitable follow-up query: "Well, then why do you live there?" Now, unless you hate yourself, you will most likely answer "work," the only sensible answer, which will then invite your unwanted interviewer to ask you yet a third inevitable question: "What do you do?" Yawn. Unless your occupation is ice road trucker, having a conversation that entails the phrase, "What do you do?"* within the first five sentences usually ends in at least one party (again, if one or both of you are not ice road truckers) falling into a near-comatose state. For that reason, I cannot condone a 100 percent truthful answer to "What's it like to live in DC?"

At the same time, however, I can't condone a 100 percent false answer, such as "great," "awesome," or the most cringe-worthy of responses, "amazing."** I myself have never done this because I save lying to people's faces for important matters (i.e., "No, I didn't drink the whole bottle," "I don't know how the entire first season of Gossip Girl ended up on my iPod," "I wasn't fired, I quit," "What? No, I don' t have a gambling problem.). However, if you do decide to lie in the hopes of coming off as less of a miserable bitch than you I actually are am, be prepared to then answer the question, "Why's it so great?" To be believable and quickly get the hell out of this uncomfortable conversation, I suggest you go with the following: "It's socially awkward there and I'm socially awkward, so I get along swimmingly." Or, you can always just pretend you're getting a very important phone call (after all, you're from DC, douche!) and bail.

However, while running away from your problems works the majority of the time, it doesn't solve everything. The world isn't perfect. *sigh* There is one catch-all response, though, that can get you out of the sourest of proverbial pickles, including questions about life in DC: "It is what it is."

This answer is neither too depressing, nor unbelievably optimistic. It doesn't invite further inquiry, nor will it alienate your conversation partner (unless that's your goal -- it's usually mine). If you want to end the conversation, don't say anything else. If you want to continue it, "It is what it is" offers the perfect segue for you to change subjects. Observe, an actual conversation I had in Las Vegas last week:

"How do you like living in DC?"

"It is what it is. Say, what's the haps with the craps?"

"Shake 'em up, shake 'em up, shake 'em up, shake 'em. Roll 'em in a circle of homies and watch me break 'em. With the seven, seven-eleven, seven-eleven. Seven even back do' Little Joe. I picked up the cash flow."

OK, so that last bit of the conversation may have been between me and Ice Cube in my mind, but the first half actually happened. Not only did I successfully deter any further questions about DC, my job and several other subjects only the douchiest of douches would want to talk about while in Las Vegas, but "It is what it is" allowed me to then find out that the craps tables in the hotel I was staying at were three feet longer than normal. That casino tried to hustle me! Asses.

So I guess in a way, I'm thankful for that most annoying of inevitable questions, "How do you like DC?" Had I lived in Chicago or some other town where I'd freely be able to state my opinion without sounding like a bitter jaded jackass (although, that is kind of a key element of my personality), I might not have gleaned that valuable craps tidbit. And since I suffered for that betting information, and subsequently just made you suffer through reading how I suffered, I'll go ahead and pay this tip forward for the other compulsive gamblers in the e-house (I mean, "What? No, I don't have a gambling problem.") -- If you ever find yourself at the JW Marriott Spa and Resort, steer clear of the epic 15-foot-long tables. That sh*t is for suckers, or compulsive gamblers like myself who just had to play anyway (I mean, "What? No, I don't have a gambling problem.") Don't judge me!

*Incidentally, "What do you do?" is the most popular conversation starter in DC. Coincidence? No. Douchey? Yes.

**If you're not lying then you're a douche. What do you do?


I-66 said...

Today was a good day.

Pearl said...

Sounds like it's got a bit in common with Los Angeles. "What do you do?" is right up there with "What do you drive?"

Not from there, myself, but have been there.

BTW, connected your previous (April?) posting of the chicks in sweatpants on to my site today. You just had the perfect picture for it!

Enjoy your postings, by the way.


Pearl said...

Just realized you and I listed Master and Margarita as one of our favorite books. Right on!


Shevonne said...

Being a DC native, I have to say that DC was not so bad and pretentious until people from other areas started moving here.

I love living here, minus the traffic and annoying people.

When people ask me what I do, I usually say that I don't do much of anything. =)

Marissa said...


No one got shot. Oh wait, it's DC. Someone totally got shot.


I was talking with a friend this weekend and she came up with the same comparison. (She used to live in LA.) It's all the same status bullsh*t, but with different objectives. Power vs. material possessions. And yes, Bulgakov's sh*t is TIGHT.


I get that same sort of impression. Most people I freely judge as douches and tools are from other parts of the country. Of course, I'm a transplant too, so this all makes me a hypocrite. BUT, at least I admit it. Also, I clicked through to your site and saw that you're also a writer. Your answer to "What do you do?" hits close to home. It really is the perfect response. :)

dcpeg said...

Your blog is aptly named, Marissa. Your wanting to be another bad-ass-DC-basher to fit in with other "cool young people" is so sad. Sooner or later (if you live here long enough) you'll learn that "hanging with the crowd" cuts you off from real people, like those of us who have lived here many, many years. Sarcasm is so IN but so unattractive.

Marissa said...


Talk about wit, dcpeg! You're a comic genius! Between your obviously sarcastic (so IN, btw, unlike that tired old snark -- yawn!) misconception that blogs of any type are somehow "cool," as well as your purposefully mistaken generalizations about people too young to order off the senior menu at Denny's, you had me LOL-ing in front of my computer monitor. Picture how BAD-ASS that is! Seriously, PICTURE IT! Me in my cubicle in front of a computer screen! BAD-ASS! COMPUTERS!

But really? You think I'm unattractive?


Because your opinion matters! (Thanks for it!)


dcpeg said...

Always glad to provide a laugh. Now take yourself out of your comfort zone and learn to enjoy the other DC -- outside the artificial world of politics and power. Visit Eastern Market or go to a free Kennedy Center evening concert and strike up some conversations with strangers. You may change your mind about our fair city.

Anonymous said...

Well said dcpeg.

Too many people love to bash the political DC without realizing thats only a small part of the city's identity.