I admittedly arrived at the House of Cards party late in the game. When the show debuted this past February, I was actually taking a brief hiatus from D.C. to work on a Congressional campaign in none other than South Carolina.
I was at a fundraising dinner at The Citadel (called “The Sentinel” in the show) when I overheard cadets talking about the silver tongued Majority Whip named Frank Underwood. At first I thought they were ill informed; didn’t everyone know that Kevin McCarthy is the Majority Whip? After further eavesdropping, however, I realized that these young men were actually referring to the fictitious political star of the Netflix series, House of Cards.
Within minutes of the first episode, much like everyone I’ve spoken to, I was hooked. Because I’m one of those rare (and by rare, I mean there are literally thousands of us) people who have worked on campaigns as well as The Hill, I felt as though this show was designed for me. It was witty, it was dramatic, and it was entertaining.
Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that many people, specifically the ones who frequently update their Facebooks, did not understand that this show is fictional. I lost both IQ points and faith in humanity as I read status update after status update about “current events” they’d seen Frank Underwood discuss. No, the Vice President was not resigning. No, a Congressman had not been murdered. And no, politicians were not sleeping with reporters. Actually, that last one is probably true.
Regardless, it became apparent that someone needed to separate the House of Cards fiction from reality. And because I’m a self-entitled Washingtonian, I figured there was no one better to do it than myself. Truth be told, I’m planning on making this somewhat of a regular column, because let’s be honest, there are a whole lot of misrepresentations (that sounds better than flat out lies, right?) in the series. Also, I’d love to blame a Netflix binge on “researching” for work. Really, everybody wins.
House of Cards Lie #1: 22 Year Olds Can Afford To Live On Their Own
Truth be told, I don’t know how old Zoe Barnes is, but it’s evident that she is young. That, or she has a baby face and is just mind-numbingly stupid, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, after living in the nation’s capital for college, as well as after graduation, despite a few months here and there on the campaign trail, I am here to tell you that D.C. is crazy expensive.
In college, my apartment as well as my expenses were paid for my by my parents. It wasn’t until after I graduated and started paying my own bills, that I realized that I would no longer be buying $14 dollar cocktails or living in an apartment with a doorman. Oh no, I went from living on my own in a safe building, to living with three other people in a Row House located somewhere between Capitol Hill and the gates of Hell. My portion of the rent for a house that was once broken into while I was sleeping? $1,600 a month.
House of Cards Lie #2: Washingtonians Are Beautiful
As someone who identifies with the term Washingtonian, this may be treasonous, but it is what it is. Clinton-Gore strategist Paul Begala famously coined the phrase “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people,” and while kind of offensive, it’s also kind of true.
Granted, there are a lot of strikingly beautiful people in D.C., but not everyone is strikingly beautiful. Just like any other major city outside of California, D.C. is home to a lot of average looking people. We work. We don’t have time for blowouts and facials and meetings with our personal trainers. Besides, we couldn’t afford any of those things anyway.
House of Cards Lie #3: Young People Can Keep Secrets
Backhand deals are made by older, more established Washingtonians, and for a good reason: young people can’t keep their damn mouths shut. Need proof? I’ve got two words for you: Edward Snowden.
In the age of social media and a generation of social climbers, it is near impossible for any person not qualifying for an AARP membership to keep a secret. Thus, young people are generally not privy to conversations held in corner offices. It’s laughable to think that a young girl wouldn’t let it slip that she was fucking a Congressman. I suppose the counter argument here is that she wouldn’t spill because doing so would hurt her career, but I’ve seen people shoot themselves in the foot over far less exciting gossip thanks to a few too many pitchers at Hawk and Dove.
House of Cards Lie #4: Our Feet Don’t Hurt
Has anyone on this show ever walked on a D.C. sidewalk? Clearly not. You see, the thing about Washington sidewalks is that they are either made of cobblestone or they have been under construction for the better part of three years.
Walking in heels outside in D.C. is essentially a death trap. If your stiletto isn’t getting stuck in a grate or in-between rocks, you’re more than likely tripping over the homeless man who has set up camp in the middle of the public walkway. Even if we hate ourselves enough to wear heels at work, we certainly don’t commute in them.
P.S. We can’t afford Jimmy Choos.
House of Cards Lie #5: We’re Not Tired
If there’s one thing Washingtonians can agree on, it’s that we’re all exhausted. As twenty-somethings, we work too much, we drink too much, and our living arrangements often resemble that of a halfway house. A good night’s sleep will entail no more than six hours, and a bad night’s will involve none at all.
We have bags under our eyes and gray hairs that are far too premature. We’re not rested and given the opportunity, we’d much rather hit snooze for the extra fifteen minutes than blow-dry our hair.