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On Friday morning I’ll be flying to D.C. for a weekend of drinking and of course to see some old friends. But as I sit here, staring at a suitcase that has yet to be packed, I can’t help but think that lying about who I am this weekend (to new people that I meet, of course) will be infinitely more fun than simply telling the truth.
I can explain why I want to do this, but I first need to give you some background. We need to go way back. Back to a time when the iPhone 4 was brand new and Kanye West’s “Yeezus” had just been released.
I strolled out of the House Rayburn Building on a blistering Friday evening in May of 2013 having just finished up my first full week as an unpaid intern on The Hill.
I had a pep in my step, and I was excited for a few months of new experiences in Washington, D.C. as a freshly minted 21-year-old, on lease for the summer from college, a regimented class schedule, and my world as I knew it at that time. I had never been to our nation’s capital before flying down to start my internship with a bag full of wrinkled dress shirts and two sports coats — one navy and one heather gray.
I was fortunate enough to get a spot in a “dormitory” at George Washington University, just a short walk from the Lincoln Memorial and about 50 feet from the Foggy Bottom metro stop.
I use the word dormitory in quotations because this was unlike any dorm I had ever been in before. As a matter of fact, GWU’s dorms are nicer than a lot of adults apartments in D.C. They’ve got personal bathrooms, full kitchens, spacious living rooms, and air conditioning — but I guess when your tuition is known to be the most expensive in the country, amenities are to be expected.
In any case, I was excited to spend my first weekend with a couple of people I had met in my building who didn’t seem like total losers.
They were there, just as I was, to gain valuable political experience, but also to do some drinking, and that’s exactly what I did as soon as I arrived home from work on that muggy day in late May. I was greeted upon walking into my friends’ high rise dormitory with an unopened beer hurtling towards my face. I caught it before it beaned me in the nose, and I chugged it as quickly as I could.
Still dressed in our work clothes, with ties now loosely hanging around our necks, we played a game called slap cup for a few hours before ultimately deciding that we needed to hit a bar.
With our intern badges still clipped to our belts, we headed to a Georgetown bar and quickly realized that many of the girls in the bar were not interested in us. As a matter of fact, a majority of them wouldn’t even acknowledge our advances.
We struck out hard that first night out and it wasn’t until about halfway through the summer that I realized why. The glint of that intern badge, flickering just so and peaking out from behind our jackets was a dead giveaway that:
1. We were about as important on The Hill as a garbage can and
2. We were clearly very poor. Indiscreetly tipping a flask into empty glasses is usually a dead giveaway.
If you’ve ever seen House of Cards or just spoken with anyone who works in politics in D.C., you know that status is everything. It is Hollywood for ugly people, and the more you can inflate yourself and your job, the more popular you are going to be.
The intern world is a microcosm of this. To a staffer, an intern is nothing. But amongst themselves, in the intern fishbowl, it is a contest to see who can act the most like their duties are more serious than their peers’.
The thing that I noticed the most during my first summer in D.C. was that the mid-level staffers working for congressmen specializing in foreign affairs and defense were getting the most play. They had the most friends, the most girls, and the best tables at restaurants around the city. I never got a taste of that feeling when I was interning there. I was always packed in like a sardine to some awful dive with a million other interns trying to get into some chick’s pants. I never got to hear someone say “Wow, how long have you been there? That’s impressive.”
What I’m trying to get at here is that this weekend — while I’m gallivanting around Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Capital Hill in non-prescription glasses and a wool blazer — I will not be John Duda.
I will be Jack Henry, Jim Terry, or some other cockamamy nickname that I come up with on the fly, and I’ll be a press secretary or chief of staff to a senator from Connecticut. I’ll make sure the people I’m lying to aren’t too familiar with politics, obviously, but this weekend just feels like the right time to do this.
I’m on the wrong side of 25 and I really don’t know how many more chances I’ll have to blatantly lie my ass off for an entire weekend. All of my professional life people have told me that status is everything in “The Town” and I fully intend to find out if that is true this coming weekend..
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