There are those who believe that any sex is good sex, and then there are Washingtonians. When confronted with the question of whether they’d screw outside of party lines, the majority of D.C.’s young professionals—from Hill staffers to wannabe Wall Street bankers—offer a resounding no. And for the minority who still believe there’s a person beyond the politics, one bad date with a Scalia clerk can be enough to squash even the most idealistic romantic.
“That was a low point in my dating life,” says Caroline Lee, 24, a Democrat, sharing the story of her dream-date-gone-wrong over beers at the now-scorched Capitol Lounge. “Never again.”
Like many other young women on the Hill, Lee now screens potential boyfriends on the basis of political party, but it’s not an easy task. The majority of the Capitol Hill dating pool looks as if it had just stepped out of a J. Crew catalog, leaving ladies under the false impression that everyone they meet is a conservative, when in fact the man at hand could be a twang-talking Southern Democrat or one of those preppy, Ivy League liberals.
This situation is not getting anyone, well, anything. “I’ve had girls stop talking to me once they found out I was a Democrat,” says one male staffer in seersucker. “Right when things were really starting to get going, too.” And it’s safe to assume he’s not the only guy who’s been rejected for his political taste. Thirteen out of 16 ladies surveyed in a single night at the Hawk & Dove claim that, after looks, politics is the the most important factor in determining whether they should stick around the bar and strike up a conversation or take the cheap Bud Light and run. Point out James Carville and Mary Matalin all you want—political opposites just don’t attract.
The remedy? Move to a city where people aren’t running each other over with their sockless loafers on their way to the top—or figure out a way to easily distinguish politics among the polo-shirted masses. The latter is difficult, yes, but not impossible: The just-ended Washington Nationals season may not have been a rousing success, but Nationals fashion certainly has been. And it offers a solution to the cross-party dating problem.
The Washington Post reported in early July that red “W” hats have been adopted by conservatives as a way to signify loyalty to George W. Bush and all things Republican, and the trend has been building ever since. Adhering to the now-ubiquitous American political color code, Democrats have answered by sporting either the blue, away-game version of the “W” hats or, better yet, blue hats with “DC” logos. Why root for your hometown team when you can root for (or against) the current administration?
The Nationals’ official position is that the design of the hats has nothing to do with politics and that it’s no more than a shout-out to the District’s last baseball team, the Senators. But the logo’s origin is beside the point. With their patriotic colors and Bush-invoking “W,” the hats are a convenient way to flaunt one’s party, appropriate for a variety of social situations, and easily discerned in a smoky, crowded bar.
And if guys are going to use the hats to make a political statement, then gals should use them to make a dating one. Properly employed, the hats offer an almost foolproof way to judge the political leanings of a potential date, enabling singles to quickly assess partners with the kind of capitalistic efficiency that dress, looks, and conversation just can’t provide.
Already, the caps operate as a kind of man-screen, preventing women from going for the wrong guy. The discerning ones who have picked up on the trend find it to be a useful judge of character. “The ‘W’ is just a huge turn-off,” says Becca, 24, a frequent Pennsylvania Avenue bargoer. “Anyone who is that proud to be rooting for George W. is not for me.” And it’s probably safe to assume that the seersuckered staffer mentioned above could have avoided being blue-balled by that Republican if she had identified him as a Democrat much earlier in the game.
There are a few catches here. Women don’t wear baseball hats all that often, so the game works only when women or men are chasing men. Another problem is that hippies, hipsters, punk rockers, and other disaffected, liberal young folk aren’t too keen on officially licensed baseball hats; they’re about as rare as loafers in hangouts such as Wonderland or the Black Cat—and no, the foamy trucker kind don’t count. On the other hand, young Republicans of the sort who swarm Georgetown seem to have an overabundance of baseball hats—and a ton of red ones, at that. In short, the test works best for a liberal woman seeking to avoid a messy situation with a conservative guy.
This is compounded by the fact that men tend to be not quite as politically discriminating when it comes to dating and other casual encounters. One particularly drunk patron of the Hawk & Dove told me that he’d “go for anything hot. I don’t care. Democrat or Republican…but Republicans are usually hotter.” He went on to state that anyone who mixes politics and baseball is a “douchebag,” which he spelled, and suggested that he might be a “good guy” regardless of his conservative leanings.
The gentleman, a Republican, was sporting a blue Nationals cap. If only he’d worn a red one. I could have avoided that douchebag altogether.CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Illustration by Gus D’Angelo.