I HAVE A FEW BONES TO pick with Pedro E. Ponce. When I spotted “Generation X-asperated” (The District Line, 3/10), I was hoping for an insightful critique of Walt Harrington’s Washington Post Magazine article “Housemates.” Like Ponce, I objected to Harrington’s attempts to typify his subjects as unfocused, confused, overly idealistic, and naive. However, Ponce’s claims about the true nature of D.C.’s young adults are based on a great deal more ignorance and self-righteousness than Harrington’s. In slamming Harrington, Ponce carelessly slams the “housemates” themselves, and ultimately Ponce’s patronizing attitude toward “uniformly eccentric people drawn to society’s fringe” is far more insulting and offensive than Harrington’s romanticized notions of youth gone awry.
I am 24, and fall somewhere between Harrington’s Mount Pleasant subjects and Ponce’s strait-laced crew. I have a “real” (i.e., salaried) job at a liberal, nonprofit political organization, but look more like a “beatnik wanna-be” (as Ponce snidely puts it) and work at a bookstore part-time. I am not in Washington to “bulk up” my résumé, or to preen myself for making a lot of money. And I’m not alone. There are lots of us who work straight(ish) jobs but like indie music, have radical political views, and are sickened by the disgustingly materialistic yuppie values that Ponce and his pals represent.
To set the record straight: The six people featured in the Post article are not “slackers.” Most of them work, and their jobs are not as menial as Ponce (or Harrington) would have us believe. Further, the people in “Housemates” are not “obnoxiously angst-ridden” or “self-consciously alienated”—Harrington just portrays them as such.
Ponce’s remark, “you don’t come to Washington to be a slacker,” is ironic, since several of my friends and I moved here precisely because D.C. offers a decent alternative music scene, people interested in left political issues, and many nontraditional jobs. Though D.C. falls short of a bohemian mecca, not everyone is a suit-and-tie “policy wonk.”
Maybe those kids who liked the DKs and the Circle Jerks made Ponce’s life “miserable for years” in high school because his snobbery and conceit were in full bloom even back then.