One thing I’ve very slightly regretted about every place I’ve lived is that I’ve never been very good about being a local. Especially a hyperlocal. I don’t do a good job of knowing my neighbors, knowing the local lore, being a citizen.
I’m trying to do better here. I wrote a piece (about SF!) for local institution Broke-Ass Stuart.
So my friend from D.C. recently wrote one of those “I’m leaving D.C. for the hinterlands” Facebook posts. In it, he described D.C. derisively, and said it wasn’t a place he would miss, though he’d miss many of the people he’d met. And to an extent I get this. Because while a place is mostly the people you grow close to, along with how easy and beautiful and expensive it is to get your other needs met, you can’t completely ignore the other people who live there. And I totally get the dissatisfaction with the majority of people who live in “this town.”
Being in SF really hammers home for me how straight-laced and conservative the average D.C. denizen is. Even the gay, liberal residents are really fucking square. It’s a Southern town, in a lot of ways.
But I did not leave this town because of any dissatisfaction with D.C. I mean I had my complaints. But overall it’s a glorious town full of fiercely intelligent, passionate, engaged and engaging people. As well as lobbyists, defense contractors, and Hill rats. Journalists and libertarian think tankers and ex-think tankers are very, very much my people and I’m so grateful to have found them and gotten to live among them for five years.
What is strange to me is how quickly I’ve fallen in love with SF. I loved D.C., and I figured if it didn’t work out in SF I’d happily move back. But last week, two months into my adventure out West, it was looking for about 18 hours like I was going to have to make a decision about whether to potentially go broke trying to stay or book at $400 plane ticket home. During that time, I decided that even if the thing that brought me here was no longer there, I was going to do everything short of go broke in order to stay for everything else I’ve found since I arrived.
The most important thing I’ve found here is community. I’ve made in two months the kind of friends it took me four years to make in D.C. As much as I love my D.C. crew, most of them aren’t very interested in, or willing to be open about, their kinky, poly, queer side. Part of what’s changed is that I’m living more authentically here than I ever have, because I have the confidence to know that what I have to offer is good enough for the kind of person I’m going to be able to fully connect with.
I spoke with a 24-year-old beautiful, intelligent poly woman recently who was struggling with how open to be about her non-monogamous lifestyle. What I told her was that at 24, it makes sense to be worried about closing doors. You need jobs and contacts and a network. And being honest about who you are and what you believe will absolutely close doors. There are people who will reject you. But that at 24, your problem isn’t not enough doors being open. It’s that they’re all open. The problem is narrowing them down so you can decide which ones to charge through. Being honest about what you want and value and believe is the best way to close the doors to rooms you’ll never be comfortable in anyway and open the doors to rooms you didn’t know existed.
At 31, I still don’t know which doors I want to run through. I was at a party this weekend which made me question my conception of SF. So I wrote for Broke-Ass Stuart that everyone here has something quirky about their appearance. And it’s true that there is a lot of green hair and stretched earlobes in this city. But at this party I was the only person with hair a color that doesn’t occur in nature. At this party, there was a woman wearing $500/oz perfume (according to my companion, who knows such things). Thinking back, I wish I’d smelled her just to know what that smells like but then again I generally find it uncomfortable to be able to be able to smell people I’m not making out with. At this party people differentiated themselves not with tattoos or piercings but with expensive jackets and shoes. The hair wasn’t green, a professional dyed it to look like it’s natural. I guess, looking back, that there was a lot of money on that rooftop, though I am too poor and situationally unaware to know for sure. I do know everyone I met worked for a tech company I’d heard of or should have.
Here’s my quandary, if I’m honest. As I’ve written before, in the past I’ve let insecurity about being low-class hold me back from admitting to myself some of what I wanted and valued and believed.
Who are my people, here? Some of them are kinky, queer, poly people. Can I fully connect with $500 perfume girl? She seemed like kind of a bitch, to be honest. But then again, am I doing what I did in high school to the kids who lived in houses like the one I lived in before my parents got divorced? Am I rejecting her before she rejects me because I feel like she’s better than me?
I don’t know, man. I think $500 perfume is stupid. But so is green hair. They’re all aimed at the same thing, which is attracting the kind of person who appreciates that. What kind of person am I? I don’t value $500 perfume but I appreciate trips to Paris and living in a nice place in a beautiful neighborhood. I very, very much appreciate creating value in a market economy. I value and respect the people on that rooftop because the technology they create makes my life demonstrably better. And it doesn’t chap my ass that they’re paid well for that work. They should be.
I’m overcomplicating this. The reality of the situation is that I love working too much and am too smart to be making so little money. Maybe I’ll never be $500 perfume girl but, looking at this as objectively as possible I can only conclude that something is caught, stuck, a little broken, that I’m as talented and privileged as I am and yet I’m terrified by the thought of where I’ll have to live if I don’t have a partner.
I’m kinky, queer, and poly. And I’m also hardworking, ambitious, and interested in creating hella value in a market economy. I am wrestling with believing that I can correctly identify which kind of person I’m going to be able to fully connect with and that I’m sure that what I have to offer is good enough for them.
But anyway, SF is awesome. The people are fascinating. I’m so glad I moved out. And I still love D.C.