As most Washington singles know, dating in DC is tough. One aspect that makes it especially tricky is everyone seems to exist here with one foot out the door. Rarely is a millennial here to stay.
Home is Ohio, California, Missouri, Texas. Anywhere but here.
So how do you start a relationship when there always seems to be an expiration date?
How do you keep someone around? Is it possible to make a prospective beau realize you’re too good to walk away from? Or, in a matter of weeks, can you somehow convince them to factor you into their plans down the line?
I keep coming back to the story of Scheherazade.
In the mythical tale, a king discovers that his wife has been unfaithful to him so he kills her (naturally). He vows to marry a new virgin each day and behead the previous day’s wife so she never has a chance to stray. The king has murdered a thousand women when, one day, the stunning Scheherazade comes through his door. Like the women before her, she is married to the king and settles in for the dismal night ahead.
Despite her fear, Scheherazade begins to tell a story filled with excitement and mystery. The king listens, spellbound. As the light of the moon fades and the sun creeps over the horizon, Scheherazade breaks off, stopping her tale mid-way through expecting certain death at the hands of the evil leader. The king, however, is completely caught up in the story and insists that she finish, allowing her an extra night to live.
The following evening, Scheherazade completes the first story, but immediately launches into a second, even more enthralling tale. As dawn breaks, the king once again grants her permission to finish the following day. This continues on for hundreds of consecutive nights before the king finally realizes he has fallen in love with the enchanting storyteller and allows her to live out the remainder of her days as his beloved wife.
While this legend is problematic for a number of reasons that I won’t get into right now, I can relate to the desperation Scheherazade feels in the king’s presence. To avoid a dismal demise, she perseveres night after night, doing everything in her power to convince the omnipotent oligarch that she is worth keeping around.
Is it depressing that this mirrors my love life?
Despite the fact that everyone I develop feelings for seems to have grand plans to leave this city, I do everything in my power to prevent the inevitable.
I cook gourmet dinners, schedule unique dates, and book romantic getaways. Coupley activities are planned weeks in advance so we have something to look forward to; so he’s committed to something that includes me. I’ve convinced myself that the more often a man is enjoying himself in my presence, the harder it will be for him to give that up.
When we hit the one-month mark, I secretly celebrate. When he meets my parents, I feel glad that there are additional entanglements that prevent him from picking up and leaving on a dime. The more woven into each other’s lives we are… the more he’s wrapped up in my routines… the harder it will be for him to walk away, right?
If he could just fall in love with me, I think, then maybe that would convince him to stay.
But you can’t make someone do anything they don’t want to do.
And ultimately, holding someone back is not the role I want to play in their life.
My attitude towards this dilemma has remained unchanged since the first guy I dated in Washington abandoned me for San Francisco’s startup scene. I thought by now I’d have a new, mature, level-headed approach to it all, but I’m just as fearful of being alone as ever. I cling fiercely to whomever I’m dating hoping they’ll develop comparable feelings. Hoping I’m enough to keep them here.
But, if the past is any indication of my future, in a few months I’ll still be in this very same spot, bruised but otherwise unchanged, while he forges ahead towards a new life without me.