a seven year itch

washington, d.c.: a love story

By Mollie Bowman


I celebrate my woolen anniversary with Washington this year. Together, we’ve woven seven years of memories and lessons and ups and downs. Seven years ago I fell in love.

My city is a she. Not because I tolerate the womanification of inanimate objects and places as a method of commotodizing the Her. She’s a she because she is powerful. And she is beautiful. And she opens doors for me in a way I’m not sure I ever could or would allow a man to. Her wide, stately streets are like child-bearing hips - built for carrying her children to term when they’re ready to launch. Her pavement is a bedrock of progress on which changemakers march to demand action. She is a she because despite the conquests of men who have pillaged her historic halls and stained her white dress and made dirty, as they do, her relentless pursuit of excellence, she has persisted. She is a breadwinner. She is a provider.

Our romantic relationship began with a college tour and blossomed with my young adulthood. I’ve grown up more with her than I have anywhere else. She saw me through my freshman-year-of-college-awkward stage and loved me anyway. On the nights I worked too late, first on a paper and then on a master’s thesis and recently on overnight event builds and long reports for clients, she woke me up the next mornings with the best cups of coffee I’ve ever tasted from the local shops I’ve come to routinely patron. In the moments when my thoughts felt too big for my head, her national monuments dedicated to our larger-than-life American heroes welcomed me for midnight strolls and made me feel small in the very best way. When I would get high on the rush of proximity to power at political cocktail parties and the national news breaking locally, she’d bring me back down to earth with a rally at the Supreme Court steps to remind me what all the pomp was really about.

She has loved me diligently, challenged me daily and given me the fiercest friendships (just barely) north of the Mason-Dixon line. Thanks to her, I’ve fallen head over heels for a boy whose love for our city is equally devout, yet unlike my occupational attraction, rooted in a generational and wholesome foundation that makes me want us to plant our own roots here. In the two-way street of our relationship, I feel an obligation and a yearning to give to this city just a fraction of what she has given me; to serve her citizens and ideate on her principles and fulfill the dreams she’s helped me imagine.

But 2019 began a chapter in our love story that has found me distancing from my political love affair and seeing other cities. I wonder if I could be happy somewhere else. I’m not ready for us to break up, I’m not ready to learn who I am without her. Maybe wool makes me itchy - my seven-year itch has demanded I scratch it to explore Boston, New York, San Francisco; to wonder where else I could feel so impassioned, to question the purity of my current love.