1. You avoid the red line when at all possible.
2. You would never pay $1100 a month to live in Columbia Heights.
3. Your standards for formal education/job success are unreasonably high.
After going to high school alongside children of senators, high-performing lawyers, and diplomats, you never got the message that grad school isn’t a possibility for most people, or that you will not die unhappy, poor, and alone if you do not attend.
4. Which has made you pretty, um, neurotic.
Unrealistic parental expectations and a dearth of public space have likely culminated in meds for anxiety disorders.
5. You get so used to the question ‘What do you do?’ that you make up answers for fun, such as ‘Perform in a circus,’ or ‘It’s classified.’
6. You know what go-go is.
7. Your standards for food are comparatively low.
You grew up with zero local or organic movements. Now there are a few exceptional places, like the Jose Andrés businesses — Oyamel, Zaytinya, and Jaleo — but that’s definitely not the norm.
8. But you do crave Peruvian Chicken, pupusas, and Ethiopian food.
The few food items DC and its surrounding suburbs totally get. And no city has injera as tasty as ours, outside of Addis Ababa.
9. Fort Reno Park is one of your favorite places in the world.
10. Poverty and social unrest were either distant concepts or very real.
For kids like me who grew up in the suburbs, times were good. We went up county to rural pumpkin patches in the fall, had big Christmas trees or beautifully crafted menorahs during the holidays, and had well-funded schools with active PTAs. Because so many of our parents worked for the federal government, there was a buffer against economic downturns.
But for my friends who lived inside DC, poverty was very real. In the ’90s, the city was still recovering from the crack epidemic and widespread corruption, and it wasn’t as good at hiding its flaws back then.
In 1991, the streets of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood erupted into a riot that lasted days. The protesters were largely recently arrived refugees from El Salvador who were fighting against police brutality. Then-mayor Sharon Pratt has said that the riot made the city recognize that “it had to take great strides to move beyond a sense of itself as a sleepy Southern town,” to a cosmopolitan metropolis with many stakeholders and different demographic groups.
11. You go crazy for Kojo Nnamdi.
Every weekday at noon, you feel a surge of happiness to turn on the radio and hear the regionally famous voice of this Guyana-born public affairs talk-show host. All he has to say is, “I’m Kohhhhjo Nnaaahmdi,” over some smooth jazz, and your current life crises will melt away — at least for a couple of hours.