I had been warned.
When I decided to end my eight-year stint in Washington, D.C. and decamp to Los Angeles last summer, my friends in the capital looked at me like I had announced plans to eject myself into space. They rolled their office chairs toward my cubicle and pressed their hands to my shoulder at happy hours. Los Angeles residents are not like the rest of us, they said. These people were preternaturally tan. They drank their kale. If I moved there with my boyfriend in tow, they told me, I might survive. But I should not attempt to date in Los Angeles. Between dark basement beers during my last month in Washington, my friends presented me a phantasmagoria of single life in L.A.: It looked like skeletal Asian models pair-bonding with balding producers over low-calorie cocktails.
At the time, I wrote off the soothsaying as another symptom of what I had come to see as D.C.s Stockholm syndromea coping mechanism for having settled for a steady, dull job in a too-small town with deficient natural lighting. In the year that followed, I’ve learned that my friends and I were both half right: Washington is for nesters, and Los Angeles is for loners, but this has little relation to our populations reputations for titanium SAT scores or prominent cheek bones. In fact, it has very little to do with the people playing the game, and everything to do with the way they are scattered across the board.