How Far Is Too Far?

I met someone this weekend that said “oh, I live around here,” when I asked where they lived (we were near where I live, about a mile and a half outside the city to the west). I inquired as to the specifics and he responded, “well, Purcellville.” PURCELLVILLE?!? For real? Isn’t that almost West Virginia? Well, Mapquest says it’s over 43 miles from where I live, which is even outside the city.

I’m all for the suburbs – that’s not a secret. I even have fits of wanting to move out to Reston, Herndon, and the like. But it got me wondering: how far is too far? Let’s even take the issue of the commute out of the picture, but how far is too far to honestly say “oh, I live in DC,” when you are, for example, across the country and want to give the general area in which you live. I have a co-worker that drives in to the city from Fredericksburg, VA every day. He leaves before dawn (the last I heard, typically by 5 or 5:30 am) and it only takes an hour with little or no traffic. Is Fredericksburg “the DC area?”

How far is too far in our ever-growing metropolitan area to truly be DC?

7 Comments so far

  1. tj (unregistered) on March 6th, 2006 @ 5:39 am

    heh, i only live in fairfax and don’t even say i live in DC … i usually say “i live in northern virginia, outside DC”. i guess it’s a person’s perception of where they WANT to live.

  2. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on March 6th, 2006 @ 7:26 am

    I’ll admit to claiming to DC status even though I live in south arlington, some four miles from the border. I figure, if the suburb, city, or county you’re in is literally touching the District you can claim DC Area. If you’re the next ring out, it’s Greater DC, other than that it’s Maryland or Virginia.

    But I’m willing to bet there’s a lot of variance on this issue.

  3. wayan (unregistered) on March 6th, 2006 @ 9:01 am

    Today’s Geography Lesson:

    If your permanent residence is inside the boundaries of the District of Columbia, you are from “DC”.

    If you’re inside the Beltway, you are from “the DC Area”.

    If you are outside the Beltway, stop fronting – you’re from whatever in the hell is out there.

  4. rosemary (unregistered) on March 6th, 2006 @ 9:51 am

    i live about 30 min north of dc (ashton, md) and since no one seems to know where the hell that is in relation to anything, i call it “near dc-ish”. or maryland. that always seems to piss people off for some odd reason.

  5. jen m. (unregistered) on March 6th, 2006 @ 3:06 pm

    it totally depends on the context: who’s asking, why, etc… when asked where i’m from, in various circumstances i’ve given every conceivable answer from “DC” to “right outside DC” to “the DC area” to “maryland” to plain old “takoma park.”

    but unless you have a reason you need to know whether someone lives within the legal geographical boundaries of DC (e.g., if you are the registar of voters), i think it’s dumb to care whether someone who lives outside DC proper says “i’m from DC.”

    for one thing, “DC” is more than just a geographic location defined by lines on a map, it’s a community (actually a whole host of communities) that many of us are a part of even if we do live a few miles outside the city line (or 0.4 miles, in my case).

    for another, if one’s sense of identity is so fragile that it depends on excluding others who wish to identify themselves similarly, that’s pretty shallow. as stacey notes, it might be silly for someone to say “i live around here” if he is from west virginia, but if anyone is “fronting” it’s the person being pedantic about who is a part of our community.

    close enough for government work, is what i always say.

  6. Don (unregistered) on March 7th, 2006 @ 12:11 am

    When I tell people “around here” or “the DC area” rather than “Sterling” it’s because I either don’t think they’re going to know where the hell I mean or I don’t want to get into an extended discussion about how god-awful far people feel like I am from Civilization. Maybe that dude didn’t want to have his umpteenth conversation of the day about how far he commutes….

  7. Xian (unregistered) on March 7th, 2006 @ 11:38 am

    My parents live in F’burg, and dad slugs to DC every morning. He says he lives in F’burg. I have friends living in Sterling who say they live in Sterling. Basicaly, unless your address says ‘Washington, DC’, you don’t live in DC. Pretty simple.

    For what it’s worth, I live in Virginia Beach.

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