So I did manage to be a tourist yesterday, and good Lord, do my feet hurt. For this purpose alone, I brought a pair of cute yet comfy Börn sandals that I wore all over London and Croatia last year, thinking I’d be fine to walk for hours in them. However they (or maybe my feet) are no match for the humidity here, and I am getting blisters aplenty.

Still, after walking around the National Mall for several hours yesterday, I realized that it’s only my fault. I am far too vain for this whole tourist gig. If only I would just succumb to the trend and wear my running shoes with shorts, I would probably be far more comfortable. Honestly though, I just can’t bring myself to do it. For one thing, judging by my run the other morning, in this heat my sneaks can’t be trusted not to give me blisters too. And yes, call me vain, snobby even, but I would much rather look stylish in discomfort than comfortable and completely geeky. But that’s just me.

In fact, there is a definite trend that I’m noticing around here, or rather a dividing line in the trends. The tourists are the only people who dress for the heat in DC. They walk around looking dazed in their shorts, tanktops, brightly colored floppy hats, and yes, sneakers. Basically the rule seems to be the less clothing, the better. I’m pretty sure if it was allowed to walk around naked, people would.

Then there’s the Washingtonians. Over the past two days, I have been constantly amazed at their ability to convince themselves that it is a mild fall day (or perhaps a mid-summer day in Santa Cruz!) outside. They wear long sleeve shirts, jeans, light sweaters, the whole lot. The hands-down winner was a girl who breezed onto the Metro at the GWU stop, wearing a three-quarter sleeve tunic shirt over leggings with thick, mid-calf-high leather boots and a light, multicolored scarf looped jauntily around her neck. Amazingly, she looked so cool and fabulous that she made me feel completely sweaty and wilted, even in my thin cotton shirt and short skirt. Unfair, I say!

At first I couldn’t understand, until I remembered what it’s like to live here: you live your days in a warren of air-conditioned buildings, going from the office to the restaurant to the Metro to home and back again, all of which are cooled to a relatively chilly 60 or 70 degrees. So the reason they dress like it’s 30 degrees cooler is that for all intents and purposes, it is.

Being the smugly outdoorsy Californian that I am, I generally disdain this behavior, forgetting what it’s actually like to live out here. By the end of my three-hour jaunt yesterday, however, all pride was gone. Working my way back to the Metro from the Mall, I ducked into every single likely-looking building, just to feel the bliss of the A/C for a moment before emerging out into the pressure cooker again.

So I get it now. As far as the Washingtonians are concerned, the only people crazy enough to actually venture outside in this heat for any length of time are the tourists, who spend their days parboiling in their zeal to see our nation’s capital and give their kids an “educational” vacation. The sane people (i.e. the ones who actually live here) spend about 85% of their days inside air-conditioned buildings or transportation. So why not dress the part?

Fair enough, but where does that leave me? I may be a tourist, but I refuse to take either side in this debate. I will not dress solely to beat the heat, nor will I dress to ignore the heat. I guess in the end that just leaves me to soldier on, a solitary bastion of fashion moderation, blisters and all. Ouch.

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