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By Kristen Voorhees

A few months back, after a long day at work, I decided to meet some friends at Cantina Marina on the Southwest Waterfront for happy hour. The summer was in full swing, so it was no surprise that the outdoor bar on the water was busy. I happened to be the first of the group to arrive, so I set off to find a few open seats on the main floor. My search came to a screeching halt when I spotted my ex, with the puppy we adopted together, front and center.

You know that feeling of your heart dropping and then immediately being punched in the stomach? I was right about there. I froze for a moment then made a game time decision to hide on the second floor until my friends arrived. I dashed upstairs and sat down at the much less crowded bar. Gradually gaining my composure, I ordered a cider and texted my friends my location for a hopefully swift rescue. I took a hefty sip and turned toward the outside seating overlooking the water. As I turned, a familiar face caught my eye. The girl sitting directly across the walkway was yet another one of my exes. She was sitting with a few friends, clearly having had the same idea of after-office drinks that many (if not most) D.C. young professionals have mid-week. Cue heart-drop gut-punch feels for the second time in five minutes. This is around the time I start kicking myself for ever dating in this tiny city.

There are probably a lot of people who feel my pain of running into an ex (if not two) in D.C. It’s bound to happen at some point. But my LGBTQ+ compatriots definitely know how much truth there really is in this. The queer dating scene is VERY. SMALL. Whether you meet someone at Nellie’s on a Friday night, on a dating app, or in the middle of the dance floor at the weekend’s queer party, odds are she knows someone you know. Better yet, she may very well have dated one of your friends.

Last weekend brunch with a close friend turned awkward when I saw her staring at my phone as it lit up with a text. She eyed me, then the phone, until I pried her to give me an explanation for the weird vibes. She simply said, “Why are you texting my ex-girlfriend?” Welp, suffice it to say I had no idea the girl I matched with on Tinder days before had, as of last month, been dating my friend across the table. Yikes.

After coming out in D.C., I’ve grown to expect these run-ins. The close knit nature of the queer community, something I love, is also the fuel behind many awkward conversations. It’s almost comical to watch two people putting the pieces together around their mutual connection. There’s always a visible moment of shock, then the search for the appropriate reaction. “You know Alice?” “We dated for five years…” “Oh, well, how cute is her cat amirite?”

If you haven’t already discussed someone in common from your past with a friend or fling, you best prepare to run into them the next weekend. In my case, it was a Sunday afternoon at Overeasy Tea Dance, a seasonal party held during the warmer months at Dodge City on U Street. With a killer bar crew, great drink specials (try the sweet tea vodka lemonade), and a 2-floor patio space to die for, this party will be sorely missed until spring 2017. Not to mention, this is probably the only place I will fully break it down on the dance floor on a Sunday afternoon thanks to DJ Vanniety Kills.

A few of us celebrated the end of the season with a last hurrah at Overeasy Tea, with unusually warm weather for late October. In the process of saying hello to familiar faces, I spotted Second-Floor-Cantina-Marina Ex. This time we exchanged awkward niceties, then went about our merry ways, involving avoiding whatever hemisphere of the bar she was occupying.

Dating is already difficult, but the incestuous nature of the queer scene almost seems unfair. It can absolutely be discouraging. But if I’ve learned anything through navigating the dating scene, it’s that paths cross for a reason. I’ve met some of my closest friends through dating apps. Remember that friend whose ex I was texting? We met on HER, and even went on a date. And guess what – we had a mutual close friend (go figure!). When we realized we weren’t the romantic match either of us was looking for, we kept our relationship platonic. And the more we hung out, the more we both were like, “wait this is a really weird, incredible human I’ve met.” We’re now super close, all because we both hedged our bets in the small romantic pool that is queer D.C. Am I still single? AF. But now with a bunch of new friends and plenty of entertaining awkward encounters to write about. I’ll take it.