Once Upon a Time in Washington, DC

The summer after my sophomore year in college, I spent six weeks interning in Washington, DC. I was working for a Congressman from Texas, and doing “really important” work like answering phones and filing papers. That summer went beyond my wildest dreams–I was living in a dorm on GWU’s campus, making new friends, and visiting museums or towns along the Eastern seaboard every weekend. Every morning I clacked to work in my new business casual clothes and heels alongside an army of fellow interns and at night we all went out to swanky restaurants and pretended to be adults. When I got asked on a date by a man who had a full time job AND wore a suit, I thought I had really arrived. DC is a place where something major is always happening, and I loved feeling like I was in the middle of it, with my hand on the pulse of our country.

Late one afternoon, I was sitting in my chair in the front office answering telephones and rubbing my feet. I had given two Capitol tours that day and my feet were killing me. I was looking forward to going back to my dorm room, eating, and crawling into bed. An email notification popped up on my screen and interrupted my reveries.

“We should go to this,” it read. Shannon, the other intern in the office, had forwarded me an invitation to hear Ryan Gosling, Benjamin McKenzie (of the OC), and fellow celebs speak that evening. It is very common for A-listers to come to Capitol Hill promoting an issue, and usually they are swarmed by fans. The event didn’t impress me, because I was tuckered out and I figured I would have to fight through crowds to even get a glimpse of them. Even though I was the world’s #1 OC and Notebook fan at the time (and may or may not still be…) I didn’t think it would be worth the long haul over to the Senate buildings.

Eventually Shannon coaxed me into going. She’s persuasive. I trudged across the Capitol grounds to the Senate building, cursing my heels and still thinking about my plush bed at home. When we got to the building, I braced myself for an auditorium full of people.

Shannon pushed open the door and we saw, to our immense surprise, only a small handful of people. Right in front of them, only a hundred feet from where I stood, sat Ryan Gosling at the panel table and Ben McKenzie in the front row.


Mysteriously, the pain in my feet evaporated. I was starstruck.

Mr. Gosling and his cohorts did a twenty minute panel, during which they talked about important issues facing Africa–at least, I think that’s what they talked about–but I was focused on his jawline and getting a good picture.

Just being honest.

During the panel, Shannon and I kept exchanging knowing looks that said, This is so cool right?/Yeah, I know, so cool.

After the panel wrapped, I started to head for the door.

“Um, where are you going?” Shannon asked me.

“Home?” I replied, thinking about my bed.

“But we haven’t met them yet!” She said, clearly stating the obvious.

“Oh. Right.” Of course, what was I thinking? Not waltzing straight up to Ryan Gosling and striking up a conversation?

Before I knew it, thanks to Shannon’s maneuvering, we were shoulder to shoulder with Gosling and chatting with him. His beard was so grizzly. His physique was average–nothing near the buff state he’s in nowadays. I tried to savor every moment because I knew my friends would demand details, but honestly, it was one big heart-palpitating blur. I complimented him on the panel and somehow avoided mentioning the Notebook. Thank you, brain, for not letting me tell him I’ve cried to it 99 times.

We talked about Africa–the subject of his film–and I told him I was going there soon for a study abroad. He told me it would change how I look at things and make me really grateful for the way my life is. Awww, what a down to earth guy! I thought.

He pulled me in for a picture–yes, he pulled me in, this part I remember with crystal clarity–and I did my best to be like Oh, no big deal!

Ryan Gosling

I’m sure the journalists and official big wigs there were shrugging and rolling their eyes. But you know what–they don’t appreciate him!

Shannon got a picture too, and together we left the room in a trance. Biggest heart throb of the decade…check!

I’m really glad I didn’t go home that day after work. Oh to be young and single in DC.

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