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That searching look

I think Tyler Cowen would title this "the culture that is Washington":

Business success both delighted and deflated Harman. On one hand, he could champion cherished causes—he funds the Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C. And yet business didn’t fulfill other desires: Harman wanted to be taken seriously as a man of intellect and sensitivity, one with, as he puts it, “a growing [social] consciousness.” In the seventies, he earned a doctorate in social psychology. “I had long felt guilty in my role as businessman,” he wrote. Jane was elected to Congress in 1992, and their immersion in the capital’s culture made his discomfort more acute. “I’d go to a dinner party in Washington, and somehow I’d always be seated next to the oldest, ugliest woman at the party,” Harman told me. “She’d inevitably ask what I do. If I said I’m in business, I’d get one of those searching looks. So I’d make jokes. I’m a golf pro. I play the piano in a house of ill repute.”

I wonder if Harman had this right, however: My experience has been that Washingtonians feel a little ashamed next to people who work and succeed "in the real world," and, if anything, tend to lionize them. They also don't know what to ask them at dinner parties, which could explain the "searching look."

By Ezra Klein  | November 1, 2010; 9:52 AM ET
 
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Comments

Well, there's also the fact that I'm in business is not an answer. I'd look at someone quizzically, too, if they responded to "What do you do?" with that. It's like saying "I work" or "I have mass and take up space".

Posted by: Diacritic | November 1, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

“I’d go to a dinner party in Washington, and somehow I’d always be seated next to the oldest, ugliest woman at the party.”

You know, some of those older, unattractive women probably have some good stories. And they'll probably listen to yours.

Posted by: econgrrl | November 1, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

"Well, there's also the fact that I'm in business is not an answer. I'd look at someone quizzically, too, if they responded to "What do you do?" with that. It's like saying "I work" or "I have mass and take up space". "

yes, in most of the world. The fact that he does not feel that way in DC is part of the point.

Posted by: Careless | November 1, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Soooo, there must be a lot of searching looks in the West Wing these days? Or angry, condescending looks.

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