Tina Stanley and Craig Barnes

She went to work at the dental office in Gaithersburg early. He attended class at the University of Maryland in College Park. At 11:30, he drove to her office to have his teeth cleaned by the dentist. After lunch the office closed early and they went to her parents' house in Rockville for the afternoon. She cleaned house and watched "General Hospital" and "One Life to Live" on television. He watched a cable program on another TV with Stanley's brother, Tim. Her parents came home from work, and they all ate a spaghetti dinner. Afterward, Stanley and Barnes went shopping at Montgomery Mall for Christmas gifts. Then they joined friends at the Congressional Plaza Bowl on the Pike. The evening ended with pizza at Jake's on the Pike.

Craig Barnes and Tina Stanley, born and raised in the suburbs, said they are content to remain there. Like nearly 60 percent of those polled by telephone, they agreed with the statement, "I can do everything I want to in the suburbs."

The District, they said, is mostly a hassle. "Getting down there is a pain on Friday, just to walk around there half the night," griped Barnes. "Plus, it's too expensive."

Stanley's parents, Bill and Sue Stanley, have a broader perspective on life in the suburbs. Natives of West Virginia, they migrated to the Washington area in 1960 in search of jobs and quickly found work in the federal government. At first they lived in Adelphi, but after three years they moved to the District to cut the commuting distance to their jobs downtown.

Their neighborhood, near Pennsylvania and Southern avenues, was mostly black. In 1967, his job as a government accountant moved to suburbs and they went with it, part of a tidal shift of government jobs and workers to the suburbs that helped trigger the growth of private sector employment there as well. For the Stanleys, it meant an escape to Rockville, an area in which they felt more comfortable.

Many of their friends moved farther still -- to places such as Bowie, Reston, Gaithersburg, Poolesville and even Point of Rocks on the Potomac River in Frederick County. "Actually, we have stayed in closer than most of our friends," said Bill Stanley. "They call us and ask why do we still live in the city."

The Stanleys find themselves with few compelling reasons to go back into the District. They both work in Rockville, he as an accountant for the Department of Health and Human Services and she as a part-time secretary for the agency. They take part in church activities and value their closely knit neighborhood over the attractions of the city.

They do attend Redskins games when they can, and Sue Stanley occasionally tries to get theater tickets in the District. "But by the time we check it out it's always sold out," she said. Sid and Karen Cochran

He left their Germantown town house about 5:45 a.m. to go to his job as a letter carrier and did not return until about 4 p.m. She stayed home all day, cleaning house, doing the laundry and looking after their two children, aged 2 months and 2 years. They had dinner at home in the early evening and afterward he went down to Levitz Furniture on the Pike to pick up a new couch they had just bought. They rearranged their furniture and went to bed.

The Cochrans, as a young couple contributing to the suburban baby boom, find they have precious little time to splurge on trips to the District. But, then, like their friends Tina Stanley and Craig Barnes, they have never had much interest in the city.

"I never went," said Karen Cochran, 21. "I had no reason to. I have been down to see the Christmas tree and various museums on various school trips. I have never been downtown."

She paused, then remembered an occasion downtown with two friends: "Oh, I guess once when Kate and Eddie went."

For entertainment now, when they can squeeze it in, the Cochrans go to dinner at Chi Chi's on Rockville Pike, watch a movie, or take in a show at the Harlequin Dinner Theatre in Rockville. More often, they stay home with friends and play Trivial Pursuit.

The spending patterns of people like the Cochrans have fueled an enormous boom in retail growth in the suburbs. According to Sales & Marketing Management magazine's buying-power surveys, retail sales in Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George's counties in the past 10 years have far outstripped sales in the District of Columbia. The surveys show that in 1973 the District was the leader of the four jurisdictions in retail sales; by 1983 it trailed the pack.

The Cochrans, like a lot of other suburbanites, look outside the District for more than just bread and butter. Their sense of the future is oriented toward the undeveloped tracts of the rural zone. Sid Cochran, 25, said their next move is likely to be farther, not closer.

Moreover, when asked by out-of-towners where they live, the Cochrans answer Maryland, not Washington, D.C. Telling someone you're from Washington, noted Karen Cochran, "is like saying you're from the Bronx or something." Dan and Pamela Holsinger

He left their duplex in Brunswick, Md., about 5:50 a.m. for the 45-minute commute to his job as a landscaper at National Geographic in Gaithersburg. She saw the two children off to school, cleaned house and stayed home making Christmas gifts. He returned around 4:30. After dinner an hour later, she went out with a friend to buy flowers for a Christmas arrangement. He invited a friend over and they lifted weights together. He watched the children while she was out and made sure they saw the "Cabbage Patch Kids" special on TV. She and her friend bought groceries and completed their evening by making flower arrangements.

The Holsingers, who are former Montgomery County residents and friends of the Cochrans, chose to live in Frederick County because that was where they could afford to buy. Now they think of Montgomery County suburbs as "the city."

"We liked going out to dinner as much as we could. In the city we had much more of a selection than we do here," said Dan Holsinger, 31, talking about Gaithersburg, where the couple previously lived.

The District is simply out of the picture for people like Dan and Pamela Holsinger, who are part of a redistribution of population along I-270 that has linked the economies of the outer counties of Frederick and Howard with Montgomery County's.

The case of the Holsingers illustrates what the telephone poll spells out in numbers. When it comes to suburbanites and the city, out of sight is out of mind: The farther away people live, the less likely they are to come into the District. The last time Dan Holsinger remembers going into the city was when his high school science class viewed the moon rocks the day they were installed at the Smithsonian Institution.

Dan Holsinger concurred with the feelings of 36 percent of those polled who said they steer clear of the District in part because they do not feel safe in the streets. "I know people now who live in the District and they're terrified," he said.

As distanced from the metropolitan core as they are, the Holsingers find they are surrounded by former Montgomery County residents who have moved to Brunswick for similar reasons.

Said Pamela Holsinger, "They have to be happy because they can afford their home. That's the American dream, isn't it?" Wayne and Sara O'Roark

A dentist, he spent from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. implanting titanium roots in a patient's jaws. She opened the doors of their Darnestown home at 10 a.m. for the second day of a Christmas crafts show, sponsored in connection with a business she co-owns, called The Tin Angel. After he finished with the implant surgery he came home and ran the craft show's sales tax, commissions and inventory data through his personal computer. They closed the show at 7 p.m. and cleaned up.

The O'Roarks, both 46, have moved gradually outward, mirroring the general pattern of suburban development. Growing up in Chevy Chase, he moved to Gaithersburg with his wife and then on to Darnestown. His dental practice, begun by his father in the District, is now split between Chevy Chase and Gaithersburg. Dental assistant Tina Stanley helps run the two offices.

Wayne O'Roark was once a suburbanite who relied on the city for night life entertainment, but that's all changed. "When I lived in Chevy Chase and was single, I went down there the District a lot," he said. "There wasn't anything that interested me out here." Now O'Roark has "gotten out of the habit" of using the city and goes into the District only for an occasional concert at the Kennedy Center.

He prefers not to think of himself as the "archetypical suburbanite with a station wagon and a dog," however. So he bought a van instead.

As a suburbanite, he said, "I think you become more self-sufficient and learn to entertain yourself more." The O'Roarks each have a business to occupy them; he has a wood shop and a five-acre lot to tend; they travel outside the metropolitan area on weekends to ski or go boating.

Despite his distinctly suburban life style, Wayne O'Roark thinks of himself as a Washingtonian. He likes the idea of the city and the action that goes on there. Living in the suburbs and rarely going into the city, he conceded, "is like guys who buy a convertible but never put the top down because they don't want to mess it up." Lisa Glick

She left her apartment in Montgomery Village at 7 a.m. and drove to her car pool, which delivered her to her job as a computer operator in the District at 8:25. She had lunch at Luigi's of D.C. Home from work by 6:30 p.m., she drove with a friend to New York to visit relatives in Brooklyn and see the Christmas decorations at Rockefeller Center. Arriving in Brooklyn, they went out for a drink and stayed up talking until 3 a.m.

Lisa Glick, a 21-year-old reluctant suburbanite, represents a still significant segment of suburban residents who depend on the District. Unsatisifed with the cultural and social opportunities in the suburbs, 40 percent of those polled said they cannot "do everything I want to in the suburbs."

A longtime school friend of Karen Cochran, Glick lives in Montgomery Village only because her job used to be nearby. Now she works in the District and said, "I would really like to live in Dupont Circle, but it's so expensive."

Glick said she uses the city for entertainment weekly, going to bars and restaurants. The suburbs, she sighed, are "kind of boring. In the city there is always something to do." She lives next to the Lake Forest Mall but shuns it.

A student of ballet, Glick moved to New York City at 16 to become a professional. A broken ankle ended her career, but she still craves the lights and the arts. The suburbs, in her view, have not changed much since she was growing up in Rockville.

"It still seems pretty much the same to me," she said. "There are a few more office buildings, I guess. The kids are still roller-skating on Friday nights." Arthur and Edith Fitzgerald

He left about 7 a.m. for the one-hour commute from Darnestown to his job as an IBM senior engineer in Manassas. She spent the morning at home with a daughter visiting from out of town. Later she and her daughter drove to the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital to spend the afternoon with another daughter who the day before had given birth to a girl. They returned home in the late afternoon. He got back from work about 6:30, and they all went to the hospital to see the new granddaughter. They had dinner and turned in.

Arthur and Edith Fitzgerald, ages 60 and 58, live in a spacious subdivision a good distance from the city, yet they are not so alienated from the District as the Cochrans and the Holsingers. Natives of the older, denser Long Island suburbs, the Fitzgeralds moved to Montgomery County 20 years ago. Dentist Wayne O'Roark looks after their teeth.

Arthur Fitzgerald believes the District is a "more hospitable place than 25 years ago," citing redevelopment downtown and construction of the Metrorail system. He and his wife are attracted on occasion to events at the Kennedy Center and the National Theater, although they prefer to entertain themselves in the suburbs and describe getting into the city as a "chore." The last time they visited the District -- to take a boat ride on the Potomac -- was two months ago.

The Post poll found that the Fitzgeralds have a lot of company in their thinking about Washington's pluses and minuses. About three-quarters identified the Kennedy Center and the Metro system as two of the city's strongest draws; traffic congestion and a lack of parking were its chief detractions.

Arthur Fitzgerald's philosophical complaint about living in the Washington suburbs is that it is so hard to get into the city. He and his wife grew up in suburban Queens, N.Y., with easy access to Manhattan. As a boy he could go readily from suburbs to city by subway. His children, growing up in the more spread-out suburbs here, must rely a great deal on automobiles.

Mobility by car in the modern suburbs, he said, effectively cuts off suburbanites from the city. The city, encircled by a concrete moat called the Capital Beltway, loses its allure. The result is detachment from the metropolitan core, an effect that is particularly pronounced in the younger generation that has grown up suburban.

As Sid Cochran said, "I've never really needed downtown for anything except the 'Skins. I'm not really interested in crowds, and that's what D.C. seems like, with few exceptions."