It’s summer in Washington, and the pool is king. Rooftop, hotel, apartment, public, most city dwellers don’t care — we’ll gladly jump into each as scorching temperatures set our asphalt and marble a’sizzle.
But it’s a different scene at each one, which is good to know for those of us who want a helping of flirting with our chlorine and floaties. Some are one big party. Some are more refined. And some don’t serve drinks at all, unless we’re talking about juice boxes. We ventured to several to get the scoop on summer lovin’ from pool-goers (who only gave their first names since it would dampen their style to be completely transparent). Let’s dive in.
The Vegas-style club
Capitol Skyline Hotel, Southwest Waterfront
The slick concrete strip along the water’s edge is primo real estate at the Capitol Skyline Hotel pool. Parties of one, two and three post up on the gray-tiled perimeter to survey potential prey. Some grab the colorful hotel-provided beach balls for games of keep-away while others dance to the constant loop of house and hip-hop spun by a professional DJ. Fueled by light beer and margarita slushies, the very brave plop right down next to someone they’ve been eyeing to say: “What’s up?” It’s like a night club but instead of mood lighting and questionable crop tops, there’s direct sunlight and Hawaiian-print Lycra.
“It starts out as fun and games, splashing in the water,” said Brad, a 31-year-old customer service manager in the District. A harmless water fight can spark a flirtation session much faster than any lame pick-up line he might try at the bar.
Perched on a mesh lounge chair in a shaded spot near the DJ stand, Brad said he and his friends have been coming to this pool nearly every weekend for the past six summers. Of all the harmless tête-à-têtes he’s had over the years, Brad estimates that only a few led to actual dates. “I’m not coming to the pool to meet the next missus,” he confessed. “It’s summertime,” he said with a shrug.
Erica, who joined Brad’s group for the first time that day, agreed that the pool is more about being seen than finding Mr. Right. Wearing gold chandelier earrings and a flattering white lace bikini — suspiciously dry for a pool party — the 27-year-old nurse said being single and looking at the pool means you’re more likely to be showing off your cute new suit (and summer body) than actually swimming. All that “peacocking” can make for some pretty superficial connections, she said.
“I’m not trying to pick up a dude at the pool,” said Kelly, 28, while nursing an aluminum bottle of Miller Lite. Perhaps it was the group she was with — a gaggle of ladies, most of whom were engaged or otherwise spoken for. The other single gal in the mix, Liza, pipes in: “You could have that unicorn out of nowhere though” — drawing out the last syllable — “then maybe.”
Lounging nearby, Sosse says she’s already been approached by several men, most of whom came in with other women. “It’s like going to a club,” the 34-year-old said. Pointing to a VIP couch several yards away, Sosse said, “They brought girls with them to show off” so other women take it as a compliment when approached. Proving her point, three perfectly coiffed women danced seductively to the pulsing house music while the men completely ignored them, staring at the mass of bodies in the pool. “It’s definitely not Match.com,” she said, raising her eyebrows.
Maybe no perfect matches or unicorns, but plenty of buff horses? You bet.
- Best opening: Sit along the pool’s edge and splash the next hot passerby.
The mellow lounge
Twilight Tuesday at Penthouse Pool Club, U Street
It’s like an Italian villa meets swanky cocktail lounge — complete with spiral topiaries, smooth electronic music and pink mood lighting. Chic red and white day beds dotting the pool’s edge are occupied by groups of toned, lithe bodies
. Behind one, a young man slipped off a pair of short red shorts to reveal … an even shorter pair of shorts. If the smallness of one’s bathing suit were a competition, there would be a lot of blue-ribbon winners at the VIDA Fitness rooftop pool.
“We’re naked,” Pierre exclaimed of the mostly gay, male clientele taking a sunset dip in the pink-lit pool around him. (Almost naked, that is.) “And men are visual.”
Women would likely be offended by the obvious ogling, the 31-year-old said, but “Gay men look at each other like a smorgasbord.” Especially at the pool, where itsy bitsy swimsuits leave little to the imagination. Pierre favors the direct approach: “I pull out my phone and say, ‘Here’s my phone, put your number in there.’ ” If they’re interested too, he’s got a date; if not, there are plenty of other fish in the pool.
The pool itself is a catwalk. Some men pose shirtless just a few feet from the water (all the better for the crowd to see their hard-earned abs), while others swim up to the edge to chat. Derek, a tall, thin hipster with a trendy man-bun, wasn’t there to sit and model — or “S and M” as he called it. The 36-year-old just wanted a fun night with friends and a respite from the heat. While most of the lounge chair occupants were reclined just so, “I’m covering myself up with a towel,” he joked.
He wouldn’t expect anything serious to come from a summer pool fling — “I’d rather meet someone at the grocery store,” he said. You know, organically.
- Best opening: Channel your inner Phoebe Cates while climbing out of the pool.
The lazy Sunday
Volta Park Public Pool, Georgetown
Competing smells of coconut tanning spray and over-chlorinated water hang heavy in the air. The constant glug-glug-glug of the filtered pool water is only interrupted by the occasional shriek of a small child perfecting his cannonball.
Among the long list of Pool Rules posted at Volta Park Pool in Georgetown, it’s easy to imagine “no flirting” being sandwiched between “please shower before entering pool” and “NO DIVING!”
“It seems like kind of a family atmosphere,” Lucy, a 21-year-old intern, said of the largely white crowd. She didn’t come to the pool this particularly steamy Sunday to meet a potential fling, though. If she saw a man she liked (and perhaps was an alcoholic beverage or two deep), she wouldn’t waste time with sly glances and coy smiles: “I’d say, ‘I was looking at you and I think you’re really attractive.’ ”
Not everyone is so direct. Sitting cross-legged on a bright beach towel at the end of the pool, friends Kacey and Adelaide, also summer interns, said the best way to meet someone at the pool is to “swim near them and accidentally splash them.” “Oh sorry,” one said in mock modesty.
But there simply aren’t any candidates here. Above them, a lifeguard with a serious look watches over the swimmers while an older man in goggles pops up among the line of people sitting with their feet in the water. “Hi, how you doing?” he exclaimed each time. Another man holding onto a floatie practices his kicks, forging a line directly down the middle of the pool. He accidentally splashes the sitters, but there’s nothing flirtatious about it.
- Best opening: None, just go to cool off and bring that paperback you’d never admit to reading.