Illustration for article titled Chandra Levy: Why Your Mother Always Said To Wear Clean Underwear

The Washington Post is currently running a bazillion-part series on the disappearance and murder of the second-most-infamous Washington intern, Chandra Levy (we're sure the timing has nothing to do with the end of Gary Condit's latest lawsuit). Chandra came to Washington in the fall of 2000 for an internship, started an affair with a Congressman and ended up dead in Rock Creek Park. The paper has run 3 parts of the series so far — what Chandra did the day she disappeared, what she was doing in the months leading up to that, and the Condit's history of cheating on his wife. The biggest take-away lesson: metaphorically, you should pay attention to your mom about that clean underwear thing because you don't want the world to dig through your dirty drawers 7 years later. That, and some other takeaway lessons, after the jump.

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  • Try not to get murdered It seems like an obvious thing, but even reading about the case I feel kind of weird wondering how my life would look to a zillion strangers.
  • Make sure someone always knows where you are It might've helped Chandra (or at least would've helped the case) and — if he actually was innocent the whole time — it totally would've helped Condit.
  • Remember that sometime's there's no explanation As a crime victim, the hardest thing for my family to accept on some level was that sometimes violence really is random. While it was important for the cops to know that Chandra and Condit were an item, anyone who recalls the case probably remembers how hard they pushed him as a suspect. In part, it's probably because he was a less-random explanation than the unimaginable horror of random violence. Did they do right? Possibly not — Condit was never charged and the cops didn't seemingly look that hard for an alternate explanation.
  • Don't fuck a married man Look, seriously, whatever he says, just say no. If he's betraying her, he'll betray you. It's comforting to believe that you're different, that you're special but, really, as Chandra never really got the chance to find out, she wasn't. Congressman Condit was nicknamed "Condom" during his stint in the Statehouse.
  • If you are going to fuck a married guy, don't buy his bullshit Fine, so you've made your choice. But don't fall for the whole, "I'm totally going to leave my wife and marry you" line. Is there anything more cliché? If he was going to leave his wife, he would've already done so or or would be in the process of doing so, which is a long and painful process. Instead, he's inserting his penis into your vagina. He's got exactly what he wants.
  • Don't fuck around on your wife This is 2008, that was 2000, you are not required to be married, even as a Congressman. If Condit had been a single skirtchaser, no one would've had as much cause of question his motives and he wouldn't have faced the same opprobrium (see: Ford, Congressman Harold).
  • If you are going to cheat on your wife, don't like to the cops about it Fine, you've also made your choice, and I'm judging you. But the cops aren't there to judge you for where you stick your dick, and lying about it makes you look sketchy and guilty.
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I mean, basically, the whole thing was apparently a mess from start to finish. Maybe Condit had nothing to do with her disappearance, maybe she would've been murdered anyway, maybe the police would've fucked this up so bad from the get-go regardless that no one will ever know what happened to her. But, if there hadn't been so much dirty laundry to look through before they started looking for Chandra, maybe we would know the answer to those questions.

Who Killed Chandra Levy? [Washington Post]

Judge Dismisses Ex-Congressman Condit's Slander Suit Against Author Dominick Dunne [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

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DISCUSSION

@summerwheatley: The thing with "transitional" neighbourhoods is - and I say this as a former resident of San Francisco's Lower Haight who was welcomed to the neighbourhood with a drive-by at my Safeway - that many people can live in them for years and never be touched by violence. Mere proximity to things like drug-selling and gang activity raises your levels of street crimes like muggings and burglary, but according to every study I've read, the most significant risk factors for things like assault and murder are in your own behaviour. Do you consort with gang members? Do you use or buy or sell drugs? Most crime is not random - and if you don't get involved with the groups perpetrating the crime, you're unlikely to become party to violence, no matter where you live. (Of course, the last tenants of my old apartment, a married couple, did have to duck behind a parked car when they were caught in the crossfire during another drive-by - something they would probably never have faced had they been walking home from their corner store in Pac Heights.)

There was a really interesting essay published last year in The Believer about, in part, gentrifying neighbourhoods and the problem of how we talk about "dangerous" urban places.

[www.believermag.com]

There's a part of the essay where the author's cousin, a light-skinned black woman, goes to South Africa and is mostly taken for white.

"She was not prepared for what it meant to be white in South Africa, which was to be reminded, at every possible opportunity, that she was not safe, and that she must be afraid. And she was not prepared for how seductive that fear would become, how omnipresent it would be, so that she spent most of her time there in taxis, and in hotels, and in 'safe' places where she was surrounded by white people. When she returned home she told me, 'I realized this is what white people do to each other-they cultivate each other's fear. It's very violent.' "

There's a part of me that thinks women cultivate each other's fear, too. Even considering rape, we're each many times more likely to be raped by an acquaintance than a man hiding in the bushes outside your building, waiting for his nocturnal quarry to return home. Running up absurd cab bills and never going anywhere alone and otherwise living in fear of your own shadow have zero deterrent effect on the only rapist you're ever likely to face: that friend-of-a-friend guy who, unbeknownst to you, isn't going to take your "No" for an answer in three hours' time.