Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we've just met.
What do you do for a living?
I'm a student full-time.
What do you study?
I study social services and Jack Daniels.
Does any of that ever get you laid?
Going out to seek Jack Daniels does.
Do you have a boyfriend?
We've only been on three dates. I met him at a bar. He's a great kid. I don't really put out that easily, but he's got a lot of potential. We're on date four tonight, so, two more and…
You say he's a good kid — what are you looking for?
He just seems like a good, genuine person. When the bill comes, we fight over the bill. He's that guy that calls me every morning and says good morning.
He calls you? Not texts you, but calls you?
I'm not usually into that. I'm a kind of tomboy and little bit mannish. But he does it and I think it's adorable. Every time we go out he wants to hold my hand. He's very affectionate. I was never really into that before, but I actually kind of like that.
Is he the type of guy that you usually go for?
I don't go for a type of guy. Whatever I like in the moment is what I go for. But he seems like he's such a good person. He's going to be a lawyer and advocate for children. He loves animals, and I have a dog, so that's very important for me. He's here right now, and he won't let me drive my car home because I'm drinking. He's just that guy.
What are some definite turn-offs and dealbreakers for you?
Turn-offs are arrogance, materialism. Children, more than one child; sorry, being honest.
Any physical things?
No, I'm not that shallow. I'm really not. As long as you have goals and you are working towards those goals, we can work with that, like if you don't have a job or a car. Okay, physically — bad breath: we're done. Body odor: it's a wrap. Otherwise, I can work around certain things.
How do you feel about long-term monogamy? Do you think it's possible?
Honestly, until now, I was never a fan. I've definitely had commitment issues. I've had three serious relationships — getting into those relationships, I didn't know what I wanted. But I feel like when you know what you want, you're willing to be committed to that. Me not being committed in previous relationships was a result of me not knowing what I wanted at the time. I've cheated on other people, and I don't think it's okay. I believe in karma. I believe that what may be coming to me in the future might be a result of my karma. But now I know not to settle for a relationship that isn't what I want. Right now I'm actually with someone I feel I could commit to. It's the first time in ten years I've felt that. It's pretty hardcore.
What do you do for a living?
I'm a musician and I sometimes work as a legal assistant.
Does any of that get you laid?
I guess being a musician does, and actually, yeah, being in law does as well. Different ladies like different things. Half of them like musicians, and half of them are like, "Wow, you have a good job that'll make money."
Are in a relationship or are you single?
How is it being a single man in Atlanta?
It seems like — and I'm just going to say this for the record — half of women are just way too focused on finding husbands and the other half are way too focused on having cock inside of them. So it kind of makes it difficult to just let things develop in a poetic, old-school way. It's cock or marriage.
So are you a "poetic, old-school" kind of guy?
You've written women poetry before?
I'm the fucking lead singer in a band, so yes, I've written women poetry.
If being a musician does get you laid, how does that happen? Do you meet women at your shows?
People who go around saying, "I'm a fucking musician! I'm in a fucking band," fuck them, because all they are trying to do is get laid. I mean, of course, if you're passionate, if you're creative, that tends to be an attractive quality in a human being. But myself and the rest of the members of the band, we don't take advantage of that. In fact, the surest way we won't have sex with you is that you're impressed with the fact that we're in a fucking band.
What are your dealbreakers?
If you don't know any music that was made between the years of 1990 and 1996, which basically eliminates a lot of people. Here's an absolute dealbreaker — it's not original, but it does come from the movie Clerks — if you've sucked more cock than cock has been inside of you: dealbreaker. Deal-fucking-breaker.
But how would you know? Do you just ask women straight up?
Fuck yeah. I'm really good at getting the truth out of people. I'll be like, "Hey, how many cocks have you sucked? How many cocks have been inside your vagina?" We compare numbers, and if one is greater than the other, boom. There we go.
Is the fact that you're asking that question ever a dealbreaker for the woman?
Actually, no. Most women appreciate the fact that a man is really asking them genuine questions. I do think that most men — I won't even call them men — I think that most guys that women have dated are douchebags who never actually try to really get to know a woman, and therefore never ask important questions. So, to answer your question, no, I've never had a woman be like, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe you asked me that question. That's a dealbreaker." In fact, they like the fact that someone is actually is taking an interest in genuine things about them.
What's the most romantic thing you've ever done?
I took a girl to one of the fields of Kennesaw Mountain. I prepared stuffed bell peppers, I had candles, and — back when they had tapes — I had a tape recorder. We had a picnic at dusk with candles and then I played Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me" because I wanted to waltz in a field to Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me."
Sounds pretty romantic. How'd it play out?
It played out well, but we're also talking about when I was seventeen-years old. When you get older, you have to be a little bit more subtle.
Are you in a relationship?
What kind of guy would you like to date now?
Well, I'm trying to do this thing where I date guys who are older than me, as opposed to twenty-four-year olds. I've been going young lately, and that's a sign that I'm clearly not ready for a relationship. When you're ready, you're going to shoot for the guy who you can see yourself dating. Not the youngun who's spunky.
Where do you usually meet guys?
At bars, which I know is wrong for my age. But I work in a women's retail store; I'm not going to meet guys there. We've been talking about going to more places like Top Flr and the Westin where the older guys hang out, as opposed to the younger musician types. I'm still trying to fight the habit of dating musicians, because I only like musicians. Only, only, only. Because I'm masochistic.
So musicians don't make for good relationships?
Not if they're younger. If they're older and signed and touring all the time, they're real musicians at that point. But you don't want to date those guys either, because they're always gone. I prefer guys who are musicians on the side who actually have a real job. That's ideal to me because they're still artistic. Musicians are just so passionate and what have you, and I have to get over that. My mom yells at me every day, "No more musicians, Sam! No more!"
Who is your dream man then?
Jon Hamm. Donald Draper from Mad Men. If I could find a real man like that… But at the same time, am I going to have anything in common with him? Am I actually going to like him? I just feel like I'm not in the stage of my life that I'm ready for the grownups, the men with the careers.
Do you typically approach men, or do you prefer for men to approach you?
I definitely am old-fashioned. The best approach I've had from a guy was from this guy who I could tell was looking at me all night long. Then, he walked up to me, shook my hand, slid his phone number in. And I thought it was the cutest thing ever. Did anything happen with it? No. But I still have the story to tell. He slipped his phone number in my hand!
Are you in a relationship?
Yes, I've been in one for about two years. Well, I say two years. It'll be two years in August.
How did you meet?
I picked him up in a bar. I was drinking a beer and watching one of my favorite movies on the TV without any sound. And on the other side of the bar was this guy, and I thought he was so cute and saw that he was looking at me. Eventually, I just kind of turned and gave him the biggest cheese-eating grin I possibly could, and he came and talked to me and gave me his number.
Who called whom first?
Me. Absolutely. I texted him that night, and then we went out the next week and the next week and we've been together ever since.
Do you believe in long-term monogamy?
I'm a believer, but I also think it's natural for people to have curiosity outside of their relationships. I don't think that sexual curiosity ever dies. I think that people have an interest in cheating and I think that people might potentially cheat and it might not be a relationship-ender. We've been through a lot over the past two years, and I can honestly say that commitment has been a big issue with me — not that I think he's cheated on me. I don't at all.
What would be a dealbreaker for you?
If I spoke to him about what I was feeling, and he didn't respond. I told him that I wanted to know whether or not he was going to commit to me, and he said, "Yes, but it's going to be on my terms, and you need to realize that it's not going to be instant and here's a ring, let's get married in the next six months." Which is really all I wanted from him.
What about kids?
I know that he wants kids and I want kids.
What about "I love you?" Is there a certain amount of time to give a relationship before it's okay to say it?
He still hasn't said it.
It's been a big issue. I've said it within the past two weeks. This is kind of bullshit to me, but at the same time because I love him and I understand him as a person, he's very reserved and isn't comfortable exposing his innermost feelings with most people. Which is fine; I understand that. I'm not like that. But at the same time, I'm kind of like "Bullshit." But I understand. The last relationship that he was in, which was pretty much the only relationship he was in, a seven-year relationship, the girl that he quote-unquote loved, moved to Montana and ended up dating the guy she was living with, while at the same time forbidding him to date anyone else in Atlanta, saying "I'm coming back, I'm coming back." Eventually he realized what was going on and everything fell to shit. So he told me that he has trust issues, blah, blah, blah. Which I still think — he's going to be thirty next week — grow up. I'm sympathetic until the cows come home, but grow up. I've been through shit, too. But I'm still understanding, and he knows that I love him.
How did he respond when you said 'I love you'?
He was probably the happiest I've ever seen him. Which is also bullshit though, because wouldn't you say "I love you" back? He was just like "You make me so happy." And I know it's just a matter of him sticking to his principles, but at the same time, he's going to have to give in at some point. And if he doesn't, you know what? I'll walk, and that's fine. He makes me happy enough that I bend a lot on what my demands are.
What are your demands?
I had wanted him to tell me that he loved me. I thought for sure at this point he would do it, and he hasn't yet. And when we had a big talk about it, and he told me where he was coming from, I understood and didn't demand anything from him.
What makes you want to commit to him?
He's consistently concerned about my well-being. That's never changed. He's never done anything selfish. He has a lot of very well-established relationships with his friends, with his family, with people who he works with. Everything he does is considerate and he takes time, and that's made all the difference in our relationship, and it's made all the difference for how I feel about him. He's a good guy.
What do you do for a living?
I work as a waiter.
Does that ever get you laid?
It could if I didn't have a girlfriend.
Do you typically like it when girls come on to you, or do you prefer to make the move?
It depends on how they come at me.
How did your girlfriend come at you?
It was slowly, over time, because we worked together, so we saw each other every day. It just kind of developed.
How are things going?
Comme ci, comme ça.
Hmm. So how do you feel about monogamy?
Me personally, I feel like no one should be with just one person his whole life. But if you're with one person, you should be with that one person.
So no cheating?
Who said "I love you" first?
She did, around six months, seven months.
Did you say it back right away?
No. I said "I like you a lot" for the longest time, then it just slipped out one night, I guess. I didn't want to be in a relationship at the time and didn't want to lock it in with those words.
By "slipped out," do you mean you were drunk?
It was intoxication, yes.
Were you like "Oh, shit," the next morning?
Yes. And to this morning, I wake up thinking "Oh, shit" sometimes.
Do you see yourself in this relationship for much longer?
No, I don't.
Not the one for you?
No. I know this. But we're having fun right now, and when the time's right, it'll happen.
How's the sex?
It's good when it happens. She tends to be a bitch, and that's a major turnoff. Just nagging. An example: a bartender made my drink too strong, and she bitched at me for it.
If she's always nagging, what does she like so much about you? What's your star quality?
From what she tells me, I'm a chill, laid-back guy, and she's always been in aggressive relationships. I guess to her it's kind of a relief having somebody who's laid back. But that's all I've got.
What your best travel story?
I had sex on a lifeguard chair on a beach in Spain, with an ex-girlfriend.
Were you together at the time?
No. It was weird. She happened to be in Spain at the same time as me. Small world. Obviously, the stars aligned to see me bang that night.
What do you do for a living?
I work at American Apparel, I nanny, and I go to school.
Does any of that ever get you laid?
Well, it's not so much that it gets me laid, but when they find out that I nanny some dudes are kind of into it, which is kind of weird. I'll be talking about nannying and certain things that I do, and they'll be like, "Oh, hot babysitter."
So does that mean you have a lot of hot babysitter-fantasy sexual encounters?
No, but there's a lot of sex messaging that goes on when the kid's asleep. The guy I'm seeing right now finds it cute, like "Aw, you're such a good girl." I have had awkward things happen with the dad I nanny for. Back in the day we used to hang out as friends. He didn't know that I used to know his wife. He's a good bit older than me and he would hit on me and try to buy me drinks. And then she hired me to nanny.
So, not into the dad thing?
No, not into the dad thing.
Your boyfriend likes the nanny factor?
He's not my boyfriend yet, but I think he's turned on more by the fact that he wants to have sex with me and he can't and I'm there and everyone is asleep. I think it's kind of weird, but if guys want to keep me entertained while I'm bored, that's fine with me.
Tell me your craziest hookup story.
I was in Miami and it was my friend's birthday. He was turning twenty-one and I was twenty, and we stayed at this hotel that had a happy hour at the bar. I guess I got really toasted at the bar and I went to bed. During this time when I was passed out, he told all my friends that he "would be having me" — there was a language barrier. He came up to my room to hang out, I guess, and I woke up, and he was giving me the eyes. Then the next night he wasn't talking to me. So I went up to him and, long story short, we wound up having sex in the laundry room of the hotel.
How was it?
It was good. It was really weird. Afterwards, he took me to go get pizza with all his friends down the street and I didn't understand a word any of them were saying. Just hanging out there was such a language barrier. He kept grabbing face and telling me I was "such a strange girl."
Have you talked to him since?
No, he's in Miami, and I don't understand anything he says.
How would you describe your ideal man?
I like to say that I don't want to date assholes; I just want someone to put me in my place. But then I end up dating assholes. But the guy I'm dating now is really nice. I don't think I need an asshole, but I want someone who will constantly take jabs at me and can take jabs back. It's almost sexual back-and-forth contact. And you've got to be good in bed or at least try to have some kind of drive for that, because that's been a dealbreaker in the past.
How would you describe "good in bed?"
I like someone who is enthusiastic. They want it, they want me, they want to try different things, they won't mind me wanting to try different things. Of course everyone has a line. But if I were to say something kind of off-the-wall, I wouldn't want them to be like, "What?!" and just stop. If you're having sex with me and I say something that might be a little weird, just keep doing it.
Interviews and photography by Cristen Conger and Gillian Goodman. Want to talk to strangers in your town? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.