Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
James, 36 and Yolanda, 28
How long have you two been together?
J: About four years, almost five. You want the truth? I tell it better than she does. We work together — she's a bartender and I'm a bouncer. And on my day off, I was in there drinking, and I had a dimebag of weed in my pocket. And I sat down and we were talking. It was honestly the first time we'd ever had a conversation, and we had worked together for a few months before that. She asked me, "You smoke?" I was like, "Weed, not cigarettes!" And she told me, "Well, I think you dropped a dime bag on the floor." It was mine, I asked her if she wanted to smoke, and we've been together ever since.
Marijuana brings people together.
Y: A friend with weed is a friend indeed.
J: We travel together a lot. We have a friend who has a music festival in Cabot, Vermont. There's a man-made lake, and I actually almost drowned her. We weren't even boyfriend and girlfriend yet. We were just hanging — she's my friend and I'm her friend and if we feel like having sex, then that's what it is. But they had this big floating trampoline in the middle of the lake and she was floating by, with two beer bottles. One was empty and one had beer that she was sipping on. And I said, "Hey, this would be cool: I'm going to jump on her while she's floating on this rubber tube." I was 265 pounds at that time, and needless to say, it almost sank to the bottom of the lake. So, she chased me to the shore and the whole time she was cussing me out. But meanwhile, she was swimming and holding two beer bottles with her thumbs in them —
Y: That's how you do it! When you want to save the beer, thumbs in!
J: Remember I told you it was an empty bottle and a full one? No water was in either of them when she made it to shore. I said, "She's a fucking keeper."
That's how you knew it was love. So what's your secret to keeping the love alive?
Y: Do everything you can and have fun. Pay your bills and do everything you can after that.
J: She may say that, but for me, it's more of a communication thing. We talk about everything. If I want to fuck a blonde chick, she'll say "Hey, I got a wig."
Y: It happens!
J: You've got to be honest with yourself. You've got to say, "Yo, what type of person do I want to deal with?" Opposites, they attract, but you have to make it work. We go to sex shops together. We just left a strip club together. As far as I'm concerned, as a man, I keep macking. I macked to get her, I've got to keep macking. Me personally, I'm a romantic. So, I do little dumb stuff all the time for her. You worked to get her, you have to work to keep her.
J: But at the same time, you still have to give each other space, because you're not married. She's still who she is, and I'm still who I am. Now, if we get married, then that's when we become one person. And that's where people get mixed up. They still try to be that same separate person when they're married. Next thing you know, you're divorced. I'm telling you, I got divorced years ago. While I was married, all my boys were bugging me to go to clubs with them, saying, "Aw, man, your wife will still be home when you get back." You have to say, "Check this out, y'all: I'm married now, so if you still want to be my friend, then this is what you've got to deal with." A lot of people, they get concerned about what their friends think, and what their mother thinks. Fuck all that! You're not fucking your mother. You're not fucking your friends. If you like your pussy ate, and the motherfucker you're with is paying your bills, but he's not eating your pussy, and you need that, leave him the fuck alone! Why stay with him? Me, I like my neck bit. If you're not going to bite my fucking neck, leave me alone!
But how can she bite you with that collar on?
Y: Don't worry, I get around it.
J: This is not a permanent fixture, ladies and gentlemen!
Can you tell me more about your inclinations?
J: I'm into everything. If she doesn't say no, I go.
Y: I don't say no to much.
So, you used to live in Baltimore, but now you live in D.C. How did you end up here?
I moved to Baltimore with somebody I'd been dating for almost five years. But once we got to Baltimore, we split up. So, I was on my own all of a sudden, and for the first six or seven months I was pretty quiet, on my own, focusing on work. But it was an eye-opening experience. I went from home in a small town in Kentucky, to college, to this long-term relationship, to being completely on my own in this new place, knowing nothing about the gay community. I made some interesting friends — straight, gay, all sorts. I've lived internationally, and several places in the U.S., and I really think of Baltimore as one of my favorite places.
What is the gay scene like in Baltimore?
It's very segregated, unfortunately. Baltimore has a growing urban center — it's one of the top three, with Austin and Portland. So, you have former suburbanites who are driven towards this urban center, and many of them are white. Baltimore gay bars seem to be affected by this. As an outsider who spent a couple years here, I found it very class-segregated, and that also played into race issues. But one of the most interesting things about Baltimore is that there's actually an incredible spectrum of people, from Ph.D.s to service-industry workers, of all races, who are gay but are split among classes.
What differences have you've noticed between D.C. and Baltimore?
Oh goodness, there are so many. In terms of the gay dating scene, in D.C., there are more rules to follow: who pays for the first date, what you should or shouldn't do on the first date, where to meet people, whether you should call them right away. Baltimore just seems much more natural: organic, real, and a bit gritty. You meet someone and you either get along or you don't. The D.C. people I know are almost too picky. In Baltimore, the pool is much smaller. There aren't that many options. People are real. They're not trying to put on airs, they're not in perfect shape, they're not perfectly primped, they don't have expensive clothes.
What do you look for in a man?
Holistically, not just physically, I look for someone rational and stable, but still a little bit hot-blooded. Along with the rationality and stability, there has to be something that lets me know that every once in a while he gets a little emotional. If they're completely vanilla and easy to be around, I'm not always attracted to them. Looking back at who I've been interested in, I like people who make me feel passionate and who are passionate themselves in different ways.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I do. I'm a total sucker. Should we go down the route of trashy magicalness? I met him while on a date with someone else that I didn't realize was a date, because we were in a group with his friends. But from the first words on, "Hey, I'm…" I couldn't stop thinking about him. No matter what I tried to do — focus on work, do my workout routine, study, read, do anything — I still got sidetracked thinking about him. That's love at first sight to me. And what really made it love for me was that it was mutual, because I later found out that he'd felt the same way.
What's your relationship status?
I've been married for thirty-six years. We started dating when we were sixteen. He was a year ahead of me in school — we'd pass each other in the hallways. Actually, my sister and his sister worked together, so they were always trying to set us up. We broke up a few times and got back together, and finally, we got married.
What do you do to keep the love alive?
[Laughs] Stay away from each other! No, you have to have a friendship. You have to be best friends. We have two children, and a grandchild and another one on the way. Family's always been really, really important. You just try to do things together: dinner and a movie once in a while.
Since you met at such a young age and you almost grow up together, do you feel like he's a different person than when you first met him?
Well, there've been some rocky times, and some times where you kind of wonder, "Did I marry too young? Did I miss the dating scene?" We really didn't date anybody else. Some people take different paths and they grow apart. But we've grown together. He also gives me space, and I let him have space. Even when my kids were growing up, if I wanted to take a week and go with the girls to Ocean City, that was fine. If he wanted to take a week and go golfing with somebody, that was fine too.
How has Baltimore changed since you grew up here?
Well, in terms of the dating scene, when I grew up, guys would come around and open the car door for you. It's not like that now. And you wouldn't move in with a guy — you would get married first. So, it's really gotten more liberal.
Are those positive changes?
In some respects. I'd still like guys to respect girls more than they do. But, my daughter lives with her boyfriend and, while my husband doesn't like the idea, I'm okay with it. The divorce rate is so great, that you might as well get a taste of what it's like to be with that person twenty-four-seven. If it doesn't work, you have the option to leave without getting divorced.
Why do you think there's a lack of respect?
Well, I hate to say it, but I think girls are looser now and don't demand the respect. I don't know if they don't think they deserve it or they've lost respect for themselves. But they seem to be okay with the guy walking ahead of them, whereas in my day, you wouldn't be okay with that. We weren't little June Cleavers, but we liked little things: guys opening the car door for you, or helping you put on your coat. Instead of just being an object to them, you were somebody who deserved respect.
What have your daughter's relationships been like?
Unfortunately, she's been unlucky in love. She's been hurt quite a few times. She's a very quiet girl, so she's afraid to give her opinion to people when it counts. But, I think just seeing the way her dad and I treat each other makes her very family-oriented, and she wants to be treated respectfully too.
That's important. So, you own a lingerie shop. Do you get to hear about why customers are looking for certain items?
Sure — sometimes it's for a hot date, or an anniversary, or for crossdressing. I hear all kinds of stories. It's been fun. This man came in shopping — he said — for his wife. "My wife likes this color, my wife likes that style." So, he bought a couple things, and a few weeks later he came back, saying the same thing about his wife. I didn't think he was a crossdresser, but then he held something up and said "Would this fit me?" And then I knew. I offered him a dressing room to try it on. But this is the part I wasn't prepared for. He went into the dressing room and I could hear him struggling. So I asked him, "Do you need some help?" And he said, "Yeah, I'm really having a hard time with these straps. Do you mind?" And I said, "Well, I don't mind if you don't mind." I opened the curtain up and there he was in thigh-highs, stiletto heels, a bra, panties, and a garter belt. I'm not sure I was ready to see all that, but I helped him find what he wanted.
Was there actually a wife?
Oh yes. She likes him to dress up in ladies' lingerie. They come in and buy for themselves. Some people might think it's strange, but everybody has their own way of keeping their marriage alive.
I had another guy come in a few weeks ago and he was totally embarrassed, explaining that his wife wanted him to dress up in lingerie, and that there were only a very few stores where he felt comfortable. So, I helped him, and he bought a few things, and an hour later he called me and said, "I just want to thank you so much for making this a good experience, for not being judgmental, and for making me feel comfortable." That's what I'm here for.
Are you from Baltimore?
You should know that I fuck a lot. I fuck a lot, but I love a lot.
That seems like a good motto. Where are you from originally?
I am from Puerto Rico. But I've lived here since I was eight.
How's the Baltimore dating scene?
It sucks. The women in Baltimore are very easy and very nice. But they're not good quality. I like to date women who aren't from Baltimore. You get a lot of great women here in Baltimore, but they're usually pregnant or have kids or have had a bunch of kids a while back.
Huh, I've definitely met some single ladies tonight that would not fit into those categories. Do you have any crazy exes?
Not really. All my exes have been great. But they haven't been originally from Maryland. Usually the women I date are from elsewhere and they're amazing. I go out long-distance with different women, because I travel a lot with my job working for the airlines. I have different women who I see in different cities. But I wish I could go out with women here in Baltimore. It would be a lot easier, because I live here.
So, explain your previous motto: I fuck a lot, but I love a lot. I'm intrigued.
Well, I'm high volume — I go out with a lot of different women, and if any of them could strike my heart and make me feel like they're the only woman in the world, there would be no other woman to match that.
Have you had any crazy sexual experiences on the job?
I've had a few one-night stands, but I feel weird saying them out loud. There are the people I meet randomly, since I travel a lot, who I just spend one night with. I met some random girl at a bar in Denver, and I got her name but completely forgot it during the night. But we went back to the hotel room, had sex there, then in the hot tub, then in the pool, then again in the room. She left in the middle of the night, and it was okay! But, most of the people I hook up with, I want to see them again. I'm not the type of person that wants to have a one-night stand. Even though I go out with a lot of people, I want to love. I love women. There's nothing more special than when a woman looks at you like there's nobody else in the world.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Yes, and let me tell you why. I fell in love with my ex-girlfriend immediately and I told her after a week that I could understand how people want to get married after such a short period of time. When you meet somebody who truly connects with you, that's it. It really is. It might not be one-hundred percent right — in that case, it wasn't. But if you don't believe in love, what the fuck are you going to believe in? I loved her more than I've ever loved anything in my life, but it just didn't work out.
What's the most romantic thing you've done to impress someone?
I've flown her halfway across the country. And I had a candlelight dinner just for her and me.
It sounds like you're a very romantic person.
I'm Puerto Rican!
Are you from Baltimore?
I'm from Florida actually.
But you live here?
Somewhat. I'm a flight attendant.
Does that ever get you laid?
[laughs] Sometimes, yes. Sometimes.
Are you a member of the mile-high club?
Could that get you fired? Well, do you have any stories about how you've met people through the flight industry?
You meet people at hotels, hotel bars. Nice conversations. Sometimes it winds up you meeting them again or going out with them that night or hooking up with them that night. It's a fun industry. You meet a lot of girls.
Any risqué experiences?
I'm really passionate, so I cater — I'm a giver, not a receiver. I like to give. I like to see the woman pleased and I'm happy, whether or I get it or not. As long as she's happy, I'm good.
Do you have any crazy exes?
Hah. Did I laugh? Sorry. Yeah. Psycho. They have people spying on me, chasing me around.
Spying on you? This is getting serious.
One girl tried to put a tracker in my vehicle just to figure out where I was going. We were done — broken up. I kept wondering why she was following me around, so I went to a garage and asked if there was a way she could know where I was going. And they found a tracker underneath my car. That's psycho. She was always showing up where I was, and I wondered how she knew that. Now I know.
That's really terrifying. What's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you in the bedroom?
I couldn't get it up one time because I was drinking. I was too inebriated so I couldn't really perform. I was tired. And it was cold too.
It happens. Any other escapades you care to share?
Sex while driving. Yeah, that's hot. That's where she's sitting on you and you have to move her to the side to see while driving.
How fast were you going?
Are you talking about my driving? Or the sex? I try to go the speed limit. It depends on how intense it is, if there's a little thrust and your foot is on the pedal.
It sounds dangerous. But I commend you. Any other strange places you've had sexual encounters?
The rooftop of a hotel. We snuck up there, and I ended up having to call someone to get us out because we were locked up there for about an hour and a half after we realized the door wouldn't open. It was hot. Scandalous.
What do you do?
I just finished law school and am working part-time with kids while I wait to hear back about the bar in Maryland real soon. Stressful!
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I want to. I'm a cynical hopeless romantic. I come from a family of no divorces — where my parents and grandparents on both sides all met when they were teenagers and stayed together — and yet in my professional life, working in family law, I've seen so much betrayal and lack of faith and trust and loyalty. So, I do think it's possible, I just don't know if I believe in "forever" at first sight. And I sure as hell believe in lust at first sight.
Have any examples of "lust at first sight" that you care to share?
I'm not really a one-night-stand person, so it's not going to be "come home with me right now." But in college it was common to find someone, make out in a corner, and fulfill that desire, and have nothing more come of it. To me, lust is where your physical attraction is overwhelming and reason goes out the window.
What does it take to get into your pants?
A bottle of wine. Actually, I'm kidding. I'm a vodka girl. But really, trust. You are putting yourself into such a vulnerable and exposed position that if you can't trust that they're not going to abuse that, there's no way you're going to open myself up to that idea.
So are you friends with most of your exes?
I'm a big believer that friendship is crucial in a relationship, so sometimes I've started the relationship in a friendship and ended in a friendship. Since I look for the same things in a relationship that I do in a friendship, plus the physical attraction, once the physical side fades, I'm still left with a friend.
I'm amazed by that. I'm not friends with any of my exes.
I've never had a hostile break-up, in a friendship or relationship. I'm not going to rip up your pictures or burn your shit. I'm not the "boiling bunnies" type. I'm not a crazy bitch and I'm not attracted to crazy bitches.
Is there anything you wish you could change about the opposite sex?
I don't think I would change just the opposite sex. I think I would prefer to change the dating scene. One of my roommates really liked this guy a few months ago. They hung out one night and had a really good time. The next day we had endless conversations about when she should contact him. Should she contact him? Should he contact her? Should she text? Should she call? Facebook? I told her she should contact him, if she was really interested, to which she said no, because that was his responsibility. As the days of the week went on she hadn't heard from him, so she caved and texted him. He promptly responded that that they should hang out over the weekend. While she was happy to have that response, she was frustrated that she had to text him, instead of the other way around. I don't think that's fair. I don't think it should be a guy's responsibility to be the "relationship manager." The idea that the man should always have to be the one to call first, or pick the date, etc., bothers me. I mean, if they want to be that person in the relationship, that's cool, but I don't think there should be such definite roles and expectations.
Is there a certain type you go for?
I'm attracted to guys who know what they want and how to get it. I think drive and determination is sexy. I'm generally not attracted to people who don't have self-motivation. I like when someone wants to excel at what they do. It can be anything, really: strive to be the best athlete, to be the next CEO, to make partner. I just need to know that the person is trying to better themselves. I don't want someone to be complacent with their own life. While tall, dark, and handsome is always appreciated, it's definitely the person's character that ultimately attracts me to them.
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