Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Bonnaroo Edition

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we've just met.

Sasha, 22

Where are you from?
Asheville, NC. I was an anthropology and environmental-policy major.

What do you do?
I just graduated from college, so… nothing!

What's your relationship status?
I'm in a fairly open, long-term relationship of three years. We have a long-distance thing, so if we're together, we're together, but if we're separate, we're allowed to do whatever we want with our own judgment, as long as it's a lust thing and not a love thing. But neither of us are really keen on really intense, jealous relationships. They just cause arguments.

Outside of your long-term partner, how many partners have you had?
I had a really cool one last night! In the past three years, probably ten. But not as continual things, just a one-time kind of deal, for kicks.

What do you normally look for?
I don't care if you have money, I don't care if you're cute, but if you have your shit together and are nice to other people, you're good.

How do you go about impressing love interests?
Depends. It's easier to seduce people at parties. You've got to give them the sex eyes. It's a universal thing. People know when they're getting checked out. If you look away awkwardly, then you can move on, but if you keep looking, then it's like, "Hey! I'm checking you the fuck out!" It's easier to walk up to them later because it's like you've got an in. You don't even need to have the conversation. Straight from sex eyes to make out. No drama.

Any good hookup stories?
I made my long-term partner do it with me in public for Valentine's Day. When we were living in Australia together, I picked a playground during full daylight next to a road just to see if he would. He's a little more straight-laced than I am. And it was great! It was classy. Did a little pull-up on the monkey bars.

Were there kids around?
Oh, no. I would never do it around kids. I teach kids, so that'd be like, "Whoa."

Where else have you had public sex?
On the front lawn of a fancy cocktail dinner-dance for a post-graduation schmooze.

Have you ever been offended in the bedroom?
Guys think that getting head is a right, not a privilege. You know the ones who just push your head down? Nobody wants that! That is my mouth! Get your dick out of there.

Do you not like giving at all then?
No, not my thing. Girls are funner.

What's hooking up with a girl like?
Great. The first time I ever hooked up with a girl, it was actually with two girls. College is so fantastic.

What the difference between hooking up with girls and hooking up with guys?
Girls get you off better, that's for sure. It's easier. You know exactly what they want, because you want it too. Everyone's still different, but it's easier to figure out. Girls don't fall asleep after; they want to keep going. Way cooler. That's the best part of having a threesome with a girl and a guy. The guy will pass out, but the girl will keep on going.

Craziest thing you've done to get laid?
I don't really chase people who aren't easy.

One thing you wish you could change about the opposite sex?
The getting-off-too-early factor. Personality things can be trained a little, but if I could make every guy read the book She Comes First, the world would be a much happier place. It's about how to give a woman an orgasm, because guys have no idea. They just think we want to fuck really hard, and that's not how it works at all.

Is there one person out there for everyone?
I think there's like five people out there for everyone.


Neil, 31, and Tessa, 23

Where are you from?
T: I'm from Atlanta and he's from Michigan.

How did you meet?
T: At Terrapin Brewery in Athens, Georgia. We were in love in a week and I moved to North Carolina for grad school in week two. We did long distance for four months. He found a job to North Carolina and we moved in together. He proposed a week or two later. We were engaged for about a year and a half and we just got married! This is our honeymoon.

What did you do to impress each other?
T: He spoke Latin to my friend, because she was a classics major. But I think what impressed me in the beginning was the honesty. I was honest about moving and I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in a relationship.

How did you feel at the beginning of the relationship?
N: I was really intimidated, because she's pretty beautiful, you know. That makes it hard for guys. And she was moving.
T: He was aggressive in the beginning. We had those conversations up front, though. I said that there was a forty-percent chance that it would work.
N: The odds were not in my favor.
T: In the beginning, you don't think that a guy will commit to long-distance, but he proved that wrong. After three or four days, there was a lot of good teamwork. We saw each other every day even though we lived an hour apart, and then we said "I love you" after four or five days, and we went to a rugby tournament. I was asleep in the backseat, and he turned to his friend and said "I think I'm going to marry this girl."
N: I didn't start talking marriage until a month later, though.

Tessa, did that freak you out?
T: Well, I had just graduated from college, and I was moving to a new place, and it was a lot of new things at once. I was fine with the love bit, but talking about "forever" kind of freaked me out for three months. But then we started looking for engagement rings.

Do you guys believe in soulmates?
T: I do. Although he would go into some philosophical diatribe over whether or not the soul exists.
N: I think I have to believe now.
T: Before I met him, I was like Swiss cheese. There were holes in my life that I never knew were there. And now I'm like a block of cheddar.
N: Sharp cheddar. It seems like there's gotta be a match for everyone. But it probably takes some people a lot more searching. There's some chance involved.

Yeah, a lot of people die single. You guys won't have to.
T: Hopefully.
N: In fact, that's the subject of our wedding logo. We had a reading done at our wedding. The myth of Baucis and Philemon.
T: By Ovid.
N: It's a Greek myth about Zeus and Hermes going to find hospitality disguised as beggars. They're turned away by everyone except a couple in a really humble home, who give them their last food and wine. When the wine keeps refilling itself, the couple realizes the beggars were really gods.
T: Zeus grants them one wish. They say, "We don't ever want to live a day without the other." And so, eighty years later when they're dying, they turn to each other and embrace. As they embrace, they look at each other's faces and they begin to sprout branches and their skin turns to bark. They become two trees so that they never have to exist without the other. The two trees were our symbol. Neil translated it and my stepdad read it at our wedding.

Bonnaroo can get very grimy. How do you keep it romantic?
T: The fan.
N: There are showers. They're almost too cold to have sex in, though.
T: Almost.
N: The fan, though, is the key to getting frisky.

What will you tell your kids about this honeymoon?
T: We'll tell them to bring them handy wipes if they ever do this.


Briana, 22

Where are you from?
Louisville, Kentucky.

Who are you here to see?
Arcade Fire, who were awesome. Lil Wayne — he is, like, my boyfriend. I was in the front; I'm so obsessed.

What's your relationship status now?

What do you do?
I just graduated from Princeton. I studied political science.

What do you look for in a guy?
He has to be funny, chill, and fun. And down to do whatever. I usually have crushes on really awkward, nerdy guys. Those are the ones I get all flustered with. I don't know why.

How do you impress guys?
Sometimes I'm really awkward about it and creep from afar. But sometimes people will start talking, and then I get in their face.

Got any good hookup stories?
I have a lot of gay friends who wanted to go to this sketchy bar in Trenton, and it was the most ridiculous thing. My friend was looking for a girl to hook up with. We thought it was college night, but it ended up being karaoke night, and it was really awkward, so we just got really drunk to deal with it. We were talking to this guy, and I thought he was gay. So I was trying to get him to talk to my gay friend, but it turned out he was straight. I ended up going home with him and I was the only one to hook up with anybody that night. At a gay bar.

Most daring place you've had sex?
I tried at Myrtle Beach on the sand. It's not as romantic or cute as it seems to be. It's not comfortable. There are shells and rocks.

Dating dealbreakers?
I don't like dating people who don't smoke weed. It makes it awkward for me. Sex when you're high is a lot better, so both parties should do it.

Have you hooked up at Bonnaroo?
No, there have been many opportunities, but no. It usually happens late at night when I'm really drunk or really tired, and here I'm just sweaty and gross. Regardless of how fun it might be, I don't want to rub my sweat into your sweat. I can't really sexile my tentmates either.

Holly, 31

What do you do?
I'm a nurse.

Where are you from?
Kensington, Maryland. Right outside D.C. I'm here doing security for the campsites.

What's dating like in D.C.?
It's interesting. It has a different dating vibe from any city I've ever been in. D.C. is a pretty transient area. People come there for jobs, and after they work for a couple of years, they tend to leave, because it's too expensive for most people. Most people who work and live there are very career- and money-oriented. When I ask, "What do you like to do?" all people talk about is their jobs and their careers, and I would actually like to hear about what people like to do. For me, it's not a very dating-friendly scene.

What's your relationship status like now?
Dating. I moved to the D.C. area five years ago, and my intention was to live there for a year and then move to Colorado and to do the family thing and move out west. Being a nurse in the ICU, I quickly realized that you can't work one year and move comfortably to another job. The funny thing is, every time I say I'm going to move to Colorado, within two days, I find an awesome love interest.

How do you attract guys?
I don't approach them sexually. But my friends have noticed that when I go on vacation, I connect really well with adventurous guys, usually the guide or instructor for whatever activity we're doing. I've met guys on whitewater-rafting trips.

How did you meet your current love interest?
I was planning on moving. I was setting up to end my lease early. And one day, I went skydiving, and I'm now dating my skydiving instructor.

That's great!
I know. I was with a friend who wanted to go for her birthday. The plane was the smallest plane I have ever seen. My friend and I were strapped to our instructors, and so he and I were basically lying on top of each other and you… get to talking. I was like, "This is kind of cozy; he's kind of cute…"

What about him interested you? Besides the fact that your bodies were so close together.
Most people I date are outdoorsy and adventurous. Those are the people I can really relate to. I asked him where else he'd been skydiving, and when just kept naming places in the United States, I thought it was crazy that he was thirty-seven and had never been outside the country. So when we landed, I told him, "Write your information down. I'm taking you out of the country." This wasn't a dating proposal, I was actually just flabbergasted he had never been outside the country. So we exchanged information and he called me later that day and we went out to dinner that night. I came back from skydiving and I was at work, and one of my co-workers asked, "Is skydiving better than sex?" And I gave her this funny face and I was like, "How about skydiving and sex?"

Have you taken him out of the country yet?
Well, we've been dating for a month, but he's in the process of getting his passport.

But you were getting ready to move, right?
Yeah, it's kind of going to be a fling. I told him a while ago, but I can tell he's really into me. We started talking one day and he told me he was falling for me. He's already started talking about moving to Colorado.

Are you usually this spontaneous?

Do you believe in true love?
Absolutely. I've been in love, so I know what it feels like. I know what I want in a relationship.

Have you ever offended anyone in bed?
I've had people cross the line. I might be a sexual person, but I'm not a crazy sexual person. Some people flat-out talk so damn dirty, and it's just like, "What do you think I am?" When people talk to me like I'm a piece of meat, it doesn't mix well with me at all.

Have you ever offended anyone?
I don't really like going down on guys. It's not my thing.

Do you receive then?
I do receive, but not because I expect it or ask for it. I'd really rather just have sex.

What is the one thing you wish you could change about the opposite sex?
I wish they were more honest. I don't like games. I want someone to flat out tell me what they want.


Adam, 23

Who are you here to see?
My Morning Jacket and Arcade Fire.

What is your relationship status now?
As of a week ago, not single anymore.

What's your girl like?
Easy-going, laid-back, fun, energetic, different.

How to you go about impressing the ladies?
Being nice. Working the Southern charm. I'm the type of person to be overly nice to someone and then let them come to me. If they really want something, they'll see that I'm interested.

How do you feel about the saying "nice guys finish last"?
Dating-wise, that's not true. If girls care, they're going to like the way I am and it'll be a longer-lasting relationship than if they were with someone who hit on every girl.

Do you have any good hookup stories?
Once, when I was growing up, my parents caught me three times in a row on the same night. It was my girlfriend from high school. We were both still virgins. There was a bedroom above the garage, and my dad must've gone outside and seen the light on, because he walked in on us and he was really pissed off. He took us downstairs and sat us down in the living room and said, "We don't need to be having sex." And he let us go. We were really stupid and went in the car, because I was going to take her home. We ended up in the backseat and my dad came outside and knocked on the window. And I was like, "All right, all right, let me take her home." So we drove two blocks down and parked along the side of the road and he came and found us really going at it. And he's just like, "Okay, this needs to freakin' stop." It was awful. Worst night my life.

Anyone ever offend you in bed?
No, actually. Everyone's been really nice. Really kind.

What are your dating dealbreakers?
Being really upfront. I like the chase more than the finish. To me, something that starts really fast will end really fast too.

Most daring place you've had sex?
Oh, I once did it in someone's little brother's bedroom. I was nineteen and we were at someone's house and that was the only room that was open. The bed was smaller than a twin size. It was a really tiny, weak bed. There were stuffed animals everywhere. The walls were blue and had clouds everywhere. Afterwards, I felt terrible. But it was worth it.

Most desperate thing you've done to get laid?
Bragging a lot. I just tell them I'm an engineering student. I work in the railroad industry and travel a lot. I say that because it's a good field that makes a lot of money. It's worked before.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
No. I see a lot of girls who turn me on, but I don't think any of them have a future with me. You see a lot of rich old men with young girls and you know they didn't meet because of love at first sight.

Does love happen at Bonnaroo?
Not really. Everyone's so sweaty and dirty.

Have you hooked up here?

At your campsite? Is that hard?
Yeah. I'm more cautious than she is. Last night was more impulsive than anything. It was really hot and sweaty. That isn't always bad, but when you're trying to sleep afterwards, it is. And our neighbor's tent is a foot away from our tent, so you have to be really quiet.


Batt, 27

Where are you from?
New London, Connecticut.

What do you do there?
I'm a bartender, amongst other things.

Do you get a lot dates through bartending?
No. I get hit on, but I never follow up on it. I just flirt and I make more money off it.

Who are you here to see at Bonnaroo?
Honestly, my friends and all the other people who enjoy this subculture of camping and enjoying life. The camping conditions here are disgusting, but people are living in complete harmony. This is my second year and I'll continue to keep coming. This year, it was totally overcrowded, though.

Any good hookup stories?
Once, I'm having a big party at my house and this girl just tackles me, and we start having sex in my pantry during the party. In my mind, I thought it was a soundproof booth, but everyone in my kitchen knew exactly what was going on. We tried to sneak back into the party; we thought we were stealthy ninjas. Anyway, she left. I planned on passing out, but I found two girls in my bed. I had sex with one of them on the bathroom counter.

Any dealbreakers?
When girls pee on me. It's like marking your territory, and it's like, "I'm not fucking yours."

Have you ever been offended in bed?
Once a girl said, "Well, that didn't last long at all!" Or when a girl wants to kiss after going down on me. That's disgusting.

Any crazy exes?
I had a nine-year relationship. Everything was going great, until seven years in when I think she lost her mind. She always accused me of cheating. Honestly, I've never cheated. I'm also the one who walked away from a nine-year relationship, so that kind of makes me crazy too. She still won't talk to me.

What's the most desperate thing you've done to get laid?
I hid a girl's keys so she would sleep over.

Most embarrassing stories?
I went to Cape Cod for a buddy's bachelor party. There were two girls there. One was cute and one was a Marine nicknamed "U-Haul." I passed out on the beach one night, and when I made it back to the beach house, she was in my bed. I crawled in thinking we could just share, when she made a move. I was the little spoon. I pretended I was asleep when she started touching me and I got a boner. I pretended to wake up when she started going down on me and said, "Actually, can I just get a backrub?" She was really pissed off and said, "Are you fucking kidding me? Are you gay?" I told her I was. She gave me a backrub anyway.

Interviews and photography by Ruth Tam. Want to talk to strangers in your town? Email