Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Boston, MA

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Sky, 21

What do you do for a living?
I'm in art school. I do production design, light design, sound design, and I'm also a musician and a performance artist. And I'm a personal-care assistant for a woman who had a stroke.

Have any of your jobs brought you any dates?
None. I haven't had sex in a long time. I haven't gone on a date in a long time.

How come?
I guess I've just been in this single Zen place.

Where are you from?
I live on Mission Hill. But before Boston I lived in Georgia for ten years and in Utah for eight.

Are your parents Mormon?
No! I'm gay so that doesn't work.

It's been known to happen anyway. How is the gay scene here, compared to Georgia and Utah?
Well, I wasn't out in Utah, because I was eight years old. But I dunno — it's never presented an issue for me anywhere.

How would you generalize about the men in Boston?
They're all assholes [laughs]. No, I'm just picky.

What turns you off?
Texting. Phone calls. Cute things in general. Mix tapes with love songs on them. That was a previous bad experience — boyfriend number one.

Which of those things did he do?
Cute things… and lying and cheating.

Do you think a lot of people lie and cheat?
Probably. There are white lies and then there are other lies.

Has anyone ever done anything to turn you off in bed?
I don't think so. I'm pretty open. Some guy was biting me was and I was like, "Okay… " I did have a vomit situation once. I was getting a blowjob, and then things went awry, and suddenly there was vomiting out the car door.

What's the most unusual place you've had sex?
In a bed with a hitchhiker in it. Who was totally asleep. In a hotel. The sex eventually moved to the bathroom cause it was getting loud, but I don't think the hitchhiker even would have known what was going on if he had woken up. He didn't know we were gay, so he didn't see the potential of that happening at all.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
Potentially. I'm agnostic about that. It's possible, but who is there to test it out on?

What's one thing you would change about men in Boston?
I would tell them not to go to gay clubs. Just go to clubs. Why should the gay scene be so segregated? In Atlanta it's kind of open, but there's still, like, a gay area. What I like in Boston is that there's no particularly gay area. Jamaica Plain kind of is, I guess, but it's still not Gay Central.

Do you have any last story or confession to tell?
Should I tell the Toothpaste Hair story? I'll tell the Toothpaste Hair story. There was a guy. I call him Toothpaste Hair. He had a ridiculous morning ritual. First, he would spray the apartment with everyone cologne he had, even stuff like Axe. Then he would make drinks — he was a total alcoholic. Really full of himself, too. But then, he would spray cheap white hairspray, like from the Halloween store, all over his hair. And he would press his hair against his head into a helmet shape and tie it down with a ribbon or a piece of plastic until it hardened. If we left the house, he might take the ribbon off, but if we stayed in, he would just keep it on all day. I don't give a shit what you do to your hair — I mean, look at mine — but after three or four days I was like, this kid's really a weirdo. And I thought, maybe I can still milk it for more sex? But whenever we had sex he would just say he was sorry — like he would apologize for wanting to be sexual. I was like, "What are you sorry about? I don't get it."


Adam, 27

What do you do?
I'm a union film laborer. IATSE 481.

Does the job get you dates?
Actually, film production is slow until April, so I just came back from spending the winter in Burma as a monk.

Did you take vows and everything?
Yeah — I couldn't eat past noon, no sex, drugs, or alcohol. And I had to wear robes with no underwear.

So how did you meet the last person you went out with?
I go to the same bar again and again. Zuzu, in Cambridge.

Have you ever had sex in Boston proper?
Greater Boston. On top of Blue Hills — one of them, anyway — and also in Walden Pond.

Make a sweeping generalization about the women in Boston.
Boston has so many schools that it brings in a lot of culture.

What do you mean culture?
Like random, new-agey, weird shit.

If you could change one thing about the opposite sex, what would it be?
Taking a little more charge maybe?

Are you usually the one to take charge?
Unless I'm stupidly infatuated with the girl giving me her number, I try to read signals.

Have you ever tried dating services?
Never successfully. I usually say something to thin the chance of things working out. Like, once I went to a vegan dating site. I intimated I was a stoner vegetarian and that was the end of it.


Victoria, 30

What do you do for a living?
I'm a nanny and certified preschool teacher in a private day-care program.

Has the job gotten you any dates?
Yeah, I think it might have sealed the deal for some people. Sometimes people have a type… such as a teacher.

So your job plays out in your sex life?
Yes, I think that being a professional reprimander comes into play.

Do you like being a top?
Yes, I do. It comes naturally.

And a bottom?

Have you thought about working as a dominatrix?
I've been a dom, but I don't think I'd actually do it professionally.

How long have you been in Boston?
I first moved here seven years ago. I moved back to Durham, North Carolina, where I'm from, for a few years, and then moved back here.

Is the dating scene in Boston different from the one in Durham?
Yeah. In North Carolina the boys I was compatible with were few and far between. It was mostly girls. But here there are a lot of both. I fit in better with the dating pool here. But Boston is conservative — it shuts down early, there are hardly any clubs left, and there are more explicitly "gay nights" than in the South. There's also a weird prejudice against bisexual people here — like people don't think bi people exist.

What's the most interesting place you've had sex in Boston?
My ex's roommate's bed. Using the roommate's ties.

Lucia, 22

What do you do?
I make coffee and sandwiches at Darwin's, a café.

Has your job gotten you any dates?
Let me think… no, not really.

Not really?
Well, I guess if I hadn't started at Darwin's, I wouldn't have gone out with my boss' friend.

What happened with him?
We just went out once. We slept together and that's all it was good for.

How'd you know?
We fucked in a bathroom. He just wasn't up to my standards. I like someone who can carry a conversation. I don't want to talk to someone stupid.

Where did you fuck in the bathroom?
Actually, it was the bathroom of Zuzu's. At the Darwin's Christmas party.

Do you date men or women or… ?
I just date men.

If you could generalize wildly about the men in Boston, what would you say?
They should loosen up.

Are you from here?
No, I'm from New Hampshire.

Are the dudes different here than there?
Yes. The mentality is different. It's hard to describe. The guys down here party a lot more. They're dirtier here… like, they don't shower.

What do you look for in a guy?
A sense of humor. That's number one. Make me laugh. Be respectful. Have goals. Be proactive. And be a family man. I don't think I could go out with a guy who doesn't get along with his family. That's important to me.

Have you heard the saying that you shouldn't marry a man who doesn't love his mother?
No, but I've heard you can tell how a man will treat you based on how he treats his mother. And I think it's completely true.


Richard, 24

How long have you been living in Boston?
About four months.

Where did you move from?
My nationality is Indonesian, but I went to Singapore when I was twelve, and from there I went to Malaysia, and then from there I went to Boston.

What do you do?
I'm a student at Berklee. I'm majoring in music education.

Have you gotten any dates through school?
No, this is just my fourth month. I don't really know people here. People are very friendly but I have so much work to do that most of the time I just stay in my room! I go out sometimes, though, to visit friends and practice.

What instrument do you play?

Can you look at other musicians and tell what instrument they play?
Sort of.

Are you more or less compatible with certain musicians?
I guess so. I like other guitarists — you get inspiration from them and learn from them. And I like pianists because they can play almost everything.

Have you gone on any dates in Boston?
No, I'm attached to someone from my country — well, she's Indonesian but I know her from Singapore, and currently she's living in Berkeley — as in UC Berkeley — as a transfer student.

How did you get together?
I met her in school — she was my classmate. Once I was in college, I contacted her and she replied and we got together and we did stuff. Then I asked her out and she refused. And I thought, well, I have to try again. That's my personality. I'm like, I have to try until she says yes.

How is it to be an attached person here?
It's very difficult. A lot of temptation. But I can manage — I hope.

Make a wild generalization about the women in Boston.
Good-looking? This is kind of the first time I've lived in a Western country. I'm not really used to the people here, so whoever I look at, I think they're good-looking.

Really? I'd expect it to be the opposite — that you wouldn't be used the way people look and would think they're all ugly.
[laughs] Maybe. But I guess you guys got good genes.

All of us?
Yeah, I guess so.


Meff, 27

What do you do for a living?
I'm in a band. I play mandolin and guitar and I'm also the drag king of the band. It's called Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys.

How did you meet your current lover?
I met her at a show. She was like "Who's that drag king?" We were really compatible and had a lot in common. We hooked up after TraniWreck, this amazing queer event. TraniWreck will get you laid.

How is the queer scene here?
The queer scene here is kinda stuck. The whole gay-marriage thing has people like, "Let's have a little dog and a RAV4." I lived in New York for a while and people were much more just like, "Let's rock out with our cocks out."

Why'd you move back to Boston?
In New York, I lost my job and broke up with my partner, so I moved into a group house here in Boston, full of artists and musicians and programmers. New York was really queer-friendly, and also friendlier to biracial couples. Here I feel like it's so segregated that it's still an issue — people will still stare at a biracial couple. They think they're so liberal and open, but they're not. But Boston is cool because you'll meet someone who's a heavy-metal musician — and a scientist. The cerebral aspect gets in the way sometimes, too, though. Sometimes you just want to think with your gut, your pants, your lower chakras. And I'm a huge bottom, so I want someone to take charge. There are all these girls here who took a gender-studies class and now think they're bi because they think Eva Mendes is hot. I'm like, "That doesn't make you bi. That makes you human."

Have you met a bunch of lovers through your job?
Being a performer, I meet a lot of people. But I don't want to be a performer on dates — I don't want to be with someone who expects me to be always on and funny. I'm a nerd at heart.

What's the craziest place you've had sex?
In my lover's bedroom while the commuter rail was driving by and there were people just outside her window standing on the platform. Still, it was easier to get crazy in New York — it's bigger, there are more places to have sex accessible by public transportation, and New Yorkers see so many people every day that they just don't give a shit.

Photography and interviews by Jane Roman.