Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Chicago, IL

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.


Erica, 24

What do you do for a living?
I'm a television producer for a Chicago network.

Have you ever gotten involved with anyone in the workplace?
I feel like that's sort of a tricky situation, because, of course, when you're with people so many hours a day, you develop relationships, and it's easy for them to grow. But I think it's better not to start anything. I've definitely had to talk myself out of it a few times because the falling-out part would just be so bad.

Do you have any crazy exes?
Oh, yeah. I have too many. Actually, I just got out of a really horrendous break up where we just started fighting all of the time.

What happened?
Well, he just freaked out any time that we weren't together. If I didn't want to hang out, he'd think that something was wrong and it would be this big thing. There was this one night when I went out, and this guy took it upon himself to call all of my friends and tell them all this crazy shit I had supposedly said about them. So I'm out with my friends and they're turning to me like, "Uh, I just got a call from your boyfriend… ?" He just couldn't stand the idea of me spending any time with anyone other than him.

Did you confront him about it?
Obviously, and of course, there were a bunch of "I'm sorrys" and flowers and notes and "I'll never do that again." But of course he did. It's weird. Leaving him was like quitting cigarettes — I'd stop and go back and stop and go back.

And then you get drunk and you really want to go back.
Yeah! And it's even worse when the sex suddenly gets all good, because it always does. Everything is so passionate and intense because every time is sort of that last time. It's dangerous. I don't like people who are really passive or who just lie there and make you do everything, and when you're in the process of a breakup, things heat up. There's nothing passive about it.

Besides the passive stuff, do you have any other turn-offs?  
People who spit.

In bed?
Oh God, no. In general. But, you know, they probably shouldn't be doing that in bed either.



Bryce, 21

How do girls in Chicago compare to where you're from?
Girls here are a lot more diverse than they are in Flint, Michigan, where I grew up. There it's either, like, hardcore prep or hardcore ghetto. And not that they don't have that in Chicago, but here you've also got the artsy girls, and the smart girls, and… there's just a whole lot more girls.

What sort do you go for?
That's a hard question. The person I would date would be the smart, artsy girl. But the girl I would go for is the girl who is attractive at the moment.

What's the big difference between the two?
Well, datable is based almost entirely on personality. I mean, looks always help, but who she is definitely is the most important thing. A girl who I'm only interested in for the time being is almost totally based on what she looks like. It's really hard when you meet a girl and you think she's attractive and then discover that she is completely uninteresting, but if you're only thinking about getting with her in the moment, it doesn't really matter.

Is the sex better with one type than it is with the other?
It's… I don't know. It's not necessarily better or worse with one person over the other. Sex with some random person is exciting, you know? I'm breaking new territory! I'm wild! But in a relationship, there's a lot more heart. Relationships equal heart, one nighters equal penis.

Are you in a relationship now?
Yeah. We just broke up and got back together, so I'm a little scared. I'd describe our relationship as difficult, but understanding.

Why did you guys break up? That is, before you got back together.
She broke up with me because I was ignoring her. I guess she was a little justified in that. I was going back to Flint a lot to see friends and just hang out with other people and she hated it. I wouldn't call her needy, but she wants me here. We've been on and off like that. There was, like, a two-month period where we were broken up but still living together.

Oh God.
I know. I had all this freedom — "I'm free! Free!" — but then if I'd done anything, I would have been hurting her. In the end, though, it was kind of nice. I mean, I didn't have any responsibility and I still got to be with her. I just… I didn't want to be without her. I still don't.



Anne, 25

Where are you from?
I was born and raised right here in Chicago, right here in the Wrigleyville area.

Are you currently involved with anyone?
I am not. Actually, I'm trying to separate myself from my ex — we've been on and off for about six years and I'm staying in his extra bedroom right now… but we haven't been together for a really long time.

Does that ever get a little weird?
Yeah. It's pretty crazy. But it's really hard to cut yourself off from a person that you've been so deeply involved with for so many years. I'm planning on moving out within the next month and, you know, we get along great most of the time, but he pisses me off in the same ways he would as my boyfriend and I get really self-conscious when I'm just trying to live my life because he's there all the time.

How did you know that you guys were over?
Oh man, I don't even know if I'm ready… if I've even admitted that to myself yet. Some parts of me really want to hold onto small things, like "Oh, it'll work out, we'll get back together someday." But… I don't think that it will.

Is this usually how your breakups go?
No, not really. I'm actually very good friends with most of my ex-boyfriends. This is just a weird… this is a different sort of thing.


Carl, 26

What do you do for a living?
I'm a sound engineer.

Do you meet a lot of women that way?
Well, not really. I'm in a relationship right now, so that makes a difference. But even outside of that, there's just no time. When the show is going on, everyone else is having a good time, but I'm working.

Do you have any crazy exes?
Um, I think I became a crazy ex for a while. Not, like, crazy crazy — I wasn't cutting anyone's face out of photographs or anything. But I was disproportionately obsessed with this girl long after the relationship became an impossibility. I tried to stick around as a friend for a while, but it just slaughtered me. It worked out in the end, which is nice, but for that time it was just, ugh. Brutal.

What do you look for?
Intelligence. I mean, looks are important, too, but if I'm not interested in talking to you for more than thirty seconds it's just not going to work. Unless I'm, say, really drunk. Which has happened.

Is it usually good or bad when that happens?
That's the funny thing — sometimes the sex is just really great when it's just a fling. And I value the relationship sex more, but sometimes when you're trashed and just going at each other like there's no tomorrow, there's something to be said for that.

Have you ever offended anyone in bed?
Inadvertently. Sometimes I have a really difficult time coming, and it's just how it is. A girl I was with was getting upset, thinking that I wasn't so into her because it was taking so long. It wasn't her, I liked her.

What's the worst thing that a girl can do in bed?
Part of me wants to say the worst is for her to just lie there, but even that's good sometimes. I suppose the worst is when a girl pulls out some sort of a maternal thing while we're fooling around. One time I was getting over pneumonia and my girlfriend and I were sort of starting things up, and then she made this deal out of taking my temperature. And I was like, what? No. No fever.

You were no longer hot in any way at all.
Exactly. My fever had gone away, but you know. So had my erection.



Ian, 26, & Kate, 25

What do you guys do?
Kate: I'm a creative director for a record label.
Ian: I own the record label.

Is it hard to work together and keep your relationship going?
Kate: It's trying.
Ian: It's almost two-faced. You know, where you kinda have to separate work from the relationship. So you have to be the Business Person and the Relationship Person at different times.
Kate: He called today to yell at me about how I wasn't doing my job.
Ian: I didn't call to yell, but I was running down the checklist in my mind, like: 1. I love you. 2. How's your day? 3. Why has all this shit not gotten done?

Do you guys live together, too?
Ian: No, but almost. I'm about a block from her. So we buy groceries together and usually eat at her house… we basically do but we don't.

Who's the boss?
Kate: I'm the pants.
Ian: And I'm the work boss.

How do you keep things working between you two?
Kate: Talking.
Ian: We're together so often we communicate about literally everything. And if something's not going right it comes up right away. We tackle it immediately. We can't stay mad at each other because we know that we're going to see one another so often, and we know that we want the next time we're together to be, "I love you" and not, "You asshole."



Paul, 25

How would you describe girls in Chicago?
Well, I'm from Alabama, which is a much more conservative environment than Chicago. Also, southern girls, or at least girls around where I'm from, are really into that whole bleached-blonde, Barbie-doll thing, which is just not what I go for.

What do you go for?
I don't know. Northern girls just seem cuter. The gene pool is better up here, I guess. I like girls who are more relaxed, more down-to-earth, and you don't find a lot of that down south. Southern girls are concerned about their looks in a way that's almost so contrived it's dishonest.

Is the sex better up here?
People in the north tend to be more comfortable with their sexuality — it's less hidden, people are cooler with things, as opposed to all the religiousness and the repression in Alabama, where no one wants to acknowledge what's actually going on. 

Do you have any dealbreakers?
Well, the last few months have been pretty interesting, because I had been in a long relationship. So this is the first in a long time that I've just been dating around, and through that discovering that there are some things I just don't really know what to do about.

Such as?
Well, this one girl came back to my place and we were just watching a movie and making out. And then the next thing I know she's making this, like… pre-kiss vampire face with some sort of noise, like a growl. It was a little intense. Anyway, it was sort of late, so I suggested she just stay over. She immediately assumed that it was a sex thing, so she snapped, "I'm on my period!" And I told her that, you know, it's okay, let's just sleep because it's super late, so she took off her shirt and her bra and just fell asleep like that, topless, with her jeans on, asleep.

On her period.
Yeah. I couldn't sleep the whole night.