Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
I love your costume, but I can't place your character. Who is she?
I'm my own superhero — I call her Red Raptor.
Other than the ability to look great in Spandex, what are Red Raptor's superpowers?
Being too darn smart! And, the ability to open doors. Remember in Jurassic Park, when they say, "We'll be all right as long as they can't open doors?" Then, the raptors learn to open doors? I work in a genetics lab, so, yeah — genetic-manipulation humor.
Have you ever hooked up with anyone you met through the "geek scene"?
Oh, my goodness, yes! I'm also involved in Renaissance Faires, and I've dated at least two people from that scene. But I met my current boyfriend in a chemistry class about three years ago.
Does your boyfriend share your love of geeky things?
Sort of. He likes Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, and he'll watch other shows with me. But he's not nearly as rabid as I am in his interests — I'm by far the bigger geek. He's very introverted, so he's not as into the social aspects of the scene, like Ren Faire, or dressing up and going to the cons. On paper, he's not at all the kind of guy I would've pictured myself with. But we're really great together.
How is he different from your perfect man "on paper?"
I used to be attracted to guys who were very outgoing, very dramatic, and who shared a lot of my geeky passions. I never expected to end up with someone shy and quiet, not very geeky, five years younger than I am, and a multiple amputee. But he's brilliant, and sweet, and he cleans the house and takes care of my cat. A lot of people just go by a checklist when it comes to dating. I did that with my previous boyfriend, and the whole thing was a hot mess.
What attracted you to your ex, and why was it a "hot mess?"
He met all my criteria. He was smart — three master's degrees — very good-looking, funny, and into Ren Faire, which is how we met. But we almost never had sex, especially after we moved in together. I think he had that whole "virgin-whore" thing going on. To add insult to injury, he always made me feel like it was my fault that he didn't want to have sex.
Is that why you broke up? The lack of sex?
Not even. We broke up because he decided out of the blue — based on absolutely nothing — that I was flying to Chicago and having gang-bangs with random guys. I've never had a gang-bang, and I never would, so it made no sense. Then, he starts telling everyone in our shared social circle that I'm cheating on him and jetting off to Chicago for anonymous group sex. He made himself out to be the wounded, heartbroken victim.
Do you think he actually believed that you were doing that? Did anyone else believe him?
Since there was no evidence — you know, 'cause it wasn't true — I don't see how he or anyone else could've believed it. But when we broke up, I did find a bunch of gang-bang porn stashed under his mattress. It's like he wrote me into some really elaborate and disgusting fantasy, and then dragged all our friends into it.
That is truly disturbing. Do you think he was mentally ill, or just a major asshole?
I'd probably go with "major asshole." But who says you can't be both?
You're dressed as Scott Pilgrim — a character with some serious relationship troubles. Do you relate to him?
Sure! He's a guy who's willing to fight for love. For instance, he has to defeat his girlfriend's six Evil Exes.
Have you ever fought for love?
Depending on how you look at it, you have to fight for any relationship, don't you think? But, earlier today, I play-fought a girl who was dressed as one of the Evil Ex-Girlfriends. But her costume was covered in shards of actual mirrors, and I cut my neck on one of them — hence the Band-Aid.
Do you have any evil ex-girlfriends?
I wouldn't describe any of them as evil, no. I'm on good terms with most of the people I've dated. Just because it didn't work out doesn't mean they're bad people.
We're standing outside the Sci-Fi Speed Dating room. Did you participate?
No. They wouldn't let me, because my girlfriend is married.
It seems like "girlfriend" part would trump the "she's married" part.
I should clarify — she's technically married. She's separated, and going through a divorce. She also has two kids. But she was very upfront about all of this when we first met.
How did you guys meet?
We met at a Christmas party at a BDSM club owned by my aunt.
Your aunt? You've got to be making that up.
I'm not that imaginative. My aunt really does have a BDSM club.
Well, we're in Seattle, I guess. But is that weird, knowing so much about your family member's sexual identity?
My family is very… interesting. Very open-minded. You should see the gifts at Christmas.
Do you guys exchange Santa-themed gimp suits?
You're not far off. One Christmas, my cousin got a stuffed giraffe, and he looked closely and realized it was also a vibrator.
Well, you win today's prize for Creepiest Stuffed Giraffe Story. Anyway, your eyes met across the dungeon… was it love at first sight?
I thought she was really hot, but I didn't ask her out that night because I thought it might be weird. You know, because of how we met.
How did you and she end up connecting?
She stalked me for a while. She found out who I was, and contacted me through Facebook. I wasn't sure about it — like I said, because of the circumstances — but once we went out, we really hit it off.
Would you describe yourself as kinky?
That's the funny thing — I'm really not. My girlfriend identifies as a submissive, but I'm not a dom — not at all. I'm more vanilla.
In the BDSM scene, I know a lot of people have "play partners" that don't involve any sexual contact, or even nudity. If your girlfriend wanted an arrangement like that, would you be open to it?
I'm open to a lot of things. But, no, I wouldn't consider that cheating. Some people get an adrenaline rush from the pain in BDSM scenes, but it's not even a sexual thing, necessarily. The whole thing is very misunderstood. I was flogged once, at my aunt's club. It wasn't sexual at all, but I almost went into shock. I kept calling out "Judas Priest!" and "Mother Teresa!" I didn't want to curse in front of my family.
How long have you guys been going out?
About three and a half months.
You mentioned that your girlfriend is going through a divorce. Is it difficult dating someone who's in such a difficult state of transition?
We're all in a state of transition, all the time. Yeah, she's going through some stuff, but I'm glad I can be there for her. I like to think if I were ever going through a transition, whatever it may be, that she would be there for me as well.
Who are you dressed as?
I'm Akuma from Street Fighter. He's a secret villain, and part of a dark rivalry.
Do you identify with Akuma?
Yeah. First, because I have a dark side. And, I'm a narcissistic asshole.
You're smiling. Is that, by chance, something you've heard from people you've dated?
Yes, girls have told me that on more than one occasion. Because it's true.
Why do you think they say you're an asshole and/or narcissist?
They say I'm a narcissist because I look in the mirror all the time. I work out a lot — I'm a personal trainer, and I put a lot of effort into looking good, and I like to look at myself. I'm an asshole, I guess, because I can be very blunt, and say what I think without sugar-coating it. But sometimes girls think I'm being an asshole even when I'm trying to be nice.
Can you give me an example?
Okay, for instance, I was seeing this girl and, because I'm a personal trainer, I gave her some workout suggestions. But she took that to mean that I was trying to say she needed to lose weight.
Be honest. Is that what you were trying to say?
Well, sort of. Like I said, I'm an asshole! But mostly, I was just trying to be helpful.
Do you think being an asshole helps, or hurts a guy's chances with women?
It's an asset. I don't just think so, I know this is true — women have told me so. The nice, sweet guys are boring. You gotta keep ‘em guessing. Women like confidence, and assholes have more confidence.
Are you seeing anybody at the moment?
No, I'm single.
Have you been on any interesting dates lately?
I don't really date. Mostly I just hang out, and meet women at parties, or at a bar, or through friends. Recently, I got in touch with a stripper I saw on Facebook — a friend of a friend. I contacted her, and told her I thought she was hot. She said, "Does this ever work, randomly messaging people?" And I said, "It just did." We were supposed to go out last night, but she cancelled.
Let's say you and the stripper met, and hit it off. Do you think you'd be jealous of the fact that other men get to see her naked on a regular basis?
Not at all. I'm not a jealous person. Well, that's not true — I feel jealousy sometimes, but I've learned to control it because it's an immature and irrational emotion. Actually, the fact that I wasn't jealous used to drive my ex-girlfriend crazy. She wanted me to be jealous when she would go out in hot outfits or whatever. But I trusted her, so I didn't see the point of being jealous.
You mentioned you're a personal trainer. Have you ever dated anyone you met through your work?
I've met people through working out, but never clients or coworkers. That's a line I don't want to cross.
If you're dating someone, how important is it to you that she works out regularly?
I like women who take good care of themselves, but they don't have to be buff or go to the gym every day, or anything. But she should at least be in shape. I'll give her free personal training, if she wants!
Do you have a "type?"
I like brunettes. And tan women. Usually I go for tall women, but my last girlfriend was 5'3" at most. It all depends on the individual — if you have a connection, the details don't matter so much.
What about any dealbreakers?
I couldn't be with a woman who thinks pot should be illegal.
You're standing outside the "Sci-Fi Speed Dating" room. Did you participate in this event?
I wanted to, but they had a lot more men than women, and I was at the end of the line. But I saw this really hot girl in the line to go in, so I'm waiting to talk to her when she comes out.
So, I'm assuming you're single?
Yep. I'm divorced, with two kids.
How would you describe your experience of dating in the geek community?
It's awful. Miserable. Hardest thing in the world, especially at a con, or any "geekdom" event. There are tons of incredibly hot women in tight, scanty, low-cut costumes. Some are mercenaries — the "booth babes," and such. Some are actually interested in geek culture, but even those girls don't want to go out with men who are geeks.
That's funny — most of the women I've talked to at the con tell me they love geeky men.
Yeah, but most of them aren't interested in real geeks. They seem to prefer the good-looking faux-geek hipsters who might wear the occasional Star Wars T-shirt or whatever, but who can still "pass" in mainstream culture.
Have you ever hooked up with anyone you met at a con?
No. And it's not for a lack of trying. My philosophy is that you have to just go for it if you think someone's attractive. But some of the hot girls in costumes just look at you like you're some sort of perv if you actually ask them out. I can understand why — women who come to these things all dressed up must get hit on constantly. And I'm sure most of it is unwelcome, since a lot of guys who come to these things live up to the stereotype — you know, the socially awkward "basement-dwelling nerd" who plays World of Warcraft twenty hours a day.
Why not go for women other than the cos-play hotties?
It's even harder with those girls, because a lot of them are as socially awkward as the guys. Besides, the first thing you notice about someone is their looks. And I would be lying if I said I didn't care if a woman was attractive or not.
Has gaming — or any of your other hobbies — ever negatively affected your relationships?
Well, my marriage, for one! I used to play Warhammer once a week with some friends, but my ex-wife didn't like that. So I cut back to twice a month, then once a month, but it wasn't good enough. She thought gaming was frivolous and silly for a man my age. That wasn't the only reason we got divorced, but it definitely played a significant role.
What do you do for a living?
I work for a role-playing game company.
Do you ever meet any hot "gamer girls" through work?
Oh, dear God, I work with hot women! I'm surrounded by them! I used to go out with one of my coworkers, but we broke up. We're still friends, so it's fine. But all the other women are either in relationships or they refuse to date coworkers.
Since you've been single again, have you had any weird or interesting dates?
Yes! I had one epically awful date. Worst date ever. I met this woman for dinner at a quiet, upscale restaurant. She starts off by saying — very loudly — that she's a "total nymphomaniac." She tells me that she masturbates at least three times a day, and goes into elaborate detail about her various sex toys, and what she does with them. Mind you, at this point, we're, like, five minutes into the date. About half an hour in, she hadn't let up. She kind of freaked me out, so I decided to just "dine and dash." I walked out, then realized I left my coat and keys on the chair. While I was outside, she "accidentally" texted me: "This guy is cute. I may have sex with him later." When I got back to the table, she said — and this is the worst part — that she intended the text for her thirteen-year-old daughter. After dinner, she grabbed me in the parking lot and tried to force me to kiss her. I just barely squirmed out of it.
Please, tell me there wasn't a second date…
There wasn't, but she emailed the next day to ask when we were going out again. I said maybe some time in 2073.
What's your costume?
She-Ra, from He-Man.
Do you go for He-Man types?
Yes — I like muscular men in underwear! I like guys who are very manly, but they have to be smart, too. One of the guys I dated was a logger, which is pretty much my type. That or a fisherman. If a guy comes home smelling like the ocean or the outdoors — that's hot.
Sounds like you want to be a fishwife.
I probably will be a fishwife, someday! I'm a fisheries scientist, so I love men who have a connection to the ocean, whether through their work, or through science, or both. Oh, and he has to be able to fix shit, and know how to use power tools.
So, basically, you're looking for a guy with a Ph.D. who looks like he should be on a roll of paper towels.
Has that been hard to find?
No, not at all. I tend to date about two guys a year.
Are you seeing anyone right now?
No. I have an on-again, off-again thing with this guy whose family has a gold mine in Nevada. But I consider myself unattached at the moment.
Do you have any dealbreakers?
If a guy is less masculine than I am. And I'm pretty masculine.
You don't look very masculine.
By that, I mean I'm strong, I can chop wood, build stuff, that sort of thing.
Have you ever hooked up with anyone you met through your work?
Sure. I always seem to meet guys when I'm out in the field doing research. Fisherman, expecially.
Did you try Sci-Fi Speed Dating here at the con?
I did. It was fun. I met some interesting people with really cool careers. A guy dressed like Batman was a molecular biologist.
Do you think you'll go out with any of the guys you met?
No. They were very nice, and interesting to talk to, but none of them were really my type. A lot of the guys seemed a little bit, you know… geeky.
At a comic convention? Get out of here.
Yeah. I don't mind if guys are into sci-fi or whatever, but they have to also be, well…
Good-looking, and able to snake your drain? Wait — that sounds much dirtier than I intended…
But you pretty much hit the nail on the head.
I'm guessing you're Catwoman, but this seems a bit different from her usual get-up.
Yeah, usually she wears outfits that cover her arms and chest. I like to modify my costumes to show more cleavage, even if it's not entirely authentic to the character. The thing is, in real life, I don't normally dress very outrageously. That's part of the fun — it's not me, it's the character who dresses like this.
Have you ever hooked up with anyone you met at a con?
No, never. It would be a terrible place to meet someone. You're not yourself when you're dressed up — you're a persona. It's fun to be someone else for a day — Catwoman, or Rogue from X-Men, or whatever. But it's not me.
Is there a Mr. Catwoman in your life?
You could say that. I've been with my boyfriend for about a year and a half.
Does he mind that you like to dress up in sexy outfits and go to conventions?
Not at all! He loves it. We go to a lot of costume parties, and he likes me to dress up, so he can show me off.
Is your boyfriend also a geek?
Actually, he's more of a nerd than a geek.
What's the difference?
Everyone has different definitions, but he's very into tech, computer stuff, video games, that kind of thing. I'm more of a geek — into comic books, fantasy, sci-fi. There's a lot of overlap in nerd and geek culture, but I think it's mostly defined by having a passion for something that isn't necessarily in the mainstream. For instance, I may not share my boyfriend's interest in, say, programming, but I get how passionate he can be about technology. And he may not love all the same shows or comics or games that I like, but he understands what it's like to have a consuming interest in something.
How did you meet your boyfriend?
I'm in a gaming group, and he was a friend of a friend. So we sort of met through the whole "geek community."
What do you do for a living?
I'm a full-time student, studying archaeology.
Before meeting your boyfriend, did you date a lot of different guys?
No. Almost none. You could say this is my first "real" relationship. I really don't get out much. I tend to hang out with a small group of friends, which is great, but you don't meet a lot of new people that way.
What first attracted you to your boyfriend?
Other than his beautiful blue eyes, probably his confidence. I love confident guys. A lot of geeky guys are shy and awkward, and that makes it hard to have a conversation, much less a relationship with them. I think I'm more compatible with nerds than geeks. And a lot of nerds are very confident — sometimes overly-confident. Oh, and he has a great sense of humor. Some geeks take themselves too seriously, and I can't stand that.