Talking to Strangers: Comiccon Edition

Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

by Marguerite Kennedy

Rissy, 30

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?

Scott, 26

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.

Rafael, 23 

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.

Commentarium (33 Comments)

Apr 12 12 - 12:31am


Apr 12 12 - 2:22pm
Mr. Nerd

Hate to correct you, but technically they're geeks, not nerds.

Apr 12 12 - 3:11am

Um, is it just me or is Jamie SUPER creepy?
So he pretty much constantly approaches hot women. And he makes up dates with nymphos.


Apr 12 12 - 8:58am

I totally agree! When he mentioned that he can't lie that he's a woman's attractiveness is important to him, I thought about how uninterested in him all those attractive women must be.

Apr 15 12 - 6:07pm

Yes, how DARE a guy who looks like him want to hook up with someone to whom he's strongly attracted! Doesn't he know he's in the "take-what-you-can-get" class? Doesn't he understand that any overture he makes to an attractive woman is creepy, by definition, because of the way he looks? Doesn't he know his PLACE, for God's sake?!

Seriously, y'all are both douches. He never says anything about being entitled to a beautiful woman, resentful of them, or anything of the sort; he simply expresses the desire to get romantically involved with someone he considers very attractive. (Isn't that what we all want?) And he follows the advice that everyone's always handing out to men: if you're confident and approach a woman you're interested in, the worst thing that can happen is that she'll say no. But of course, he's supposed to know that that advice is only for "hot" guys.

I mean, look at the next interviewee. I don't think she's especially good-looking or appealing, and yet she has very high standards (a "muscular" guy "with a Ph.D. who looks like he should be on a roll of paper towels") and says she has zero interest in any of the guys at the con because they're not good-looking enough and are too geeky. Why is it OK for her to think she deserves the best, but not OK for Jamie to say he wants someone "attractive" (he doesn't say a perfect 10 or anything like that)?

As for the claim that his story's a fake, whatever. I've seen some weird and unbelievable shit in my years of dating, and it's taught me that truth is usually stranger than fiction. Nothing else in his comments is self-aggrandizing, so I have no reason to doubt his story any more than the other yarns that always get spun as part of this feature.

Apr 15 12 - 11:57pm

Hey AAC,
I think my real complaint with him is that he seems to have a double standard. Like he criticizes women for not being interested in him and preferring "good-looking" guys. Yet, he also seems to be only interested in "incredibly hot women in tight, scanty, low-cut costumes." I just find it interesting that he doesn't seem to see the problem there.

Also, I kind of think Jamie is pretty hot, but I suppose I could see why you might think she is shallow for her taste in men.

And I'm not douche, thanks!

Apr 16 12 - 12:40am

That's not really what he criticizes them for, though. His beef is more that though they claim to be "geek girls", when it comes down to it, they generally date good-looking poseurs who casually co-opt a watered-down version of geek culture for its social cachet. And that's a legitimate beef: if you say you love something, but the people you date embody a piss-poor version of that thing, then maybe you're a poseur too. It's like saying you love jazz and that jazz is a huge part of your life, but then dating someone drop-dead gorgeous whose favorite record is Kenny G. It suggests that you're a dilettante, dishonest, or just thinking with your genitals.

And he doesn't really say that he's only interested in "incredibly hot women in tight, scanty, low-cut costumes." He says he's surrounded by "hot" women, which -- given that he works at a role-playing game company -- probably doesn't mean that they're all models and cosplay pinups. Most of us hope to date someone we consider "hot", after all; relationships where we think the other person is passable don't usually have great sexual chemistry.

I don't think Nicole is hot (at all), but I don't begrudge her preferences. I just hate the narrative that women's shallow preferences are empowering and justified, and men's shallow preferences are oppressive and creepy.

Sorry for calling you a douche, but I just thought people were way too harsh on this guy because he's overweight, approaching middle-aged, and male. If he'd said the same things and been young and good-looking, or a female of any sort, no one would've blinked.

Apr 16 12 - 11:40pm

Women are bombarded by mainstream media images of very attractive women with much less attractive men on a regular basis. Just a few: Seth Rogen in "Knocked Up," Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen in "Sideways," Woody Allen in any movie he's paired with a female. Kevin James in "King of Queens" and his wife Leah Remini , Jim Belushi paired with Courtney Thorne-Smith...and these just off the top of my head.

Let me tell you me beef, AAC. They are no media images where there's an equivalent hot guy, much less attractive female that easily come to mind as the above do.

Women are tired of this one sided story of male shallowness, while we're supposed to be "above" caring about a guy's looks.

I'm not a proponent of people, of either gender, being shallow though I understand that everyone wants to feel attracted to their partner. But unless you're really shallow, they don't have to be really hot in order to be attractive.

You may think people are being too harsh about this one man, but to a lot of women he's perpetuating this inequity.

Apr 17 12 - 10:02am

+1 AAC

He seems like a nice, honest dude. Especially compared to these other douchetards.

Apr 17 12 - 6:15pm

+1 to Nope, that about sums it up.

Apr 18 12 - 12:47pm

+1 to Nope
Thanks for articulating this viewpoint so well!

Apr 18 12 - 7:10pm

@Nope: Unpacking those tropes of cinema and TV are beyond the scope of what I can discuss in a comment. But the problem with your claim of injustice is that it doesn't acknowledge the huge asymmetry in male-female attraction, i.e. the fact that most women are strongly attracted to POWER. One reason why we see so many images of schlubby men and beautiful women is because that's how it often plays out in real life, as any trip to a large city's financial district will tell you in a heartbeat. As Henry Kissinger famously said, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," and whether that power manifests itself through one's physical prowess, bankbook, or political influence, it's incredibly magnetic to a pretty large number of women, who are willing to practically ignore a man's appearance if he's powerful enough (just as many men will ignore a woman's vacuousness if she's physically attractive enough). And that preference is not symmetrical, and giveth not the tiniest of shits whether it's "fair" to men or women.

Now, we have two choices. One is to pat ourselves on the back and say that women's attraction to power and dominance is as contemptible and shitty as men's attraction to big breasts, symmetrical faces and narrow waists. The other is to say "Live and let live", accept that there's something in these preferences that has something like a rational basis, and allow people to continue their quest to find someone who has both superficial appeal and deep substance.

But what I don't find acceptable is the idea that one of the sexes has all the culpability here, because that's just not true. In other words, if we're unleashing the hounds on someone like Jamie -- who, when it comes down to it, simply hopes to find someone he thinks is "attractive" -- then let's also unleash them the next time a woman in one of these features says that she prefers dating "ambitious" or "manly" men. Let's interrogate the female attraction to power, confidence, and dominance as aggressively as we interrogate the male attraction to youth, physical beauty, and sexual availability. But somehow I'm guessing that's not gonna happen.

Apr 19 12 - 3:21pm

I don't have time right now, unfortunately, to go into a long deconstruction of what you've just said, AAC. So I'll oversimplify it and say I do agree with you about power and (some) women. And nope, I don't think a woman who's into a man only for his bank account (read power) is any better than a man who's into a woman for only how she looks.

I do see in your last post that you've neatly sidestepped the point I made above, however, and so I'll reiterate it. There is no "power equivalency" in the media portrayals I mentioned above, Kevin James' character is a UPS guy, Seth Rogen's character in Knocked Up is not at all successful, nor is Paul Giamatti's character in Sideways, etc. They are average, and even below-average, Joes in every way in terms of "success" and "power" and "confidence."

In every day life we absolutely see rich and therefore powerful men with women much more attractive than themselves...and I'd posit that we also see the same in same-sex relationships, older wealthy gay men with younger, attractive gay men, and that not-as-attractive women straight or not, who are rich can get more attractive partners. So what you're talking about in terms of power equivalencies is not just exclusive to gender. But the idea that a schlubby, not wealthy or traditionally successful man should not only be able to, but has a right to a hot woman b/c he's sweet and lovable, is marketed aggressively ONLY to straight women.

The fact is that I'm not at all against this idea. To get personal for a moment, I've had several boyfriends that it's gotten back to me that others don't consider "in my league." I'm considered very attractive, for better or worse, in our culture. But anyone who knows me well will tell you that looks, money don't matter much to me. I care about kindness, wit and brains.

That said, I think people of both sexes can be very shallow. My point is that the idea that one shouldn't be shallow and should value other qualities above looks is marketed aggressively to only straight women in our culture, not straight men.

And that, in a nutshell, is my problem. I don't care that "it shouldn't be all about shallow valuations" is marketed to women, I'd just like to see it as aggressively marketed to me. That's it.

Apr 19 12 - 3:42pm

Last sentence should read, " don't care that "it shouldn't be all about shallow valuations" is marketed to women, I'd just like to see it as aggressively marketed to MEN. That's it." Sorry about the typo.

Apr 12 12 - 4:04am

Rissy, either your story about your ex is brilliantly invented... or he's a brilliant maniac :-) . Since you seem witty and since you are beautiful, I think he's a maniac.

Apr 12 12 - 9:33am

I dig Rafael-- I would never get emotionally involved with him--I believe him when he says he's an asshole-- but I would have so much fun yelling at him, "You're a dick!" and then falling over laughing. Then we'd go get drunk and dominate at beer pong. Then I wouldn't see him for 6 months or a year, and because I wasn't worn out by his shenanigans, I'd be glad to see him again.

Apr 12 12 - 9:51am

Scott: "One Christmas, my cousin got a stuffed giraffe, and he looked closely and realized it was also a vibrator."

Apr 12 12 - 10:19am

Why did you only ask the shy boy about kink? You should have asked the pretty girls!

Apr 12 12 - 11:09am

Jamie reinforces all sorts of negative stereotypes about geeks and/or nerds, whatever nomenclature you prefer. I don't like him and I don't like his assertions regarding women and their desire for faux-nerds.

Apr 12 12 - 2:57pm

This was my favorite one of these segments in a long time. I like that it wasn't just the usual questions.

Apr 12 12 - 11:26am

Interesting bunch., dude's got a family with no sense of boundaries. Being flogged while family is around? Odd.

Apr 12 12 - 3:27pm

Maybe Rachel Dratch should go on a date with Rafael? He's right that women love assholes, no matter how much theybitch and moan about them. The problem is, it's hard to figure out how to be one if you're not one.

Apr 12 12 - 5:52pm

I have confidence in your ability to be an asshole.
Step 1: get into the type of shape that a personal trainer is in
Step 2: realize that if you're hot enough, people will sleep with you even if they dislike you
step 3: profit!

Apr 12 12 - 4:18pm

I am curious about Rizzy's boyfriend being an multiple amputee...which limbs and why?
Plus, she is fooking gorgeous

Apr 12 12 - 4:53pm

I'm pretty sure she threw that in as a joke...

Apr 13 12 - 12:41pm

That would be a weird thing to joke about. Lots of people have amputations--or other physical handicaps--*and* good sex/love lives.

Apr 12 12 - 4:25pm

So basically, a comic con is a place where women dress up in slutty superhero outfits and cocktease a bunch of lonely male geeks who are already sexually frustrated?

Get me some spandex, I'm in.

Apr 12 12 - 4:30pm

"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."

"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."

Well Jamie, looks like the women are doing the same thing you're doing. Goose, gander, all that noise.

Apr 12 12 - 8:40pm

if you're gonna go dressed as scott pilgrim, at least know he has seven evil exes, not six

Apr 13 12 - 4:36pm

the seventh one was nega-scott

Apr 12 12 - 10:17pm
um, what?

So "strong, can chop wood and build stuff" is somehow inherently masculine? And, therefore, presumably not feminine?

Well, that's bollocks. Women who are strong, can chop wood and build stuff are my kind of feminine!

Cheers to strong women who don't buy into all that 'masculine = strong and practical' crap.

Apr 13 12 - 12:33pm

Snake. Your. Drain.
Gonna use that in the pub tonight.

Apr 20 12 - 11:49pm
Mr. P

Okay this one was brilliant. What better setting for a TTS column! And I'm in love with the first girl!