Talking to Strangers: Madison, WI
Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
by Austin Duerst and Nina Ham
What do you do for a living here in Madison?
I'm an investment banker in Middleton, Wisconsin.
You have a strong accent. Are you originally from Madison?
No, I'm French. I moved to Madison in '04.
What's the biggest difference between women in France and Wisconsin?
That's a tough question [laughs]. If you go to the students, you never know who you're going to meet. They're most likely not from here, so they are not Wisconsin 100%. If I had to talk about American women in general, the difference between French women and American women is... at what point do they give you the time of day here? Like, actually listen to what you have to say? No one will really listen to you right away. Over in France, they'll listen to you and hear what you have to say. Here, I don't know. In this town, if I wanted a woman to either listen to me or just kick it with me if we met at a club or a bar, it always takes something to start it off.
What was a situation where you felt like you had to "sell" yourself in the way you're describing?
My first girlfriend over here, I met over at the Majestic. I remember I went over to her and was like, "Excuse me, ladies." Back then, I didn't speak very much English also, so it was a dumb decision. Conversation-wise, it was very, "Hello. How are you doing?" But what I said is, "I'm not from here and I can't conversate much, but I just want to dance with you." She ignored me. Which didn't bother me, you know? I understand. Now the weekend later, I went to another bar, and I saw her again and recognized her. So I went back to her and said, "You probably don't recognize me, but I spoke to you last weekend. But you didn't give me the time of the day. I'm here again trying just to get to know who you are. My name is Lu. What's your name?" And she said, "I don't just talk to anybody and give out my name." And I was like, "Whaaaat?" [laughs].
Telling your name is usually how most conversations start.
I mean, she ended up being my girlfriend for four years, so it worked out. But even that night, she still didn't give me the time of the day. It took until New Year's Eve, two weeks later. I went back to the bar I was just talking about with all my family who'd come to town, and she was there again. So I went up to her again and said, "I just want to buy you and your friends a drink. All of y'all. I want everyone to come and join my family and have a drink to celebrate midnight." And she was like, "Fine." We pour a drink, whatever, the party is going and everyone is laughing and smiling. And I went back up to this girl and said, "I still want that one dance I asked you about two weeks ago." She was like, "Fine. You're very persistent." And I said, "It's because I'm honest. I know what I want, and I want that dance." And she's like, "Fine." So the music is playing and we went up and danced after the ice was broken, and it became what it became. But even to this day when I meet women at the bar, there's always this fear. I don't know why yet. It always takes an extra something.
Do you see dancing as a good way to sort of fast-track getting to know someone?
When it comes to that, "partying" to me means "dancing." You drink at home, you go to the pub, and then you go to the club, and the club goes on fire. By the time you get to the club, you're all tipsy, so everything goes on in that dance. You don't need to speak. You just dance. So the flirting becomes about dancing. If I can get that dance, if I'm given that opportunity, then usually I'm good. And I don't grind. I'm not dancing on girls' butts. I don't do that. That's American. I dance in front of them so I can talk to them if I want. It's more about touch, about sharing something in that moment and maybe whispering in their ear. And that hopefully leads to talking to them.
What can the Wisconsin male learn from the French male as far as love and dating is concerned? Tell us what we're doing wrong.
[Laughs] This is the advice I'd give to any of my friends from here. I'm just going to say this first: to me, personally, coming up to a girl and just grinding on their booty is disrespectful. I would rather just come up to you and straight up ask, "Excuse me, can I dance with you?" That's one. Now two: when I dance, I like to dance in front of a girl so I can talk to them. They can see and hear me, and they can respond to me that way.
I'd say that's fairly good advice. No girl wants a guy just coming up to them and ramming their ass. Well, maybe some do.
I don't know. When some women get tipsy, they're into some crazy shit. So I don't know. But that's just not me. I'm not going to not be me just for some girl that I don't know. I'm going to stay true to me, and if you like it, you like it, and if you don't, you don't. Take it or leave it.
How long have you lived in Wisconsin?
Three years. I'm originally from Long Island, New York.
What's the biggest difference between the Long Island boys and Madison boys?
Their manners [laughs]. Absolutely, their manners. When I came to Wisconsin, men held the door for me. That was exciting. That doesn't happen in Long Island, or New York City, for that matter.
What's another perk of the Wisconsin male over the New York male? I'm sure Nerve readers in New York would love to hear this.
New York men are obsessed with their title. All they care about is who they are working for, who their father is, how much money they're making, what they're doing. Wisconsin boys are a lot more laid back than that. They're a little more, "Tell me your major," and you can tell that it's not a means to talk about themselves.
What do you think Wisconsin boys are thinking about, if not "titles?"
I think Wisconsin boys are thinking more about their own futures and not their fathers' futures or what their fathers have done. They care about what they're going to do, what they are going to accomplish, where they're going. Their dad can be a farmer here and that's fine. Half the New Yorkers I know, their dads are Wall Street bankers. Someone's dad works for Goldman, or someone's dad works for J.P. Morgan. Those boys have money they didn't necessarily earn themselves.
Are you dating someone right now?
I am currently dating someone. We're in a long-distance relationship.
What's the biggest difficulty to maintaining a long-distance relationship?
Staying faithful [laughs].
How's that going?
100%! [laughs]. 100%. 100%.
You don't have to keep repeating it for me to believe you. Where's your boyfriend from?
He's from the same town I'm from.
Wait a second — you just spent two minutes talking absolute shit about New Yorkers, and you ended up with one?
Everything he doesn't stand for is what I like about him.
So he's atypical.
Yeah, he comes from a middle-income family. He's worked really hard. He's an honors student at South Carolina. And that's why I love him.
Do you really love the honors student in him or do you love the bad boy in him?
The clean-cut kid! I went through my "bad boy" stage and that ruined me. I think that everyone goes through their "bad boy" stage, and it's good to get it out of your system when you're young, so that you don't repeat when you're twenty-nine and about to get married.
What's an episode you had with one of the bad boys in question here in Madison?
One time the guy that I was fucking and I decided to get blackout wasted and have sex in the bathroom at one of the bars on State Street. The owners of the bar were in town at the time, and the owner's wife walked in on us. We stopped immediately, and it was really uncomfortable for all parties involved, including the bartenders. If I can quote, the wife said, "What the fuck are you two doing?"
I would have said, "Checking the water pressure." Did you get off, at least?
Do most men get you off?
What does it take?
I like the feeling of proximity. I like some feeling of closeness. I know a lot of girls who are like, "Oh, doggy is my favorite style." I don't like that. I like the feeling that someone is right there.
What's your favorite position then?
Missionary. Except when I'm wasted. But I don't want to talk about that [laughs].
What haven't you experienced yet sexually that you'd be excited to try?
I'd like to have a threesome. Me, a man, and another girl. Women have a sensuality about them that no matter what a man does, they're never going to have it. Plus, I couldn't handle two penises. I have enough problems with one as it is.
What do you do?
Right now I'm just finishing up school. I'll be done in May, and after that I'm not sure. I'm thinking about some things. I'm interning right now with this financial advisor, so that's an option. I could continue with that line of work. But I'd also like to travel and get out of the country, so I might end up moving to Costa Rica for a year
Are the women a factor in choosing where you want to travel or move?
I think it's a consideration. Take for example: I was down in Costa Rica last spring with my buddy Luke. We're both climbers, so we see attractive girls all the time who are usually smaller in size and who wear tight-fitting climbing gear. And then we're down in Costa Rica and we see the surfer girls, and here we are thinking to ourselves, "Wow, this is something." And then we started just kind of wondering to ourselves: who's more attractive? Surfer chicks or climber chicks? Personality-wise, I think they're similar in that usually both groups are very chill, and you have a cultural/lifestyle aspect to both of them that you don't have with other kinds of sports.
And because they're both physically demanding activities, both groups must be pretty toned.
Yeah, but the surfer girls are always on the beach so they're usually more tan. That's probably the unfair advantage they have, because surfer girls are always wearing bikinis and they're always tan. Versus the Wisconsin climbing girls, who are probably more pale and sweaty [laughs]. So I don't know. I think it'd be a lot nicer to see bikinis all year round. I just think it'd be good for the soul, you know?
What would you do in Costa Rica?
I don't know. I just think it'd be cool to learn how to get by, maybe work in a cafe. They cater to a lot of foreigners, so you'd meet people from all over the world. It'd be cool to run a shop or do some art for people. I paint a little bit for some people here, so it'd be nice to continue that there.
Do painters make better lovers than other types of artists?
I'd probably have to say yes, painters are some of the better lovers.
Are painters better lovers than financial advisors?
I don't know [laughs]. Probably. Probably. It has to do with the nature of the work. Painting is more soul-driven.
Do financial advisors not have souls?
I mean, I'm sure they're nice. But I don't know too many women who are financial advisors. I know some women in business school who always seem to be trying to make themselves look good, but I don't really think much about them.
What's the craziest sexual experience you've ever had?
All right, this might be kind of embarrassing, but one time I was fucking this girl in the ass, which, you know, whatever. This is the millennium. It happens.
Give us context here. Where is this happening?
Well that's exactly the point, where it was. It was in her bedroom next to her mother's bedroom in her house at night. So while her mom was sleeping, I'm in the room next door banging this girl in the ass.
Right, and I didn't realize what I was doing at the time... I mean, I realized what I was doing at the time, but I didn't realize the significance it'd later have when I told some people that I did it. I didn't expect the props that I got, if that makes sense. Now, I wasn't going around bragging. It's one of those things I didn't really know how to bring up, but felt like I needed to tell someone. I casually mentioned it to a friend, and then all of a sudden all of my friends knew, and they were all like, "Oh shit!" when they saw me. I didn't understand at the time that it'd lead to that kind of response.
See, now you've got me feeling unsure of myself, because I don't know if I'm somehow obligated to give you a high-five.
I mean, you can high-five me if you want.
What's the next sexual exploit on your bucket list?
I would love to fuck a chick in a treehouse, like, sixty feet in the air over the ocean. With spider monkeys there.
I mean, in the trees around us. [laughs] It'd be like having your own jungle soundscape as background music. If I could do that, then I can't think of anything else in life that I'd really want to strive for.