Talking to Strangers: Madison, WI
Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
by Austin Duerst, Nina Ham, and Joyce Edwards
Do you currently have a summer romance?
This is the first summer that I've had a romance in Madison. This is actually only the second summer that I've lived in Madison, though I've lived here on and off for about four years and just finished my undergrad. The other summer that I lived here, I lived alone and was kind of hermit-y and weird and didn't do anything, only stuff like crafts in my bedroom. So I definitely was not in a romance at that point. And now, my summer romance is my long-term boyfriend, so I have nothing exciting to tell you.
When you were single, where would you go to meet someone in the summer?
The Terrace at the Memorial Union, at any time of day. There are just people milling around and everyone out there is so friendly. You could just walk around and be like, "What kind of beer are you drinking?" and they'd probably say, "Oh, it's the Lakefront Fix-Gear from Milwaukee. It's really good," and just strike up a conversation and share some pitchers. Automatically you're getting drunk together, which is a good start to any Madison romance. I mean, I met my boyfriend at the most skeezy bar in Madison. [laughs]
What's your take on the Madison dating scene?
The Madison dating scene is very incestuous. As a student or post-grad, you become friends with the people that those people are also friends with. So you meet people through this network. You create this web of people you know and then you realize, "Oh my God, I've been hooking up with this guy, and he's also hooked up with three of my friends. And I've made out with him and his best friend. So through me, in a sense, they've kind of made out, too." The longer you live here, the smaller Madison gets. If you've hooked up with someone, you've definitely already peripherally hooked up with them already. What is that called — Eskimo siblings?
Despite this theory, have you ever met someone randomly?
Not really. No one wanted to go out on my twenty-first birthday because it was the night before classes started, so the night after my birthday this guy I sort of knew asked to hang out. He is hands down the most attractive guy I've ever met. In the words of my roommate, "He looks like a skinny John Mayer." In my opinion, John Mayer is sort of good looking. This guy? Really good looking. So he texted me that it was his birthday party and that I should come because he knew it had been my birthday the day before. And we were not the kind of friends where you call them on your birthday. So I show up at a bar and this group takes up the entire top floor. I drank two things called fish bowls — about sixteen mixed drinks of fruit juice and vodka served in an actual fish bowl — with some frat guys, and proceeded to make out with the birthday boy. I had just watched him make out with another girl, and I'm pretty sure after I left he made out with someone else. So that semester I also met this girl in my journalism class. She's really nice. We had a lot of classes together, and ended spending a lot of time together. And she told me at the end of the semester, "I knew who you were before we met in class. I recognized you on the first day of class because I'd just seen you make out with my friend the night before." Is there something more Madison than that? A girl watching you make out with a guy at a bar and then recognizing you in class? So gross. People become so familiar that they know the people who ride their bus each morning. Like this guy we call the "Beats by Dre" dude. He's so hot. [laughs] And I'm sure if you ask other people, they'd probably know exactly who I'm talking about.
What's the strangest thing anyone's ever tried with you, sexually?
I've had a lot of suggestions that were not even from the realm of people who I would hook up with under normal circumstances. Once, when I was still in high school, someone told me he wanted to do me from behind in the library of his college. That totally freaked me out and I've been avoiding him for about five years now.
Is there something crazy that you're waiting for someone to ask to do?
The whole "library thing" is such a big deal here in Madison for UW students that part of me wants to give it a try, even though I graduated. I kind of regret not ever getting frisky in the library stacks. But I don't regret turning down the first offer for a library hookup I had, especially because that wasn't in Madison and that's the whole cachet of it. But I guess if you believed everyone who said they've hooked up in the library here, you would be constantly finding people having sex in the stacks, which you don't. So I think it's mostly a myth. I do think the way to do it would be in one of the carrels in Memorial Library. Really quietly. On the desk.