Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Montreal, QC

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

L. Diablo, 32

What do you do for a living?
All sorts of stuff. A bit of corporate, a bit of artsy.

And what do you do for fun?
All sorts of, uh, other fun stuff. I'm a dancer and a professional… partier.

What's the Montreal dating scene like for you?
I find it a bit like a job interview, to be honest. It used to be fun, and maybe it's because I'm getting old, but I find that it takes about ten minutes before I feel like I'm being interviewed for a job, on the average date.

Do you ever do the interviewing yourself?
No, it's tacky. It bothers me. I'd rather things come out when they need to come out, and not feel like someone's got a shopping list of questions that they have to get through by the time I leave the table. Maybe the people I've dated just aren't good enough about hiding their agendas.

Do you date men or women or both?
Both, but I'm on a man swing.

Do you look for something different in men than you do in women?
Yeah, probably. What, exactly, I'm not entirely sure — but if you're someone who doesn't necessarily discriminate between genders, you do naturally gravitate towards different qualities in different genders, depending on what role you're assuming in a relationship.

Has anyone ever offended you in the bedroom?
Oh yes. Absolutely. And I don't offend easily, but what offends me is probably quite surprising to other people. I don't like cheesy. I don't like overly put on. The whole "sweetie, baby, darling" bullshit? We're already in bed. Stop it. You know? I'm not marrying you. You're not my long-lost love. Let's call it what it is.

Have you ever been the one to offend?
Oh, for sure. I have a filthy mouth, and sometimes my level of open dirty talk has been a bit much for the other person.

What is the most unusual place you've had sex?
A trapeze net.

Were you having sex with a circus performer?

Did that have any unusual benefits?
Rope burn, conquering your fear of heights. It was fun. And he was bendy.

How did your upbringing influence your views on sexuality?
I don't know. It doesn't make sense, in all honesty. I come from a Catholic-Jewish background, very open, but very proper and prim — my mother, at least. My dad had a dirty mouth, but at the end of the day, I don't really know how I ended up like this. Yay, TV!

Did you have any formative experiences watching TV that we should know about?
I used to watch Solid Gold when I was four, and dance around in my little days-of-the-week underwear in front of the TV — shake my booty with the Solid Gold dancers. My momma's proud.


Dev, 31

What do you do for a living?
I do radio.

So, if you were really interested in dating one of these people that you've interviewed, what would make you interested in him? What do you look for in a guy?
A great personality, cute buns… really nice buns… [laughs] I'm a butt guy, yeah.

I can tell. What do you define as a "great personality"?
Somebody who's positive and friendly and smiley and friendly all the time, and intelligent, a great person to converse with… someone who sees the positivity in the universe, kind of like me.

I see. You consider yourself a very positive person?
Very much so.

How does that play out in your dating life?
A lot of people are attracted to that, actually. They seem to see the spark, the energy I have — this is what I'm told by them that they like. Because a lot of people walk around with a dark cloud over their heads, and I don't see any reason for that.

So this is how you impress the boys, you're very positive?
I've also got great eyelashes.

It's true, you do have great eyelashes. They're visible even in this bar.

Do you have any good hookup stories that have resulted from your flirting?
You're looking for a juicy story, aren't you?

I'm looking for a juicy story.
Okay, here's a juicy story. I once slept with a good buddy's boyfriend. This guy — his boyfriend wasn't treating him very well, and it had been going on for a while. We all saw it wasn't working out, and I wanted to get into this guy's pants. Of course, you have to respect your buddy, and their space, but I could see that this was going down a bad path. So before they could end it, I stepped in. We had the most amazing night of crazy hot sex. It wasn't planned at all. It just happened.

Was there any fallout with the boyfriend afterwards?
After that particular weekend, we kept it pretty discreet, so I have no idea if he knows. They're not together. I know that much.

Was this the first time you'd done something like that?
It was the first time, yes, that I'd actually… no, I tell a lie.

Are you a man-stealer?
It just happens. Okay, it's happened a few times. I don't plan on it happening. It just does.

Have you ever offended anyone in the bedroom?
Yes, I have. There are certain things in foreplay, the teasing and the games, where you figure out what the person is into. And, um… I kind of enjoy peeing on people. And I had a feeling that this guy was into it, because he led me to believe… I was showing him that this was the direction I wanted to go in. But when I started peeing on him, he freaked out. He was screaming "Oh my God, what did you do? That's nasty!" And I said, "I thought you wanted it," and he was like, "Who would want that?" I honestly thought he was into it, but I guess I misread him.

Did you say, "I want to pee on you" at any point?
No, I didn't say that. But to me, it's all about body movement, the dance we do. I thought he was going to pick up on that, but I guess not.

What happened after that?
He got dressed and hid in the bathroom for ten minutes. I guess he was Lysoling himself. Once he got out, he left. Never came back. Never saw him again.

Has that ever happened with anyone else?
No! No. Most people I'm able to read what games to play. To me, sex should be a lot of fun.


Gabriel, 27 and Christelle, 25

How long have you been together?
C: Six years.

Same answer?
G: No, actually we've been together for five months now.

How did you two meet?
G: The first time we met was, I think, seven-and-a-half years ago. I was about eighteen or nineteen, and I was working at Blockbuster Video. Back then I was a fat bald kid — but as you can see, I'm very handsome right now — and she was renting movies with her sister. She had leftovers from Pizza Hut in her hands, and I offered a free rental for the remains of her pizza, which she and her sister gladly exchanged for the rental. So that was our first encounter. Our second encounter was like, a year and a half after that, when I had bloomed as a healthy, tall young man, and her sister recognized me, and she said, "Oh look, it's the guy from the Blockbuster!" Back then I was in a metal band called Icewind, and I told her that both sisters — they're twins, so they were like, both hot — so I said to myself, I'm going to try both! I said, "If you're interested, you can go on my web site and leave me a message, which she did [points to Christelle]. We started dating a couple of months after that.

So would you have been equally happy to date either twin?
G: Uh… I know I wanted both at that time.

What was your first date like?
G: I don't remember our first date. I don't think there was a first date.
C: We used to live two blocks away from each other, so he invited me over, and we watched a movie, and then… I left. Something like that.
G: I wanted to have sex with her so much, and she just turned me on and left.
C: The thing is, I knew what kind of guy he was — you know, not interested in any particular girl. Even though I wasn't interested in him specifically, more in sex, I didn't want to be just a girl on his list. I wanted to win, so I played the game, and I ended up falling as well. So it worked out well for both of us.

What attracted you to Gabriel?
C: Well, the first time I met him, he was just the funny guy from the video store. But when I saw him again, he was talking about his music, his life and everything, and I just thought he was special. And my sister didn't care about him, so I ended up winning the guy.
G: She was just interested in me because I was a rock star.

Is that what you do in life?
G: I used to sing in a band, but now I'm an opera singer, so I've kind of evolved-slash-switched worlds now. But singing has always been my passion, so it doesn't matter what I sing, as long as I can do it.

And what do you, Christelle?
C: I'm a makeup artist.

Have either of you ever met someone you've dated through your jobs?
C: I work with women, so, not really. And I work with hairdressers, so most of them are gay. So, no.
G: I wish she would date people she works with.

Are you guys monogamous?
G: Uh… not really.

What does "not really" mean?
C: We like to explore.
G: We're monogamous love-wise — like, she's the only person I love — but we fool around with people sometimes.

Tell me about one of your most memorable dates.
G: Well, it's hard to say, because every day is memorable with Christelle. I wouldn't be able to think about one particular date — our life is exciting and we don't really go, "Okay, let's go on a date."
C: It's true, though. We have a spicy life together. I don't feel like we've been together six years. Sometimes people ask us how long have we been together, and they're like, maybe it's been a few months, and we're like, "No!" So I think we're making it spicy every day.

What's one of the most "spicy" sexual experiences you've had together?
C: We once had sex with two other girlfriends of mine. So he had three girls for himself for the first time. I think he enjoyed it.

Did you?
G: I had a blast.

So you'd do it again?
G: I would do it every day. Well, every day that I'm in shape for it, because it's a lot of work.

Julia, 35

Are you a Montreal native?
Yes, born and raised.  

What neighborhood do you live in?
Right now I live downtown, but I grew up in Westmount. The naughty girl from next door.  

Do you date guys or girls or both?
Girls are my preference in terms of intimate relationships, but I've had some very exciting… exchanges with men, as well. 

What do you look for in a girl?
Charisma, more than anything. But I need to know that she's sincere, and that she's in touch with her emotions, down to earth, that I can have an intelligent conversation with her.

Do you have any good hookup stories?
Oh, God. I've had… oh, geez. I've had foursomes, orgies… I've been in God knows how many crazy situations… it's a bit of a long list.

Is there anything you find frustrating about the lesbian dating scene?
Actually, yes. I find when I go to parties, there's this incredible tendency to sort of size everybody up all the time. Nobody wants to get down to business! It takes forever! I show up, and I'm like, hot to trot, I'm ready to get it on, and I'm waiting around. I mean, I'm all for having casual conversation — don't get me wrong, it's not like I show up and want the first girl that I see — but eventually, I imagine that people would be there for a common reason, and it seems that people are very picky about what they're expecting and how they're expecting it. It seems very awkward to me that I have to go through so many hoops just to hook up. I would never have expected it to be that complex when I was in my teens. I would have imagined that it would have been a little clearer. I feel like I have to tattoo "Take me home and fuck me all night" across my forehead to get the message across. And even that, I think, would somehow get confused.  

I feel like there's a bias in the Montreal lesbian community against extremely feminine women. What do you think?
I've seen quite a lot of butch lesbians, and not so many lipstick lesbians. I'm sort of in the minority as far as girls who like to look pretty and be delicate and have a more elegant appearance. Which is funny, because I don't really consider myself to be this delicate flower, although it's a very attractive way to portray oneself. In bed, it's a whole different story. But in public, I like to have a certain decorum, and I feel that the lesbian community here doesn't go down that road so much. Everybody's sort of rough around the edges and, like, "I'm a woman and I'll be damned if anybody's gonna tell me how to be who I want to be." Which is fine, but I like femininity, and I like embracing the more delicate side, and I'm getting mixed reception as to how much that's appreciated.  

What's the most romantic thing you've ever done for someone, or that someone has done for you?
I went to Québec City with my ex-girlfriend years and years ago, and it was a bitterly cold weekend. There was a snowstorm, and we were walking through the Plains of Abraham, and we had some favorite music that we were listening to. She was going through a bit of hard time, but it was our own little escape. You know, it wasn't really sexually charged, but I'll always remember it as a really special, tender moment that I was happy to share with someone.


Avishmita, 24

Where are you from originally?
I'm from India, but I grew up in a small country called Oman in the Middle East.

How long have you been in Montreal?
Three years.

Was there anything shocking about coming here from Oman?
No, not really, because we grew up with a lot of exposure to the West. TV, the internet. So it's not a huge shock, but the little nuances are different. You have to learn the language of dating. You don't know what works and what doesn't, and what things mean. All that has to be learned.

Are you single right now?
Yes, I am.

Are you dating?
No, I'm not.

Are you interested in dating?

Are you more interested in sex or love right now?
That's a good-ass question! Probably sex more than love, at this point.

When were you last in a relationship?
About a year ago. It kind of took a really long time to actually end. We just bumped into each other a hell of a lot, so it felt like it was really long.

Has anyone ever offended you in the bedroom?
Hmm. I guess not, because I'm pretty open with most things. So it would be really fucking hard to offend me in bed.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
No. It's too fairy-tale. The world doesn't work that way.

So would you describe yourself as a realist when it comes to love?
No, actually, that's the funny part. I'm not a realist. I'm all about the hypothetical fairy-tale, but it doesn't work that way. The fairy tale never comes true.

How did your upbringing influence your perspective on dating and sexuality?
My upbringing was very conservative Indian, growing up in the Middle East. So, very, very conservative. You do not date, growing up. It's taboo. But my parents were kind of open about it. My family — specifically my mother — was like, "Just go out and try stuff. If you're happy, that's all that matters." Still, even when it was eventually okay to date, I didn't, for a long time, because there just weren't any guys to date in my school. So I've had to get over a lot of mental blocks, hearing, "That's not okay, that's not okay." Like, "Masturbation is not okay for a woman." Having to get over all of those messages — that is a huge thing. It takes a lot of time. And I'm definitely not over all that shit, so I'm not ready for a long-term stable relationship. Hence, I have not had one.

Were you dating at all before you moved to Montreal?
In the sense that the word "dating" is used here, not really. But I did have a boyfriend, because I was in India for about four years doing university. So I had… not dated people, but I'd had boyfriends. It was a small city. Everyone was in everyone else's face. You kind of merged from friends, from knowing each other, into being boyfriend and girlfriend. You don't have dates — you have not knowing each other, and then you have the relationship.

How does that compare to your experience of dating and relationships here?
Well, here nothing is as serious. To be in a relationship here, you actually test out whether you're compatible or not. There's a trial phase of trial, which, when I was in India, you didn't have. I was in an entire relationship which, if it had been up to me and there was no pressure, it would have been a weekend of fun, and that was it. But it went from a weekend of fun to, "Oh crap, you guys have spent a weekend together. You must be in a relationship." We were not compatible. But it merged into a relationship, just because everyone we knew expected that. Mind you, I was in a design institute, which has fairly open-minded people compared to the rest of society there.

Do you find that the lack of expectations is a positive thing?
Yeah, because you have a whole lot more choice. You have freedom to choose whether this is actually somebody you want to get to know, whether you just want to have a physical thing with, or have more. Sometimes it's stressful and exhausting. There's always one person that feels a lot more strongly than the other person. Somebody does end up getting hurt. But you can't get away from that anywhere, when it comes down to two people and feelings.


Léah, "29 with experience"

What do you do for a living?
I'm an event coordinator. By training I'm a translator, but I'm trying to get away from that, because it's awfully boring.

Do translating or event planning get you dates?
Event planning has gotten me dates, yes. Translating, not so much.

Tell me about a really weird date you went on.
One thing I know is that people that you meet on a plane, when you've had three or four or five Bloody Marys, do not look nearly as good when you've sobered up and landed. Something happens to you while you're up in the air. I don't know if it's the compression or the decompression or what — but… yeah. Bad. Nobody is as attractive as you think they are when you've been drinking on a plane.

So did you join the mile-high club on that occasion?
Fortunately not, but it was way too close for my liking.

What do you look for in a guy?
It took me a while to figure that out, and that's not a bad thing. Weirdly, some of the best advice I've gotten was "Lower your expectations." I was like, "How the heck am I going to meet the right person if I lower my expectations?" But the dream man we have in our heads is that — it's a dream. Odds are, you won't meet that person exactly as you've tailored him or her in your mind.

Do you have any good hook-up stories?
I went through a stint of liking younger men, and that's something I recommend. I think everyone should have the privilege of breaking one in so that he does it just the way you want it. Every other woman who follows will benefit from your experience. I had a wonderful young man who was so eager it was exhausting. He often wore a kilt, so everything was easy-access. It was wonderful, it lasted as long as it needed to last, there were no expectations. We were in it for the ride, and it was a very fun one. And now he's well-trained — if anybody meets a six-foot-six blond Scotsman in a kilt, give him a try!

Are you seeing anyone now?
Yes, I am. I'm in the midst of a very long engagement. Been engaged for two and a half years now. So I finally met a wonderful person. It's like fitting shoes. You've got to keep at it until you find the perfect pair.

Where did you two meet?
At a swing club — not what you think. A swing dance club. We were both there by happenstance on a night when neither of us were supposed to be there. The teacher introduced us, we started dancing, and we haven't really stopped since.

Is there anything that you would change about the way men approach women?
Yes. I think men and women need to get out of the pack mentality. I mean, go out alone every once in a while. You'll be more approachable. Life's not an episode of Sex and the City where you have to be four and giggling. If the poor guy is alone and happens to find you attractive, or heard something you said and finds you interesting, he's not usually going to brave the three other drunken, loud girls that are with you. I've learned to do that quite a bit. I go for brunch by myself, I go to the movies by myself, single and not. But when I was single, that's something I picked up. I don't like if a guy needs four of his friends to go out there and meet girls. It's revealing of something, because as we grow older — and like I said, I'm twenty-nine with a bit of experience — I think you've got to get out of that phase of needing to be backed up for every step you take.

Do you have any advice for men who are still looking for love at first sight?
Offer to buy a drink — don't go with the stiff pick-up line. If a guy comes up to me and says, "You look great tonight," I usually say, "Does that mean you want to buy me a drink?" That's not because I want a free drink, it's more like, do you want to make conversation? What are you in for? Be prepared to ask questions. I have a few favorites, one of which is, "What are you, really?" Okay, you're a lawyer, but what are you on the inside? Personally, I'm a closeted singer. I should be somewhere in the forties in some war-time cabaret. It opens conversations, it shows you a glimpse of what the person is under the suit, or the tattoos, or whatever uniform they put on themselves. And ladies, accept compliments. That shy giggle doesn't work. If a guy pays you a compliment, say thank you. Show a little bit of grace, because he went out on a limb. "You don't mean that" is… you won't get a compliment again.

Interviews and photography by Jana Van Geest.