Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: New York City

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Q: How do you normally handle a bad date? A: I will just get up and leave. 

Aria, 23

What’s the boldest move you’ve ever made?
I actually know what it is [smiles].  This past Christmas.  I…fell for this guy really hard over the summer, and he came to visit me for Christmas, and—we’ve been having the on-and-off. All I know is, I felt sometimes he was hot, sometimes he was cold—and I felt something for him. And I know I could have previously told him (over the summer). But we had gotten back from a friend’s place in Long Island and we were parting ways at Penn Station, he was heading to his mother’s place in Westchester—we had this huge talk on relationships and stuff on the train back (to Penn Station).

When we were walking away from each other, something in me snapped, and I literally ran through Penn Station to catch him. He was walking to Grand Central and I was going to jump on the Downtown A…and I just couldn’t. I had literally gotten through—I had swiped my Metrocard, got through the gate, and I couldn’t take another step. Something in me was just like, “You have to go back. You have to at least try it. If you don’t at least try to say something, you are going to regret this.” When I caught up with him, I asked him out and we had a long heart to heart on the street in the rain. I talked to him about possibly moving here, but he wasn’t ready. I was crying pretty hard, and he stayed with me until I calmed down. After that night, we spent a crazy week together—it was a very crazy Christmas and probably the worst one I’ve ever had. He’s currently on the other side of the country, so that didn’t work out. But that was definitely the boldest thing I’ve ever done, running at two in the morning through Penn Station, shouting after somebody [laughs].  And it wasn’t the most favorable outcome, but at least I can say I did it [smiles].  

How old are you, by the way?
I’m twenty-three. 

I want to be twenty-three again.
No you don’t, it’s the most awkward age! I’m sitting here with memories of high school and college still, and I know…that really wasn’t that long ago. And then I have—on the other end of the spectrum, my friends are getting married, settling down, having kids, and I’m caught right in the middle. It’s probably the most awkward ground, because I’m still really young but I’m not really that young. I’m an adult. I’m blatantly an adult. I have to learn to not try too hard to make things work with anything—jobs, friends, relationships. If you force it, it’s going to break. If you don’t try at all, it’s never going to happen, so…you just have to make a conscious effort, but a relaxed one. And that’s what I’ve been slowly learning, and still working on. 

Have you (ever) done something foolish to hold on to a guy?
Yeah. [laughs] I can say that about the guy who I was seeing over the summer. I will blatantly admit I’m still madly in love with him, and I know I have to let go…and I’ve been trying to. Some things are just easier said than done, though. And I feel a little foolish for still feeling that way, but at least I’m not lying to myself about it. I still have feelings for him and I know that, but at the same time it’s not like I’m holding on too tight, because I’m still trying to see other people—case in point, the guy who I’m kind of not sure if I’m with

How do you normally handle a bad date?
I’m an asshole. I will just get up and leave. I will [laughs].

Yeah? No explanations or excuses?
I will get up and I literally will say, “Sorry, can’t do it. Nice seeing you. Bye.”  And…I have put money down on the table if say, we were out somewhere eating, but other times I’ll just be like, “I just can’t do this. I have to go.”  

What makes a date (so) unbearable?  Is it arrogance? Awkward conversation?…
Weirdly enough, I can do arrogant guys, because I just find it fun to put them in their place. And they always seem to admire and respect somebody who puts them in their place. Awkward guys, I tend to avoid because I’m just not comfortable around awkward people, so that just doesn’t happen to start (begin with). But if someone’s just having a really bad conversation or if they’re just being blatantly, like—I can’t stand racial things, I can’t stand homophobic things, I can’t stand—if someone wants to be religious or not, that’s their right. They have their faith, I have my faith—But overly judgmental and hateful things…I can’t do it. I don’t want to talk to them. I’m sorry. If you can’t be a loving individual, why do I want to be around you? 

What’s the most arrogant/obnoxious thing a guy has ever said to you?
I was in this spot where…I had to get out of the place I was living, because I was living with a fucking psychopath—like,  flat-out…screaming-at-you-in-the-morning-about-toilet flushing …kind of psychopath, and…creepy.  So, the crazy guy locked me out of my place, stole my key from my room, and I couldn’t get back in—I had to get the cops to get in and everything—but I had called a bunch of friends, and at the time, I was going on a few dates with this one guy.  And I called him up, I’m like, “It’s just for a week, until I can get the cops over there and I get everything sorted. Can I just crash on your couch?”, and he said, “You know, if you come here, you’re going to wind up pregnant in a week,” and I was just like, “What?! Wait, wait…what are you talking about? I’ll sleep on the couch, we don’t have to have…anything. That’s just the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard.” And he’s just like, “Oh, no, you don’t understand. I’m Venezuelan. It’s bound to happen, it’s just in my nature.”

What compromises will you never make for a man?
I will never compromise my morals or who I am for somebody—like, if I believe in something I’m not going to—You can tell me, “I really want to go to this one place”. If I really don’t like the place because I know they treat people horribly there—and I know this is a stupid example—but If I’m really firmly set in stone about it, I’m just not going to go. Or if somebody wants me to change something about my appearance like, “I like it when you have bangs. Cut your hair to have bangs”, or “I don’t like your piercings, take them out”, or “I really wish you would wear clothing that covered all your tattoos, or covered your chest more…Don’t wear such revealing, sexy outfits”, or even like, “I don’t like when you listen to this band or that band, or eat these foods.”  I can’t compromise for people who want to control me. I can’t. I’m very patient. I do compromise a lot on stupid things, like if someone wants to go somewhere early or wants me to stay a little longer because they’re having a good time—or they haven’t arrived yet, they want to arrive and not be alone. I’m fine with that stuff, but…if somebody’s sitting there and telling me, “I want you to change who you are”, it’s just—No. It’s not going to happen with me. 

Billie, 26

What do you do for a living?
I just applied to Graduate School for my Master’s in Social Work.

What do you look for in a partner?
I look for someone reliable, someone who’s aware of cultural issues and gender issues, someone who’s really funny, open-minded and non-judgmental. Just a person open to different things. That’s really important, being aware of what’s going on in society and how it affects people—men and women.

Tell me about the last date you were on.
The last date was…in the beginning of February? It was at a coffee shop in Dumbo. It went well, and… we made plans to meet up again, but it just kind of never happened. We had made a date to go to a museum (for) the next time, but he got sick and then said he’d text to reschedule and didn’t. And I had done enough pursuing at that point that I wasn’t then going to continue to pursue for that.  You know… I feel like it was in his court. I was like, Alright. You get used to flakiness, I think, at a certain point. And I hadn’t really seen that up until recently. 

I started dating in college and I had a long-term boyfriend, then I came home and didn’t date for a while, and now I’ve been dating for a year and a half—and I’ve met some pretty reliable guys—but the more you date, the more you realize that people in general are just kind of flaky. And I’m not a big fan of the ‘game playing’, or “Oh! I didn’t really get that text until…!”—You know, I just am pretty over it. 

Let’s talk about red flags.  
When people speak in a way that shows that they’re not taking responsibility for themselves, that’s a huge red flag. It’s really easy to gauge someone’s emotionally maturity, when they feel like the world is responsible for their problems. Other than that…I don’t know. I have trouble knowing when to stay with someone and when it just doesn’t feel right.  I also have a theory, that no matter what I feel in the beginning—even if I feel like the guy is vulnerable and he really likes me—in the end, I’m always going to get hurt more. That is my theory. And…that’s okay, I guess. 

Were you ever caught in a lie?
I don’t really lie a lot. I’m not usually in a situation that calls for lying. I won’t lie, but I’ll like—I’m trying to think of something that’s similar to lying—I’ll google the crap out of a guy before I meet him, or even after. Because I’ll know something about him that he doesn’t know that I know, and then I’ll have to pretend to not know it—because I found his Twitter or something. 

Did you ever ask for closure, and regret it later?
You know what, no. I’ve only gotten good closure, and I was actually thinking about this. Well actually [laughs]—with the first guy after my ex, —I ran into him randomly, two weeks after I…very badly broke it off with him, in a very immature way.  I insensitively broke it off with him. Well, I didn’t think I mattered that much—again, that’s me trying to rationalize why I was an asshole. But I really didn’t think that’s he’d give much of a shit. And then I knew, when he didn’t respond to me, that I probably did matter to him. Anyway—so I ran into him about two weeks later, tried to approach him to explain myself, and he did not want to hear it. I was like,“Wow! I didn’t get my way. That’s amazing…He wants nothing to do with me!”, so the way I had broken it off,  that was his deal breaker [laughs]. It’s not like I even wanted to get back, I just wanted to explain. And sometimes, you’re not going to be able to. 

Tell me about a date you will never forget.   
So, I dated someone last summer—and we’re still friends—He was overzealous, and he planned a picnic in Central Park. It was probably the third time we saw each other. He made these vegetarian sandwiches—I’m a vegetarian—he made lemon-limeade, brought blankets, Crazy Straws, and lots of things…and whoopee cushions, because he used to do kids’ parties [laughs].. He’s a theatre type, a very eccentric guy. I think he dressed up as a Tim Burton— like, an Alice in Wonderland- type clown. Who was that? The Mad Hatter. He’s the kind of guy who would play on the subway, it’s just part of his weird…nature. So he had all these party favors and it was great. We sat there and made these fart sounds [laughs] while the other people around us were having romantic, normal dates. It was pretty good. So that’s a happy colorful experience. 

I continued to date him for two months. It started really fast, and it was insane and we were addicted to each other, and then it kind of blew up…and then it ended. Which was good for me because it was kind of a stressful relationship—he had extremes, and he just doesn’t lead a regular life, so I was always worried about him (not) taking care of himself—but I don’t think anyone has understood me the way this guy does. And I think I understood him.

Annie, 23

What traits have become increasingly important to you, with age?
Really, they just have to have something that they’re passionate about. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, or what kind of job you’re into; I just want people to have different interests than I do, because I feel like I can learn and grow from the people around me. I dated a guy who was really passionate about fencing, and I don’t know a-ny-thing about fencing.

Fencing is kind of dangerous, isn’t it?
It’s not really dangerous, it’s just—they’re a little egotistical, number one, and they’re seriously competitive…and I probably don’t have a competitive bone in my body. So, he was just very, very driven for different reasons than I was, and so…his obsession with sports was impossible for me to relate to. I just don’t care at all. He took me fencing a few times, taught me a lot of things, and took me to competitions. I feel like I learned a lot from him, but it was more in the sports world.

Did he bring that sense of ego and competition into the relationship?
He’d just be competitive about silly things—about who got ready for dinner first, or for who…just anything, like [growls] Oh, we have to catch this train right now!”, and I just don’t have that sense of urgency or that competition. I found that a little bit intimidating, and a little bit stressful to be around. Sometimes it was completely overwhelming. He was really high-energy—which was great—but he was just so competitive about stupid, mundane things, and it was very shocking to me. 

Was he high-energy in the bedroom, as well?
Yes.  Definitely. He was just really intense in bed, which was kind of beneficial for me, because he found the competition in pleasing me. It was never a matter of who can please who more—for him, “winning” was pleasing me, which was really great [laughs]; It was actually pretty good in the bedroom [laughs].

Is it harder to please you now?
Not necessarily, because I kind of know that it came from his competitive streak, and sometimes it was completely overwhelming. I don’t date very much, in all honesty. I’m a very career-oriented person, and so, for me—I just moved here…This was a relationship that was a year ago, but at the same time…I don’t know, they’re just not comparable; They’re just not.  

What are your dating deal-breakers?
When it comes to deal-breakers or red flags—I think I kind of have a skewed vision of  all of that, because I dated the same guy for six and a half years. Like, from when I was fourteen to almost all the way through college. We were engaged, childhood sweethearts, and he broke it off with no warning whatsoever.  We weren’t fighting, he simply just fell in love with someone else and wasn’t honest about it.  So for me, [sighs] I haven’t been able—I can’t even bring myself to compare the people who I’ve dated, or say what a deal breaker is, because I feel like I’m still exploring so much about myself. I feel like I’m sixteen, like on first dates I get all nervous. And so, for me, I think I have a different version than a lot of other women do.

What are some red flags you’ve overlooked in the past?
Because of my previous relationship (with ex-fiance)—I had no idea that he was cheating on me…no idea that he was in love with another girl. I was engaged to him and completely happy—so I don’t even take the “obvious” red flags very seriously, because who the fuck knows what’s going to happen next. You know what I mean? If they’re overly aggressive, that is really the only thing.  All in all, if they have qualities that outweigh the “red flags”, then it’s worth it. I try not to put everyone inside the same concept, where it’s like, “Oh…if you do this, it’s over!”—I don’t want to limit myself to that. I’m still experiencing people and experiencing dating on a very new level, so no, I don’t think there are deal breakers that are red flags, other than being aggressive.  I think we just over-analyze the people in our lives, like…ridiculously

“Well…he didn’t use the right salad fork”, or “Oh…he didn’t hold the door open for me, and I thought that was really rude”, or “Oh…he calls his mother every day”—or, I don’t know—people are different. We all have different experiences and things that shape us, and…I’ve never been like, “This is a red flag. I can’t do this anymore!” I’ve never really broken it off for those reasons. I’ve broken it off for distance reasons and things like that, but never from like, “You did this one thing and it really pissed me off and upset me”.

How did you find out he was cheating on you?
He broke off the engagement, and then…about three weeks later I found out from a third party. I had known her—they had a radio show together, that I listened to every week, so I don’t really know how long it was going on. I still don’t know all the details. And they’re now engaged. So that was pretty much devastating. I spent six months just being completely…my life completely turned upside down, because we had never fought, we never got into arguments, we were like that stereotypical high school couple. I love his family, I called his parents “mama” and “papa”…And so, I was completely devastated after that. I thought my whole world was going to end. 

Now, is this the fencing guy?
No, this is a different guy. The Fencing guy…we broke up only because he lived in Paris. He convinced me that either I should move to Paris—We broke up mainly for distance reasons. I know, it sounds very romantic, you want to get swept up “Oh, the guy from France, the fencer…”

All my friends thought I was insane for breaking things off and not wanting to stay.  But actually, instead, I moved to New York and I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself, because there was not enough time between the breakup with my ex-fiance, and the French guy, for me to even know what I wanted. And actually, I’m still friends with the French guy. So, he wanted me to move to Paris to be with him, and instead I chose New York.