Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: New York, New York

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Atlanta, 21

Are you in a relationship right now?

I am, and we’ve been together for over four years now. He went to my high school, he’s about two and a half years older than me. We just hit it off and it went from there. 

What were your first impressions of him?

I thought he was really sociable. Everybody knew him in school. He wasn’t one of the jocks, but I just thought he was a very sociable person who always liked to go out. But as I started dating him, I realized he’s very introverted. He has friends, but he doesn’t go out of his way to always be hanging out with somebody. He enjoys his own company, I guess, which isn’t a bad thing. We still go out. 

What gave you that impression?

I don’t know. Everybody knew him. He’s an artist, and he was always the best artist in school, so his drawings were everywhere, all over the school. Everyone kind of knew him like that, so I thought he was quote unquote famous around a lot of people. But the truth is everybody knew him, but they just never really hung out with him that much. 

How often do you guys go out?

Maybe once a week.  We’d like to go out more, but we’re both pretty broke right now.

What’s the worst date you were ever on?

My sister set me up with one of her friends and it just did not go well in general. I just felt so awkward. For instance, he was like, “Oh, go get all dressed up. We’re going to go out somewhere nice,” and in the end we wound up going to — it wasn’t even a restaurant, it was more like a diner. And I felt so awkward and weird, and overdressed, and we really didn’t click. I don’t think he enjoyed it either. You know, you could tell. Something was off, and it didn’t go well. It was just embarrassing, to be honest. 

What’s a mistake you continue to make in relationships? Maybe a trait that works to your disadvantage? 

I take things the wrong way often. I’m very meticulous, and if the guy doesn’t seem totally fine, I’ll think that he’s mad at me for some reason. And then I’ll ask him, “Why are you mad at me? What’s wrong?” and it turns out that nothing’s wrong at all. It’s just me being paranoid. I guess I’m overly sensitive like that.  It’s important to be sensitive, but not too sensitive so that you’re constantly worrying about other peoples’ thoughts, and their opinions of you in the general sense.  

Have you taken any bad dating advice in the past?

Try to be interested in the things they like to do. It just doesn’t work for me if I’m not interested in something. I can’t say that it ever turned out bad because it didn’t, but for instance, my boyfriend loves Game of Thrones and I tried to get myself into it but I just ended up hating it. So yeah, just don’t be too impressionable, I guess. 

What’s the most inaccurate stereotype women still project onto men?

That’s a tough one. I guess, that men aren’t as committed to women, that’s a big stereotype. I think that they can be. 

What’s your most dreaded sexual scenario?

I think if the guy is not able to get it up, that would be the worst case scenario for both involved. That’s probably the worst case scenario, I think. [laughs] 

What would you change about the opposite sex?

I think this general idea that men shouldn’t be allowed to show as much emotion, especially sadness. That they’re supposed to be stoic and manly and stuff, but I think it’s brave of a guy to show emotion and show when he’s upset instead of just hiding it. 

Do you have any advice for young, timid guys just starting to date?

I’d say, just don’t try to be cool or and don’t try too hard to impress the girl you like by showing that you’re popular or that you go to the gym a lot or whatever it is. Just, I know it sounds cheesy, but be yourself and generally just be nice and show that you’re interested in them. You know, women rarely make the first move. I think women in general are always doubting themselves, so be assertive about it but still be polite. Show that you want to hang out with them more and know more about them. For guys in general, you don’t have to be a gentleman all of the time. Holding doors open and partially standing up when a girl goes off to the bathroom on a date just makes things a little uncomfortable. It’s kind of overrated. 

Any universal relationship advice?

Let the other person know that you care about them, even if it’s totally random or out of the blue. Sometimes people like to hear that, I know I do. You know, consider each other’s feelings and things like that. And when you get into a fight, realize that you’re actually fighting for the relationship and not fighting against each other. 



What’s the longest hiatus you’ve ever taken from dating?

From a committed relationship, about two years. From casual dating, not long at all. I mean, I’m on that. I’m always sort of in the mix with something. I’m the type of guy who can’t spend too much time alone — I don’t want to spend time alone. Life is too short, so I’m always trying to be in front of a beautiful woman, making sure that I’m fulfilling her needs, in whatever capacity. As far as sex is concerned — like, now that I’m married, I’m suffering a bit, as a husband. My wife, who is Japanese — she decides when we have sex. And if I make one mistake throughout the course of any of this, I won’t have sex for a month or so.

If you make one mistake?

Any mistake. Meaning if I piss her off. She knows how to shut things down, you know?  She’s very good at that. Look — I could have sex at the drop of a dime with this woman, because she’s drop-dead gorgeous as well. But she likes to preserve it. And to be quite honest, I like that. I like that about her. Because I’m always wanting it and she’s always withholding it, which makes me want it even more. The payoff is even greater. So, in a weird, kinky way, it’s working. 

Do you think you have an Asian thing?

I do. I’ve never gone back to an American woman. I think I’ll be stuck on Asians for the rest of my life. 

To go slightly off topic, what’s one of your most disappointing sexual experiences?

I’ve had crabs. It was my first year at SUNY Purchase and it was during midterms. I had a chance to be in an orgy, but I said, “No. I’m not going to be in this orgy situation. I’m just going to go back to my room with this one chick.” That’s the kind of  guy I am. So I ended up getting crabs. And…that shit sucked. I mean, how could you not know that you had crabs? 

The worst part was that at the time, I was just starting to date this other woman — Just starting the relationship and just starting to have sex as well. I realized that I might have given the crabs to this woman and I had to make up a freaking lie, something like,

“Look, I think you should take this shampoo, and go home and wash, because I put on someone else’s gym shorts by accident, and I got crabs.” And that was fucking humiliating.

Did she stay with you, after that?

Yeah, she did. She actually did. She stayed, and I was damn proud she did, and I never had that again. So yeah, that was a low point. 

I know you’re married now, but before that, did you have any deal breakers?

No, because I was single, and as I said before, you can be “Blind, crippled, or crazy.” And I dated a woman who was actually crippled. She was sexy, and she was crippled. I went down that road, and that wasn’t a deal breaker. She had a peg foot, and I was like, “Fuck that. I can look past that. You’re beautiful, you’re still gorgeous.”  

Did you ever do something that was wildly out of character?

When I got married. Marrying my wife after a couple months, who does that? This woman, shit – two, three months after we met. And it was totally out of character.  You’re supposed to go at least six, seven months to a year or so, before you marry a woman, but I just reached a point where I felt I could trust it, you know? Looking back, I’m really glad I rolled the dice. 

What’s one of your greatest regrets?

Oh god. Don’t we try to forget these things?

Yes, we do.

Okay. One time in middle school I touched this girl’s ass in front of me. This beautiful white chick with blond hair and big bright blue eyes. She had an ass like a sister. She was in front of me on line and she had on her favorite jeans, and they just wrapped around her ass so perfectly. So I just reached out, and I sort of caressed it gently, like wow. I just couldn’t stop myself. It’s like I was hypnotized by it. It was just so fucking perfect. That was one of my biggest regrets. 


Katie, 33

Tell me about the time you most regret ignoring your gut. 

I had a boyfriend who told me, straight up, not to trust him when we first got together. We had a physical relationship, and then, like — in a moment of clarity, he said “Don’t trust me,” and I should have listened to that, but I didn’t. I went against that feeling. The physical relating we had was excellent, so I decided to throw that information away, and go into the drama.

He told you not to trust him, right after you slept together?


How did you respond? Did you just dismiss it and say, “Oh, what are you talking about?”

I went into the danger of it, because it felt kind of fun. I had a fear of intimacy, so I was kind of playing with someone who wasn’t available. And that kept me safe. Well, we had an on and off again relationship for two years, which ended with a restraining order and an abortion. It was a dysfunctional relationship, and I got to play the age-old role of damsel in distress with a man after her. It was just something that had to be purified out of my system — this really intense experience helped connect me to my intuition. 

How long ago was this?

About five years ago.

At what point was the restraining order necessary?

He would come over to my house and knock on the door and he’d be like, “I’m here!” And I’d say, “This isn’t appropriate. We’re not together. Leave me alone.” He just wouldn’t take the word no. He thought we were playing a game, but we weren’t. 

Would you say he was a sociopath?

He definitely was. He was a friend of a friend, also. If I had met him now, I wouldn’t ever engage with someone who’s obviously very hurt inside, like he was. I would know to say, “Thank you. You’re an amazing person, and now, goodbye.” Instead of jumping into the pit. 

What drew you to this darkness? What can you say about your prior relationships?

I wasn’t available. I thought I was available to connect with another human in a romantic way, but I learned that I wasn’t actually in a position to attract. I thought I was this person looking for true love, but I actually needed to work some shit out, and this person got to show me where I really was. I’m healing my relationship with the masculine and learning to trust the masculine, so that I can open up that part of myself.  Because if I don’t like the masculine, I’m not going to connect. This way, I can let someone in, who’s going to be trustworthy. 

This ended five years ago. Have you been in any relationships since then?

Not really, but I did go on a date last night. I was just present for it, and I didn’t try to control anything. I just showed up to give this guy a good experience, and I didn’t control, I didn’t tell him he needed to change anything. My teacher says, “Take your jungle pad out and take notes when you first start dating a guy, so that you can just observe their behavior.” 

Your jungle pad?  Is that a place where you take mental notes?

Yeah. So you don’t immediately jump into bed and get attracted to somebody — because the female brain works like that. Once you sleep with someone, you’re attached.  So it’s about controlling my animal urges until I find that this person is a good partner. 

How long have you been celibate?

[takes phone out] Right now, I have…112 days [smiles].

I was able to hug the guy last night, and I gave him a hug and I felt the attraction, and I said, “Okay, great. You have this attraction, now go home.” Because I’m a grown woman, right? And I’ve had a lot of physical experiences, but now I’m in a place where I’m taking more time. So that my vagina isn’t running the show. 


Gessie, 35 & Mandel, 34 

Gessie, you’re from the Bronx, and Mandel, you’re from New Orleans. How did you first meet?

Gessie: Well, before he went to the military, we met at Home Depot where he used to work. He worked for corporate. So it happens that one day I was with my family and that’s the day we met. It’s funny, because I remember everything about that day. A mall had just opened up in my neighborhood, and Home Depot was the first store that opened.

Me, my parents, my aunt, grandmother, and son went on a little field trip, getting to know the new businesses. My son wanted a shopping cart with a Nascar attached to the front, so I went back and got one. I saw Mandel on my right when I was walking down the aisle and I thought, Oh my god, he looks so good. Each aisle I went into, for some reason, I would bump into him. I felt he was following me because at every turn, he was right there. He asked me if I wanted to get a consultation on my apartment and I told him no, because I was renting. He said, “Well, talk to your landlord and just give me your number,” so I filled out a form with my number, address, and other stuff. He says I was in my bitter stage at the time, because of what I had been through with my ex. 

Mandel: She was very bitter. Oh, she was bitter as hell. 

Gessie: Not like that. I told him before, “I’ll give love a second chance”. But sometimes it’s hard to trust people. You’ll open yourself up and next thing you know, your heart is getting broken, right? So I was being careful. I had my little wall up. And handsome men are real trouble. They’re heartbreakers. 

Gessie, where is your ex now?

G: He lives in New Jersey with his new wife, and he does nothing for his son.

He’s really not in his son’s life. I call him the sperm donor [laughs]. 

Mandel, were you in New Orleans for most of your life?

M: I lived in New Orleans for most of my life — I studied at Louisiana Tech, and I played in the NFL for a couple years but then I hurt my knee. And then I lived in Detroit for seven years, and moved to New Jersey after that. About a year after I moved to New Jersey, that’s when we met. 

Before our interview started, you were sneaking up behind people and wrapping your arms around them as they walked by, jumping in front of their faces, snatching the hats off of their heads—

M: I’m a friendly guy! I’m from the south. This is how I was brought up, and this is how I am. You might like it or you might not. Either way, this is how I’m bringing it to you. See, I’ll walk up to people and introduce myself. Nobody’s introducing me. I’m cutting out the middleman, because I don’t need the middleman. I’ve tried to take precautions and be more careful, but I’m very impulsive and trying to control it is unnatural. So I just walk up and do whatever. She hates it. She can’t stand it. 

G: It’s not that I can’t stand it. It’s the principle that sometimes you have to take it down a notch. I don’t mind if he goes and has his fun. I don’t want him to change his personality. I think it’s just the fact that he’s so nice…and so friendly, and New York is not used to that.

Times Square also encourages outrageous behavior. Have you been to the more low key neighborhoods yet, Mandel?

G: I wanted to take him to Soho. That’s my favorite area. I love Soho. 

M: I don’t want to go to Soho. 

G: And the Meatpacking District

M: No!  I like the hood. 

Would Soho mellow him out a bit?

G: No….no. [laughs] He’d be the same.

M: I am who I am. There’s nobody changing me. I’m thirty-four. And I’m not scared of anything.