Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: New York, NY

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Liz, 26

What do you do for a living?
I'm a project manager in health care.

What's your relationship status?
I'm single, very single. I'm not actively trying to meet someone at all. I'm actively trying not to meet guys — I need to reset.

When you were actively dating, how did you meet people?
I have a horrible answer: I do improv and I met them all through improv. They were all just overgrown man-children — like what we find in New York everywhere, anywhere — but, you know.

You dated other improvisers?
Or their friends. Or their overgrown man-children friends who were bartenders or chefs. Sorry if they ever read this. Just Peter Pan syndrome out the ass.

What's the dealbreaker with the guy you just broke up with?
He broke up with me! But the dealbreaker was that it wasn't working and I do what I always do when it's not working: I pretend to be really high-maintenance. I'll be like "Why didn't you call me?!" when actually I really don't care. Then they say, "Oh, sorry," kind of back off, and disappear. I'm not really like this. I only do this if I don't like them. After we've been dating for a while and if it's not working — like the sex isn't working or I realize it's not meant to be or whatever — the easiest way to get out of it is to pretend I'm high-maintenance. I'm serious! It really works!

Can you give me a high-maintenance tactic?
I usually ask for more attention than I truly want. So this one guy — I didn't want to see him anymore. He's lovely, it was just wasn't going to work. I didn't want to be romantic with him. We had really wishy-washy plans one night and he called to say, "I'm not going to make it. I'm having dinner with friends." And I was just really passive-aggressive. Like, "You know what? Whatever," when I'm not really like that at all. I do this so they think, "This girl is just a little too much trouble," and it saves their ego, honestly. It's not a written-down tactic. I just realized this is always what I do. If I really like a guy and he wants to have dinner with his friends, I'm like, "Have fun!"

So what's the alternative you'd want to overgrown man-children?
Someone who's an adult and comfortable with himself. You have a real job and you make decent money and you have a decent apartment. Just have your motherfuckin' shit together. Or at least you want to be an adult, you're working towards being an adult. If they can't buy groceries for themselves and live with three other dudes in a disgusting apartment, no. The last guy I dated, he's never had a long relationship. And he's twenty-seven. And he's also a comedian and has self-confidence issues.

Is that a common trend among comedians?
Yes. Absolutely. And way more among men comedians than women. I mean, everyone has self-confidence issues, but men have more.


Conrado, 24

What do you do for a living?
I am an actor.

What's your relationship status?
I'm single. Relationships seem really difficult, especially at this point, given what I'm pursuing in my life. So being single seems to be right.

You said relationships are difficult. Is that from seeing your friends?
That comes from being a child of a broken family. That comes from seeing other relationships. I can't honestly think of one single happy marriage. All long-term relationships I know end in someone breaking up with the other person. I've never personally witnessed longevity in relationships. But I've actively dated since I was seventeen years old.

Is it you who typically ends things or is it them who typically ends things?
[laughs] It's often me planting reasons for them to end things. I'm often involved romantically with girls, often physically, but it's usually clear that my intentions aren't for longevity. So whatever happens just happens. Someone may move away. No one makes the effort to keep things going. I graduated from college a couple years ago and that was an easy way to end a lot of quasi-relationships. It's usually understood that my intentions are not to be anyone's boyfriend or to have a girlfriend. To be completely honest, there's only been one girl in my entire adult life who I've felt so strongly about that I've really wanted to possibly pursue something.

So what's so special about this girl that distinguishes her from everybody else?
She challenges me. I think that she's beautiful. I know that I enjoy being around her. I've liked her for a long time and it hasn't been very fruitful so it's probably also because it's a bit of a chase. Thinking about her makes me feel like I'm sixteen. I can see myself probably spending the rest of my life with her, but I don't want that right now. That sounds, like, so fucking big. But if someone said to me, "You have to choose today," it would be her.

Got any crazy hookup stories?
[pause] I had a girl push me into an unused entrance of a convent and pull my pants down and proceed.

Wow. What date was this?
This was after a couple weeks of being involved and enjoying each other's company.


Tianna, 23

What do you do for a living?
I work at a restaurant.

What's your relationship status?
I'm single. Single and looking. It's been difficult at times, just meeting people. I'm a weird person to be around sometimes. I don't really approach people ever. I've mostly been going to bars, and they're not good places to meet guys.

Do you have any bad bar stories?
A couple weeks ago we had three people come home with us and it was kind of a disaster. Way too many people in a house.

Was everyone paired off?
There were three of us females at the bar, and there were three of them, so one thing just led to another, but it was definitely not an orgy situation. It ended up very awkward in the morning. It was one of those things where if you're spending the night at someone's house and it's the first time — one-night stand, whatever — there's kind of of a grace period in the morning where you think, "Shit, I should probably get up and leave and go home and commence the rest of my day." You say your goodbyes. Well, it's three p.m. and one of them is still asleep in the bed and gets up and decides to take a shower. He was way too comfortable about crashing.

Was this your guy?
No, this was not my guy.

Did they all leave together?
No, they did not all leave together. One guy left at like, six a.m.

Did your guy follow up with you at all?
Yeah, we're friends on Facebook and we still talk and text. But he lives in Florida.

How would you grade him as a hookup?
I'd give him about a… B minus. Room for improvement. Talking while things are going on is a turn-off to me. If you're talking and trying to have a conversation, I can't get into it at all.

What was he trying to talk about?
He'd just ask me questions. I can't remember what exactly. I'm not a huge talker when it's going on. I'm not into "What do you want me to do to you?" Just do it. If I don't like it, I'll tell you to stop or move it somewhere else. But talking about it makes me uncomfortable and immediately makes me freeze up.

Do you have any other advice for guys? Pet peeves?
I've personally been in situations where guys just try to stick their fingers in my butt. Without asking! Not a huge fan of that. We'll be having sex and all of a sudden there'll be a finger in my butt.

Do they introduce it on sex-date one? Sex-date two?
Maybe date three? I was very uncomfortable. I was like deer-in-headlights "whoa." I just positioned my butt away and he got the hint right away. It was still very awkward for it to have happened. I also had an ex-boyfriend who was just way into butts, and there was a constant conversation with him to stay away from that area. We were dating for a long period of time, and he could take a joke about it, but I had to tell him it wasn't okay. He'd constantly try. He was very persistent. I think because of my background I have a pretty full rear end. So I tend to get guys who are very into the butt. But they should still ask! Maybe not on the first date, like, "What are your hobbies? Do you like it in the butt?" But if it's going down that road…

What about spanking? Is that okay?
Spanking's okay. Just don't insert anything.

Okay, no orifices without explicit consent. Aside from sex, any dating dealbreakers?
I'm pretty lenient on everything. I'm picky in that I have a certain type. I like chubby, bearded men. That's my thing. As shallow as it sounds, you can be a great person, but if you don't do it for me looking at you, then no. It's really important.

Carlos, 22

What do you do for a living?
I sell glasses and I act. But right now, selling glasses is paying bills and acting is taking my money. I'm single and dating but I'm kind of broke so the dating has been slowing down lately.

So are you hooking up in a friends-with-benefits situation?
Yeah, friends with benefits.

How did you find her?
We'd been friends for a while. She had a boyfriend and I had a girlfriend. But once that ended, we both were kind of like, "Relationships suck," and it was a win-win.

Why did your last relationship end?
Well, that's a really long story. She broke up with me but then she kind of dragged me along and toyed with me for a while, and finally I said, "I can't take it anymore." There was still a lot of still dealing with nonsense and baggage. Technically we were only together for six months. But baggage? Like two years. To be honest, it was my first real big relationship, so it was a lot of me not being ready to let go. A lot of wishful thinking. She would say she was going try harder and blah blah blah.

What's a dating-related dealbreaker?
Definitely jealousy. I have a lot of friends who are girls. And I flirt a lot. I'm guilty. I flirt a lot but it's harmless. And I hate when it becomes an issue with my friends, the people I hang out with. When she starts saying things about my friends like, "Oh, that girl likes you." I'm like, "Well, I've been friends with this person for a while and nothing's ever happened."

Do you have any constructive criticism for single girls you're dating?
Actually, I do have a constructive criticism: don't bring your baggage from your old relationship into your new relationship. For a lot of girls, there are guys who are assholes who break their hearts, but they drag this baggage into their new relationship and get too guarded waiting for the other person to really fully commit. So they think they're protecting themselves, but at the end of the day they're just ruining something that could've been good. A girlfriend of mine had a really bad relationship with her previous boyfriend. And even though I committed to the relationship and wanted to move forward, she held herself back a lot. If you really want to get into a relationship, you have to risk getting hurt.

Got any crazy hookup stories?
I got head in the back of a bus once, in Chicago. I was at a program in Illinois, a business leadership thing… so there were a lot of people on the bus.


Jennifer, 22

What do you do for a living?
I'm a makeup artist.

What's your relationship status?
I'm currently in a long-distance relationship.

Long-distance relationships seem to be tough.
In the beginning it was really, really hard. And it's always going to be, but as long as you trust each other and give each other the space that you need even though you are very, very far away from each other, you'll be okay. Don't call constantly. That's my tip.

How did you meet?
We actually met at a Valentine's Day party in Brooklyn at a mutual friend's house. [pause] A guy who I was kind of dating's house, actually.

So what was so awesome about this new guy that made you reprioritize?
He knew a lot about the Gin Blossoms. [laughs] I mean considering that he picked me up in line for the bathroom and offered me a Miller High Life and actually got me to drink it — that was pretty impressive.

What do you do about sex if it's long distance? When's the last time you got laid?
I get laid pretty consistently with this guy. We see each other about once every week or so. I mean — webcam, phone sex, sexting.

So you take advantage of your phone plan.
[phone vibrates] Awesome.

Is that him?
Yes it is! [looks] Okay, that was a sext.

Got any crazy hookup stories?
Oh God, do you really want to know? He and I are very experimental, very experimental. We make frequent trips to sex shops, always incorporating something. Lately we've been watching a lot of girl-on-girl porn while having sex.

Are there any common mistakes you see single people committing that make you think, "That's why you're single?"
They get too attached too easily. Have fun for a little while. Keep your options open for a little while — a little while being like, I don't know, a month. Hang out for a month with this person. See if you can actually stand each other. And don't try and push titles. In my relationship, he started the title conversation, and it wasn't for two-and-a-half months. The guys I've dated have always wanted to rush into a relationship. They should just lay off. I guess some girls like that, but whatever.

In terms of giving head: girls first? Guys first?
It's not okay if a guy doesn't give head. It's not okay. But in general, I prefer to receive second. Because I know if I receive first, I'm not going to put in any effort in. I'm just kind of done. It's true. So I've got to wait and go last.


Ronen, 27

What do you do for a living?

What is the kinkiest thing you've ever done?
Let's see. I'm trying to pick between a couple things. It depends on what constitutes kinky. I guess it depends on different people's standards of kink, it's like —

Give me one.
Well, it's also about how kinky it is to me. I spent a while without a home and when I was without a home, I ended up having a lot of sex in public places or bathrooms of bars with girls I was dating because we didn't have a place to go. So we'd go visit my friend at his bar and disappear for half an hour. But I don't know if that's considered kinky.

What else?
I spent a day training someone as a slave girl, at her request. Like tying her up. During that day, her breasts and nipples weren't sensitive originally. I noticed that and she said that yeah, she's not sensitive. So one thing that I did during the day is train them to be sensitive, and now they're really super-sensitive.

How did you train them to be sensitive?
Associatively. Just pure Pavlovian playing with her in areas where she was sensitive. Playing with that and then stopping — it was associative — to the point where I was like building to her orgasm. Then, by just playing with her breasts, which were associated with her clit… You can do a lot with that. I turned one girl's right eyebrow — er, her left, my right — her left eyebrow super-sensitive to the point where I could bring her to orgasm just by squeezing her eyebrow, because I would do it while I was also playing with other places. The associations were so strong that that was enough. Is that satisfactory?

That's more than satisfactory.
We're leaving out group sex because my experiences with it tended to be less kinky. I haven't done as much kinky stuff when I'm having group sex, because I'm too, like, "Yay!"

Do you have any dating advice for women?
[pause] I think girls keep a lot private in a normal, condescending way because they think guys are too insecure to take it. But that's kind of true: guys are too insecure. Women sometimes do this thing — it's the extension of faking an orgasm. Instead of acting like something is okay even though it's not, just communicate what you want. Give the person a chance to do what you want. Don't assume they won't.

Do you have any advice for guys?
Stop being such pussies! Get over it.

You mean about approaching girls or what?
Everything. Guys are just these insecurity machines that girls have to cater to. Guy game is all about confidence and girl game is all about putting on these kid gloves to handle guys' sensitive egos and make them feel okay. Guys can't handle the reality that girls also like sex and sleeping with multiple people. Guys are insecure, and then they get really clingy, and the insecure, clingy thing is ultimately a form of being a dick. When someone is insecure and needy with another person, really what it means is that they're acting entitled to the other person and not like they have to earn the other person. Because the confident person is like, "It's okay, I want to have to earn this person, because I'm confident that I can." The insecure person wants almost an assurance that the other person likes them because they feel entitled to that. They don't want to have to merit it.

Interviews and photography by Nancy Sun. Want to talk to strangers in your town? Email