Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: New York, NY

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Rissa, 25

What's your name and what do you do?
I'm a hostess at a large corporate restaurant. I'm also trying to write children's books. I'm on my second one right now. I'm trying to get published right now; it's hard.

Has your job ever gotten you laid before?
Ha! Not laid, but phone numbers definitely. Guys come up to me all the time and leave their numbers on the hostess stand. Or they'll ask me out for drinks. I've had to deny a lot of them. It happens like once every week or two. But we get some weirdos there, so it's not as impressive as it sounds.

Have you ever gone out with a customer?
Yeah. I've gone out with two. Oh my God, both were so bad. The first one worked with me. Fooling around at my job is not condoned at all. In the elevators or on empty floors; it's just so sketchy going back to work afterwards. He went down on me in the elevator, for like nine floors.

That's not a lot of time to get off. Did it happen?
No! It was the worst tease ever!

What happened? It sounded like everything was going so well.
Well, I have a boyfriend.

Do you have an open relationship or were you just not feeling your boyfriend?
I feel like it's just something I do for me. It's not because I'm unhappy in the relationship; it's just because I need to go out there and do things for myself. I'm totally in love with him. Things like that make me love him even more; if I liked him less afterward, I would obviously break up with him.

Were you not getting enough oral attention?
No, I was. I still do. It's great. But I like to try different things. I like to mix it up.

Is the relationship serious?
Oh, it's serious. We live together. We've been together for four years. I totally want to get married.

When you get married, will things change?
Yes! If we're married, I won't do… that stuff.

Does he know about it?
Are you serious?! No! He definitely doesn't know about it. Like I said, I feel like I do that stuff just for me. I go through a lot of shit on my own that he doesn't need to know about. I don't confide in him. He doesn't need to know about the boys or girls I hook up with. He always tries to get me to tell him about the girls I've hooked up with, and that's not his business!

Have you ever brought a boy or girl home before?
Yeah. And it was horrible. I thought I would really like another person there, but I was totally jealous. I really didn't think I would be that way, but I am. And also I don't like a third party — it's awkward. Three is definitely a crowd, because one person is left out, playing with himself. It's tricky, you really have to multi-task. I can't multi-task while I'm doing this shit! I've got to think about myself!

Why weren't you getting any attention?
Because I was like, oh yeah, go ahead, baby — to see if I liked it. And then they started going at it and I was like, oh, hell no! Get out!

Did you kick her out or let her stay the night?
We continued, just me and her. My boyfriend wasn't allowed to touch her. Girls and boys are totally different. Girls intuitively know what other girls want and guys have no fucking idea.

Have you ever been in a relationship with a woman before?
No, no, it's just sex. I've considered dating a woman before, but I don't think I'm emotional enough. I totally want to fuck them, but I can't get there emotionally.

Women would probably be really good at getting your emotional side out, no?
I don't know. Maybe I crave men because I have daddy issues.

What kind of daddy issues do you have?
Oh man. Talk to any crazy girl, you know they've had daddy issues. I realized a few years ago, I went to college and realized how much my parents fucked me up. I was like, man, my childhood sucked! But I understand. You get to that place where you realize your parents are human too.


Riff, 30

What do you do?
I'm a bartender and a musician.

Has that ever gotten you laid?
Yes. It definitely doesn't hurt.

Have you ever gone on a date with a customer?
I have before, but I try not to anymore. A., because I'm seeing someone and B., because it's also not a good idea to look for people to date where you work, because then they start coming in all the time and it get can weird. Actually, the girl I'm seeing now kind of stalked me at the bar for awhile.

So maybe you're into that. What was her method?
She just showed up at the bar every night I was working. Luckily, she was pretty and nice.

What do you look for in a partner?
A really nice rack is always good. No, I'm kidding. I like girls who are well-read and intelligent, who can hold a conversation.

What about taste in music?
You know, it's really weird. In my other significant relationships, I've never seen eye-to-eye on music with my girlfriends, and it's never bothered me. I'm in a metal band, and my current girlfriend has the worst taste in music ever. She listens to Hot 97 and really awful top-forty. She works in the school department, so I think working with kids influences her taste in music.

Is the music on or off while you're having sex?
I can do it either way. If it's setting the mood, then sure, but if it's spontaneous sex, I'm not going to stop everything to put a record on. I lost my virginity to Slayer, so that's pretty awesome, I think. And for setting the mood, I go with Al Green, or Otis Redding, maybe even Sam Cooke.

How long have you and your girlfriend been together?
Just over two years, on and off. The first year was a little rough. I did some bad things. I cheated on her… a few times. I just wasn't ready to commit. She was in a weird place too because she had just broken up with a boyfriend of seven years. So she was kind of pushing the relationship in the beginning, but now it just naturally fits and works for us.

How'd she find out about the cheating?
She's sneaky. She checked my phone and found the text messages.

How do you feel about that? Do you feel violated?
Here's the thing: people who snoop should realize that they might not like what they find. So you have to be ready for that. I feel like it was an invasion of privacy, but I was also doing something wrong. We both did something that we shouldn't have.

Where's the craziest place you've ever had sex?
I've had sex in bar bathrooms before. But that's not really unusual. I think everybody does that.


Maura, 26

What do you do?
I'm a writer and actor. I was recently in — I'm not going to say the name of it — but one of the worst musicals in the world.

Were you in Spider-man?
No. But it was one of the worst off-Broadway musicals. But I'm about to do a play in Chicago.

Has your job ever gotten you laid before?
Of course! In college, I did two nude scenes in separate plays, so I was the most popular girl in the school for about two months. I had one guy who came to every performance and brought flowers. It was kind of romantic, but I had a boyfriend. Guys on Facebook also messaged me and said stuff like: "I saw you in the show tonight…." and so on.

How naked are we talking?
Naked, naked. But it was necessary; it wasn't gratuitous. In my personal life, I would never walk down Fifth Avenue naked, but this nudity was very sweet and innocent. It wasn't porn-y at all.

Is there a lot of incestuous behavior among cast members?
Well, I call them show-mances. Of course they happen! Though I've noticed in New York, it's more common in the gay community than in the straight community.

There are straight people in musical theater in New York?
[laughs] There are. Occasionally. It's few and far between. I mean, I have yet to be in a musical with straight people, but I hear tales, so I'm just waiting.

Tell us about one of your craziest hook-ups.
I hate to say I'm terribly Presbyterian in this matter, but I kind of am. Oh! I had sex in the costume room at a Broadway theater. I was in a long-term relationship and had said something one night about it, in jest, and it just kind of happened. It was during intermission and we just went for it. It was great because there was a ninety-percent chance that someone was going to come in to get a hat or something.

Are you dating anyone now?
I am. We've been together for almost two years. It's good. We have different professions, so that helps. He's a gastroenterologist. He's older. My dad was a doctor and one of his colleagues introduced us.

How much older is he?
Eleven years.

Is there any pressure from his side to settle down and get married?
Yeah, yeah. There's some of that. But I'm not letting any pressures dictate my life right now. The first time I met his mother, she tightened my shirt against my belly to see if I was pregnant. I grew up in the South, so my mom is also all about getting married and having babies. I really want to travel more before I even consider having kids. I feel like I've accomplished a lot for my age and I feel perfectly cool professionally — I'm not pressuring myself to win any awards or make a ton of money. I just want to spend a lot more time being selfish.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get laid?
I traveled 500 miles to get laid once. My boyfriend is Canadian and he was briefly denied access to the country because of a visa mix-up, and it was only a week, but I was so… [hand gesture]

Yeah. So horny that I hopped on a bus to a plane to Toronto. And it had nothing to do with missing him or anything, it was all about insertion. It was well worth it. It was like the beginning-of-the-relationship-sex again. Ugh, it was the worst place in the world too. Alberta, Canada, it was like negative twenty-five degrees, you can't make a left turn, and it's all strip malls. I could only stay for forty-eight hours, thankfully. It was a long trip for two days, but it was worth it.

Erin, 24

What do you do?
I work for a play publishing company.

Has that ever gotten you laid?
I'm not sure that specifically has gotten me laid, but my interest in the arts in general has. It helps when you're looking for people with whom you have mutual interests.

Mututal interests. That's why you have sex with people, right?
[Laughs] That, and general attractiveness. Yes.

When was the last time you had sex?
Well I'm not in a relationship now, so it was a couple of months ago. It was this guy I was kind of seeing at the time. It wasn't exactly a causal hook-up, but he lived in D.C. so it was kind of a long distance thing. I liked him but it was a bit of a pain in the ass. D.C. isn't that far, but it's just far enough to be a huge pain in the ass for a relationship.

Tell me about someone you're embarrassed to be sexually attracted to.
Alan Rickman. I know he's an old dude now, but goddamn it, is he sexy. It's that voice. I wish I could have sex with his voice. If anyone could duplicate his voice, that would do it for me. That's all you need.

What are some dating dealbreakers?
I get pretty turned off when guys use cheesy pick-up lines — like, "did it hurt when you fell from heaven?" Ugh! That line is the worst! It doesn't have to be just pick-up lines; it's the way guys can talk to you sometimes. Like they're using a script. It's so transparent to me that I imagine it is to everyone, but it must work sometimes if these guys keep using it!

What's the best sex you've ever had?
Probably with my ex-boyfriend, but when we weren't together. You know how it is when you have a connection; it's just different and intimate. It was very much in the moment. I think that's the best kind of sex you can have; when neither of you really care about tomorrow.


Nico, 23

What do you do?
I'm a bartender. I'm also a writer. I write for music publications, interviewing bands and stuff like that. Today's my birthday!

Has your job ever gotten you laid?
One of my favorite quotations is "All a writer has to do to get a woman is say he's a writer." Saul Bellow said that.

So how have you used Saul Bellow's mojo to get yourself laid?
Well, writing for the music publication, I've gotten backstage to interview bands, and you know, people are vain sometimes, they're into the glitz and glamour.

What's your relationship status?
Actually, I just got out of a long-term relationship, so I'm fucking everything in sight.

When's the last time you had sex?
Two or three days ago. My neighbors complained about the noise.

What are you yelling in bed that pisses off your neighbors?
Oh, it's not me. I'm quiet as a mouse. She's not saying coherent things, so much as just making noise. I'm trying to shove my shoulder into her mouth while we're having sex because I don't want my neighbors to hate me even more.

So why don't guys make any noise in bed?
Well, me personally, I don't want to get thrown out of my apartment.

Really? That's why?
Yeah! And when I was back home, I didn't want my mom to hear me, then I moved to New York, and now I don't want the neighbors to hear. So yeah, I've just kind of learned and adapted to not making noise.

When did you lose your virginity?
I was seventeen.

Did you love her?
Yeah. I still do. She's the girl I just broke up with. We were together for three years.

Why'd you break up?
There were a gazillion reasons. She was super-boring in bed.

How did you know she was boring in bed if you lost your virginity to her?
Well, I've learned that as time has gone on. She had no sex drive either. I was always on top.


Caitlin, 21

What's your name and what do you do?
I'm finishing up my last semester at Parsons.

Are you in a relationship?
Yeah, I met someone freshman year and then I proceeded to date him for the next three years. We're still dating now and we live together. We've actually lived together basically since we started dating, because I didn't want to live in the college dorms. My dorm became my closet and I took over the room in his house, and fell in love with his cat.

How's the sex?
Amazing. It gets better and better every day. Being with someone for so long, you get more comfortable and try new things.

What kind of new things?
I am extremely shy. But dating someone for three years, you open so much more and become so much more willing to try things I never would. I was what you might call a total prude before I started dating my boyfriend.

Where's the craziest place you've ever had sex, prude?
When we first started dating we would have sex in the auditorium at night or in the library's bathroom while we were studying. The back of his car when he was dropping me off at the airport. And it's crazy because it's not my personality at all to do these things!

Do you believe in soul-mates?
Yes, I do. My parents met in high school. My mom was engaged to my father's best friend for awhile and then my mom and dad fell in love, and they got married at the end of high school and they've been happily married ever since. I grew up with this fairy-tale idea of love and it's terrifying for me, because you see all these failed marriages, and it's something that I've always believed in and wanted.

Do you want babies?
I do want to have kids, but not until I'm financially stable. I'm not baby-crazy right now, I think they're adorable and I do want to have kids at some point, but not until I can give them everything they need.

When would you ideally get married?
It doesn't really matter to me. I'm just graduating. We live together already and it's working out really well, so I don't think there's any reason to rush into it.

Interviews and photography by Lina Canney and Libby Rumelt. Want to talk to strangers in your town? Email