Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: New York, NY

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we've just met.

Ralph, 31

What do you do?
I own a bar. 

Has that ever gotten you laid?
Since I've been a bar owner, I've had a girlfriend, so I haven't been able to cash in on that yet. I've had the opportunity to, but I haven't. That's very important — please make sure you print the "have not" part. 

Got it. So when girls proposition you, what's the politest way to decline?
I usually just say I have a girlfriend. That will generally do the trick. 

There have got to be some stubborn ladies, not taking no for an answer. 
Oh yeah. I have a really gross story. So I was working a late night, which I don't do anymore. It was about 3:30. She was wasted and coming onto me really hard, you know, as it goes. I told her I had a girlfriend. She said she didn't care. So it's just her and me in the bar, I'm trying to close up and ignore her, and she falls off her bar stool. So I call her a car and literally have to cradle her and carry her outside, and as we're walking out, she's like, "I have to go to the bathroom." So she goes back inside and is in the bathroom for twenty minutes. Finally, I go get her again and carry her outside again. We're waiting for a car for her, I'm like, "Cool, have a good night," and she literally grabs the back of my head and jams her tongue down my throat. And she had clearly, clearly, just thrown up. It tasted like regurgitated Honey Nut Cheerios, which then, of course, caused me to puke. 

How long have you been with your girlfriend for?
It's been three and a half months. One of the bartenders here hooked us up. 

What'd you do on your first date?
First date… Very interesting actually, we hung out at her place. 

Wait. Do you know that that was a booty call? She booty called you.
It may have been. I think that's actually what she was interested in. But then we ended up hitting it off. The first time we met, we had a drink and then she called me the next day and was like "Oh, you should come over." 

What was her line? "Come over to watch a movie?"
No. It was awesome. She was totally upfront. When she said we should hang out, she meant, we should hang out. So that's what we did. We hung out for a couple of hours and then she was like, "We should go in my room," and we did, and stayed up all night drinking and talking. 

Did you have sex on the first date?
No. No, it was one of those situations where it was coming to that and we both agreed it would be more special if we waited. 


Charlie, 24

What do you do?
I'm a law student.

Has that ever gotten you laid?
No, because I've had a significant other since I started school.

How'd you guys meet?
I was doing an internship, and during a tour of the office for new interns, she saw me. She emailed my direct boss and asked if I could be her intern. And that was kind of it. Our first date was at an Ani DiFranco concert, because we're stereotypical lesbians. She tried to take me home that night, but my friend was visiting from out of town and I had to take him to the train station. So instead I went home with her the next night. We played strip Guitar Hero at her place.

So what was it like to have that kind of power dynamic in the workplace?
It was awesome because everyone in the office knew exactly what was going on. My fiancee was an adult already and I was some college intern, so it gave us a lot of pull because her company is run by creepy, disgusting old men and they were very into the fact that we were dating. We played it up to our advantage, definitely.

So it sounds like your fiancee is pretty dominant at work. Does that carry over to the bedroom?
Yeah, she's the boss. It doesn't always carry over though. If I'm in a crappy mood, I'm definitely the boss.

So when you're the boss what does she have to do?
Whatever I tell her to do. I don't know. Ah…

Say it.
She has this thing. She doesn't always let me go down on her. But when I'm the boss, that's happening.

Wait, why doesn't she want you to go down on her?
She just has never been into it apparently. She's far more experienced than I am. She has her shtick and that's just one of the things that came along with her. So I have to either convince her or make her let me do it. I like doing it!

So when you go down on her, is it a successful endeavor?
Yes! Very much so! And every time I do it, she says, "I don't know why I don't let you do that."

Awesome. So you're engaged. How are you feeling about marriage?
I'm feeling like it's a pain in the ass that I have to go all the way to Conneticut to get married. We're still figuring out the finances of it all. She's supporting us and I'm a poor law student.

Have you met your fiancee's family yet?
Oh yeah. They're very Catholic and Republican. We've been together for four years and until a year ago, we had to sleep on separate floors of the house when we visited. Her mother was kind of apprehensive at first, but she likes me so she behaves herself.

What kind of weird shit has happened at family dinners?
Her mom likes to instigate politically, so sometimes things get a little uncomfortable. But her family is fantastic and I do love them. Now we just try to avoid areas where we know we will disagree. I mean, we just have different beliefs. My family is a bunch of Jews from Brooklyn, so we tend to be pretty liberal.


Michelle, 29

What do you do?
I'm an art director.

Has that ever gotten you laid?
Yes. Perhaps Charlie told you about it?

Yes, but I'd like to hear your side.
All the interns are girls from Long Island who look exactly the same — perfectly tanned, straight hair, same clothes. But there was one who stood out. I nudged my coworker and I was like, "I'm going to get with her." So I emailed the head of the department and I was like, "Who's that girl you have? I think she'd work well on my team. We could really use some help down there in design — we're just swamped!" He didn't answer that email for about a month, and finally he sent her down with something to deliver to me, and I was so shocked to see her, when she tried to hand me the envelope, I dropped it. Then we saw each other at the same Ani DiFranco concert.

So what were you doing before you started dating Charlie?
A rotation. Keeping my lies straight? [laughs] I was really not looking for a relationship.

When did you come out?
In high school. Ninth grade, I guess? I had my first kiss with a girl and compared it to my first kiss with a guy and I was like, "Wow, okay, there are fireworks," and that hadn't happened with a guy. It opened up a new world for me. It wasn't that I wouldn't date guys after that, because I did. I just also dated women and I felt like I was so much more open to meeting the right person because I wasn't using gender as an obstacle anymore.

Why do you think bisexuals get such a bad rep?
I hate the word bisexual. It makes me think of frat parties and drunk girls making out with their friends for attention. I get a lot of that attention being a lesbian and it's really offensive, because my relationship is really dignified and I want people to see it that way — as a legitimate relationship, not a joke. I think because of the experimentation in college, people tend to think being a lesbian is a phase or it's a fantasy. It's not something you pursue and develop into a long-term, meaningful relationship and a family, which is what I intend to do.

Is there a word for your sexual orientation that you identify with?
No. I haven't come up with it yet. I never really sat down and thought about it because it doesn't matter to me. I know who I am without attaching a label to it. I also think sexuality is very fluid, so there would need to be a scale of words to express that.

Do you think sexuality is fluid for both men and women?
I think it's fluid for everyone, but I think it's especially difficult for men to be bisexual or gay. I think that gay men suffer a lot more abuse. Walking down the street, I don't fear for my safety, so much as my dignity. Gay or bisexual men have to fear for their safety; gay or bisexual women fear for their dignity.

So what do you expect from your relationship in the future?
Our relationship is fucking fantastic. I know a lot of people say they're married to their best friend, but it's really like that for us. Every night is a sleepover, we have the best time, we love the same things, it doesn't matter how shitty my day was, seeing her when I come home makes everything better and the sex is fucking fantastic. I think the next stage for us is budgeting for children. We want a house, a yard, we want it all.

How are you going to go about having children?
My conscience says I should adopt. I know there are a lot of children who need homes. But everybody wants to have their own children. And really — who wouldn't want these genes? [gesturing to Charlie]

So, sperm bank?
I want the father to be around. If my kids want to know who their dad is, I don't want them to feel like they have to search to find him. I think it's really important for that man to be available to them. I also want our kids to be exposed to men in their lives — I want them to have a balanced upbringing.

Iram, 37

What do you do?
I work in finance.

Has that ever gotten you laid?
Absolutely. You know, you run into girls who are looking more for resumes than they are for the actual package behind it. If the resume plays, the resume plays. When you say "finance," girls have this idea that anyone who works in finance obviously makes millions of dollars. I don't, but…

But you let them think you do.
It costs me fifty bucks at a bar to pretend I'm something I'm not. I play the character.

Do you feel it's important to pay on the first date?
I think it's mandatory, isn't it?

No, it's not mandatory, but it's appreciated.
This is my theory: whoever asks whoever out, they should pay.

How many times have you been asked out on a first date by a girl?
A couple times. It was quite flattering to me. I was very excited about the moment.

Are you single right now or in a relationship?
I am single right now.

How long have you been single for?
Thirty-seven years.

Seriously, when was your last relationship?
Two-and-a-half years ago.

What kind of sexual experiences have you had in the past two-and-a-half years?
Are we talking romantic or are we talking skanky?

Anything you want to talk about.
I'm not that kind of girl. I don't just say these sorts of things!

You must have some crazy escapades being single and in New York for two years.
I went to college with this girl, and she got married, moved to Jersey, settled down, lived the happy life. Quiet, relaxed. Three years later, the bottom falls out, she gets divorced, moves back to the city. Calls me up. Haven't seen her in forever, let's catch up. So we go out to a bar, and started hanging out, having a good time. We go out for a cigarette. She's just divorced so she's on the prowl, hardcore. I said, "Listen, let's smoke a bowl back at my place, chill out, no big deal…"

So it was your idea?
Well, she was a friend of mine. It had no feeling of romance. So anyway, we're getting ready to leave and she goes, "Oh, this is some chick I met, she's coming with us." So we come back to her place instead, I go to the bathroom, I come back, the two of them are already topless, they're in bed, going at it. I wasn't sure what was going on. I wasn't sure if this was like double dutch, where you jump in. So I jump in, but it's intimidating, especially when the two of them are into each other and I'm kind of the third wheel. When I tried to help out, I got the shove.

What did you try that got you the shove?
They actually said, "Do you mind if we have a moment together?"

You got the bench.
What I found funny was that my friend wasn't the least bit lesbian or anything. But afterward, she said, "I felt comfortable with you. I could let my guard down and do whatever I wanted with you there." And I was like, bravo, girl. I watched quite a bit.

So they asked to have a private moment but you were still in the room?
It was a studio. There wasn't anywhere else to go.

Did their "private moment" also work out for you?
Yeah, it did. There was a shower. When you get dirty, you gotta wash up.

That was a really great story. Thank you.
Didn't know I was going to share that.


Jen, 32

What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Jen and I'm a fundraiser.

Has that ever gotten you laid?
I don't think so. Going to Columbia gets me laid sometimes. I'm a graduate student.

How does that get you laid?
Guys just assume I'm smart, like I know what I'm doing. I'm like, "no."

Do you not know what you're doing?
In life?

Or in the bedroom, whatever.
I know what I'm doing in the bedroom. In life, not so much.

When did you lose your virginity?

What was that experience like for you?
I was a freshman in high school. It was super embarrassing. I was a cheerleader and I slept with the captain of the football team… on his water bed.

Are you single or in a relationship right now?
I'm single, except for this casual thing.

How long as this casual thing been going on for?
Three years. Pretty consistent. We're best friends. His ex-girlfriend was one of my roommates in college. We weren't close. So we met through her, and became really great friends. They were already falling apart. We slept together one Super Bowl Sunday and it's never really stopped. They went through their breakup, she moved out.

How do you navigate if it's been on and off for three years? How do feelings not get hurt?
Well, they do. We fight all the time.

So you're like a couple, you just don't call each other boyfriend and girlfriend.

Are you allowed to sleep with other people?

And your feelings don't get hurt by that?
I go through periods where I just don't want to hear about it, which I'm sure sounds ridiculous. He's just not in a place where he's ready to chill out.

So you're going to stick it out with him, is that the idea?
I tell him all the time, "We have each other. I love you," but it's both of us. We're just both not in a place to settle down.

So you sleep with other guys too?

Are you happy with the arrangement you have or would change it?
I'm happy with it. I would only want it to change if he changed.

So you don't want to be the one to initiate the change?
No, I want him to do it on his own.

Do you think this guy is a soulmate?
He's definitely my best friend. We talk four times a day, we see each other all the time. He's just so afraid of a girlfriend or a wife, he won't…

Why do you think that is?
Deep down, I think he's insecure and he likes having his options open because he likes the attention from different women. I think he feels bad a lot. I do. I feel bad sometimes.

Are you using protection?
Honestly, no. But we have an agreement that we do with other people. And I know I do, and I'm fairly certain he does.

Do you think you're kind of holding out for him a little?


Mo, 35

What do you do?
I'm a TV and film producer.

Has that ever gotten you laid?
Yes. It's sort of a stereotypical story. I was working late in the office with a girl, and we were flirting back and forth, and one night turned into two hours of work, three hours of work, and we ended up fucking in the office and then went to her place.  The next day, we came back into the office and acted like nothing had happened, which I was extremely happy about because her boyfriend was my boss.

No! Were you shitting yourself?
No, it's probably not the right thing to do, but I didn't shit myself. We never hinted at anything. There was never a look, a glance, a text. Nothing.

Did you find that to be hot?
Yeah, it was hot. Doing it in the office is always hot.

Okay, give us the details.
It was ten o'clock at night and I pulled this move where I walked over to her and leaned in really close to show her something, and we looked at each other and then I just dove in. I put her up on the desk, pulled her skirt up, and pushed her thong to the side.

Wow. So are you in a relationship now?

When's the last time you got laid?
Two months ago.

Someone you were dating? One-night stand?
It was more like a fourteen-night stand.

If you were in a relationship, how often would you want to be getting laid?
At least six times a week. But I'm a sexual person. Every relationship I've been in, I can honestly tell you I average about five times a week.

What's the longest relationship you've been in?
Three years. It just didn't work out, and I'll leave it at that because she might read this.

She's a cool girl?
No, she's not a cool girl. You can quote me on that.

Interviews and photography by Lina Canney and Libby Rumelt.