Talking to Strangers: New York, NY
Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
by Daniela Cervetti
Are you from New York?
Jersey City, but I was raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
And what brings you here tonight?
Seeing my boyfriend.
What does he do?
Right now he's a waiter, but he's studying at FIT for Fashion Design. So he makes women's shoes and purses and stuff like that.
Are you also involved with the fashion industry?
No, actually, I'm doing social work. The total opposite. But I'm artistic, so it works hand in hand.
How has your career in social work influenced your approach to relationships?
Well, I'm going to school for my master's right now at Fordham University, but I'm doing HIV counseling right now, and I have thirteen years of experience in mental health. I used to be very close-minded. I used to have a list of things about the kind of guy I would want. But now I'm open-minded, after hearing all the people who come into my office. A lot of them are HIV-positive, so when they come in, they're talking about disclosure, and how they can go about meeting somebody. So, I always tell them, "Keep an open mind, but at the same time you also have to learn to disclose your status to your partner." That helps me keep an open mind, because that's what I'm counseling my clients to do.
How did you meet your boyfriend?
Actually, online dating.
Would you consider it serious?
Well, now I do. We were dating for a while, and then we broke up, and everybody kept saying, "If it was meant to be, he'll come back." Then he ended up coming back. He's from Turkey, so he wasn't sure if he was going to stay here or head back home. But he wanted to work things out, so I went along with it.
Is this your first relationship with a foreign man?
No. Actually, I was engaged before [laughs] with a guy who was from Kenya.
What happened with that?
Uh... I kind of moved on, because I was young. I was only twenty-one at the time so I didn't know any better. Everybody was getting engaged, so I wanted to be engaged. But I realized in the end that I kind of wanted to focus more on my career and myself.
How long was the split from your current boyfriend?
About four or five months.
Did you have a strong feeling that he was coming back?
Yeah, I did. I didn't know when, but I knew it was going to happen at some point.
How would you compare dating in Jersey to dating in New York City?
Honestly, it's harder to get a date in New York. It really is, because everybody is on the run. There's no time to really get to know somebody.
What advice would you give to younger women who are just starting to date?
Take it slow. One of my clients was asking me that just the other day, and I told her to just have fun with it. Just see where it goes. We all have expectations, but don't set it up too high. Don't overthink the situation. Don't think, "Oh, is this the man for me?" or "Am I going to get married?" Just go have fun.
Tell me about your earliest crush.
My earliest crush. Let's see... aside from my teacher, back in grade school, I had my first crush in second grade. Her name was Ashley Nicole. She was a gorgeous black girl, and I was very shy and timid.
You don't seem shy now.
I'm not, thanks to this job. We do marketing and sales — it really brought me out of my comfort zone. Anyway, she would pass notes saying "Do you like me?" and then two boxes, "Yes" and "No." But because I was so shy and timid, I would make a third box saying "Maybe," and I'd give it back to her. She didn't like that timidness, so she went for another guy, Julius. That was my first crush, as far as I can remember.
What about the teacher you had a crush on?
All I can remember is that she had really big breasts. [laughs] I forgot her name.
How about your first relationship?
My first relationship was in tenth grade — I was a late bloomer in that sense. It was with a Chinese girl who had very long hair. She did hula dancing, and she broke my heart — she broke up with me out of nowhere. But it was because I didn't know how to handle the fact that she'd given a handjob to her ex-boyfriend. I said the wrong thing.
What did you like about her?
She had really long hair down to her butt, and she was very cute in the eyes. She was also very smart. I always look for girls who are smart. I want people who know a thing or two, who know what they want, and she was good for that. But I've evolved in terms of what I'm really looking for in a girl.
And what does that entail?
In terms of style, it's somebody who has that Soho flair, but knows how to switch it up and go to a business meeting looking professional. People who are well-spoken, who know what they want and know how to take control of a situation. And people who are creative. My ex-girlfriend is a jewelry designer and I'm a fashion designer, so we click very well — we bounce ideas off of each other, and our relationship lasted for about four-and-a-half years because of that. And we're still seeing each other, on and off. We're like, "engaged to be engaged," so we expect to be married in the future. We're "soul mates," if you will.
You have an open relationship?
Yeah, we're dating around. I don't really like dating because one, it's expensive, and two, you never know what kind of crazy people you're going to run into. And you have to deal with a lot of bullshit. When you're with somebody for four-and-a-half years, you know how to deal with each other. But when you're dating new people, it's sort of difficult getting used to them.
Where are you from, originally?
San Francisco, but I spent the last decade in Austin, Texas. Austin moved at a pace that really didn't work for me, 'cause I'm a go-getter. So when it comes to slow-paced people who are indecisive and need too much time to do anything, I just get really frustrated — and it turns out that in Austin, you can do almost nothing, and survive there. And I'm not the kind of person who's okay with that.
What do you do?
I'm an image consultant. We identify excellence. We find beautiful people, and we market them to the appropriate salons that we work with.
You must meet a lot of interesting people through this job.
Have you gotten any dates through work?
Usually when I'm at work I try to keep it pretty professional. Occasionally I'll flirt with boys to get their girlfriends' attention, and then I'll tell them about the salon. As far as dating, though, I'm kind of iffy. In general, I'm not really a "girly-girl," anyway. My thing is more, I'm going to go out, I'm going to meet somebody, and then we're going to go back to my place, or I'm going to go to their place. And then I'm probably never seeing them again.
Is that how you like it, or is that just the way it pans out?
No, that's the way I like it.
Any juicy stories you'd like to share?
All of my juicy stories actually have more to do with Jersey than New York. When I first moved here, I was working for a boutique on 5th Avenue, and this customer came in. I'm such a flirt, it's ridiculous, and I flirted with him so excessively that at the end of it, he finally called me out. We ended up getting each others' numbers and we had a two-day fling that was really awesome, and then he did something really weird. I had this fedora that I was in love with — I got it at Barney's New York last season — and he hid it from me. I figured out that he had it, but he kept it. He went back to Jersey with it. So I went to Jersey to get it back, and he blew me off the whole night. We ended up going downstairs in the bar that we were in, and we had sex there. We never went back to his place, so I never got my hat back. And then he went crazy! That night... I called him, and he told me that he gave my hat to a homeless person and that he never wanted to see me again. And it was the first time that had ever happened to me, because I'm the kind of person who doesn't want strings attached or any of that. I don't mess with Jersey guys anymore. [laughs]
Was that your most recent hookup?
No, I actually hooked up with a gay guy. It's the weirdest thing that ever happened. He didn't tell me he was gay. It was a one-night stand.
Maybe he was bisexual?
Maybe he was bi, that's very probable. Yeah, I guess I shouldn't say he was gay. But I definitely got the sense that, you know... he was more of a lover than a fighter. When we went to get condoms, it was almost like when you're in a relationship, the way you'd be with your boyfriend when you go to get a sandwich or something. It didn't feel dirty like it usually feels. And that's actually why I do it usually — because it feels dirty. So it wasn't what I'm usually interested in, but it was definitely an experience I enjoyed.
Have you ever been with a woman?
You know, actually, in high school, I had a bi-curious phase. My mom did a pretty good job of, like... redirecting that energy [laughs]. But when I moved to New York, I actually moved in with a bunch of other girls, and I've gone through such an identity change since I've been here that being with a woman wouldn't be at all odd for me. I mean, it would take some maneuvering and some adjustments, but it wouldn't be out of the question.
Would you consider a relationship in the foreseeable future?
I'm actually in love with someone. He's an actor in Austin. We've been friends for a very long time. We loved each other before we ever had sex with each other — the sex was like a footnote. But if I was going to be in a relationship, that would be the person I'd see myself in a relationship with. As far as New York City goes, I want to have fun. That's where I am.