Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
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.
Do you live in New York?
Yes, I have for about eight months. I'm from Jersey.
What brought you here?
Um… well, I have a really big story. My father kicked me out when I was seventeen, and I'm living in a shelter and trying to get my life together. It's a shelter for LGBT youth, ages eighteen to twenty-four. I'm going to school for nursing, and I have a job.
Why did your father kick you out?
He kicked me out when I told him I was gay. He said, "You're a monster," and "Being gay is not an option." I told him "Dad, look — I didn't choose to be gay," and he just didn't really care. He stopped supporting me, he stopped… loving me. He went to my school and told them that he didn't want me anymore, so the school had to figure out where to put me. And this was my adoptive father, who adopted me at nine months — my gay adoptive father, and his gay partner of fifteen years.
Wait. Your father was gay… but kicked you out for being gay? Did he keep his sexuality a secret from you?
No. He took me to a gay-pride parade and things like that. But when I came out to him, he printed out articles about people getting killed for being gay.
Did you ask why he was allowed to be gay and you weren't?
Yeah, I did, and I got slapped. He's bipolar and he has a drinking problem, so his reactions to things aren't very appropriate. My father was very abusive. But he told everyone that he was very supportive of me being gay. He'd say one thing and do another.
Are you dating anyone right now?
Yes. I have a boyfriend.
How'd you meet him?
Grindr? It's a gay app on the iPhone.
How long have you been together?
Six months. He understood my situation, which a lot of people really don't get. Once I tell them that I live in a shelter, it's like, "Goodbye." They make assumptions. I don't look like I'm homeless, I don't act like I'm homeless, I don't beg for money — I just do what I have to do.
Are you in a monogamous relationship?
Yes, we are. He doesn't want me to see anyone else.
How old is he?
Has your age difference affected the relationship?
When it comes down to it, my boyfriend likes to laugh like a big kid, so I feel like age is just a number. It's how you act and how you view life that counts.
What's your relationship status?
Dating. I've been in a relationship for four years.
How did you two meet?
On the train. It was mutual eye contact for about two minutes; I think I made the first move.
What was the first thing you noticed about her?
She had a pure look to her. Like innocence. I was intrigued by it, so I engaged in a conversation.
Did you normally like innocent-looking girls before then?
No. There was just something different about her, it was really unique. Breathtaking. So I had to talk to her.
Tell me about people you dated before her.
I mean, I'm not really a picky person; I like all women. Black, white, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese.
Do you have any dealbreakers or turn-offs, then?
Yeah, kids. I can't deal with any baggage, or anything like that. I don't want to deal with it. I don't want to be a stepfather.
What are some strong signs of confidence in a woman?
Sometimes less is more. Like for big-breasted women, if she wears something that has her breasts out and cleavage showing, that just says, "I'm dying for attention — somebody come and get me." But somebody who has big breasts and covers it up, it just shows less is more — she's not dying for attention, you know? "If I get it, I get it; If I don't, I don't." She still wants attention, but she's not thirsting for it.
Working out here in such a high-traffic area, what are some funny things you've seen men and women do for each others' attention?
Um… one time this lady came out here, and she didn't know this guy from Adam, and like, five or ten minutes into the conversation, we all see her vagina. She was letting the guy play with her vagina, on 48th Street, midday Saturday, in the summer. That was the wildest shit I've ever seen.
Does your girlfriend get a lot of attention when you're out together?
Yeah, she gets a lot of attention. She's an attractive woman.
Does it ever make you jealous?
Nah, not really, because… me and my girlfriend, we kind of… We have threesomes. So it really doesn't matter.
Would she consider herself bisexual?
She likes to play, she likes to play. She wouldn't have a relationship with a woman, no, but she'll play with her.
Does she have a problem, watching you touch another woman?
Oh, no. It's kind of an aphrodisiac for her.
Do you bring in a friend of hers, usually? Or do you go out and pick someone up?
We haven't done it in a long time. But if we wanted to do it, we'd probably just pick somebody up. If she had to ask one of her friends, that would probably make the friendship awkward. It's more comfortable with someone who we just met.
If you both like the woman, do you try to see her again? Or is it a one-time thing?
It's usually a one-time thing. It could be more times, but that comes with emotional attachment and that's what we try to avoid, because we don't want anything coming in between our relationship. That just causes confusion.
It sounds like you're in love.
Yes. I am.
Do you always walk around with your cat on your head?
Every day! Except for when it's raining out.
There are always the indoor malls…
No, I really don't go inside. That would annoy security.
What do you do for a living?
Well, I'm going back to being a taxi driver.
Have you been unemployed?
Yes, for a long time. I'm in between jobs. That's why I do this, with the cat on my head. People take pictures, and some people pay me, some people don't. Some people are rude, some people are not.
What's the highest you've ever been paid, doing this?
I've had people give me $100 bills several times.
Wow. Do you meet ladies this way?
Constantly. Yes. Even though I'm married. It's not like I'm looking for a girlfriend, or to "hook up" — that's totally not my motive, you know. It's all about surviving right now.
How does your wife feel? Does she know about all that female attention?
Yeah. She comes out with me, and people take pictures, and I've got girls on my arms, and she laughs at it, you know? I've been with her twenty-four years now, so… I love her very much.
How did you meet?
We've known each other since we were kids. We went to grade school together, and then I lost touch with her for about ten years until I was in my early twenties.
What was your dating situation like, through those ten years?
It was a little chaotic. I was never really the type of guy who would go out and hunt down girls. That's not my motive. Love will come to you. I'm more interested in cars and bikes and that sort of thing, so that's where I focused. I rode a Harley Davidson to school.
Does your wife have similar interests?
Yeah, yeah. We've calmed down as we've gotten a little older. But my wife loves to talk, and she has a lot of friends. And we moved back to the neighborhood where we grew up, so we bump into a lot of friends who we've known for the past thirty years or so. I've entertained the idea of going out west, because it's cheaper. Even in Pennsylvania. I was going to get my truck-driver's license, but it's just not really working out in my favor. I'm just going to go back to driving a cab.
What are some crazy things you've witnessed in your cab?
I've had people smoke crack in the car. I've had drunk women taking their clothes off in the car. Once or twice, girls would grope me and start kissing me and that sort of thing, but I never followed through because you can get in big trouble for that. You know, wisdom comes with age.
What words of relationship advice would you offer to women?
Don't ever jump into bed on the first, second, or third date. I would say wait four to six weeks, at least. Definitely get to know a person. Getting into bed early is really not a good thing for either person, in my opinion. I would have to be an idiot to ever leave my wife, but even in that case, I would be looking for love, because I really can't tolerate much bullshit. One thing I live by is "If you act like an asshole, expect to be treated like one," you know? You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, don't you?