"She makes me nervous, which told me I must really like her…"
Are you in a relationship right now?
How long have you been together?
Uh, maybe five months. I'm sorry, I have a man's mentality, so it's hard for me to remember the time and date of things.
How did you meet?
We met about five years ago, and I gave her my glove outside a venue. She was outside talking, and I noticed she wasn't wearing any gloves, and it was cold. I only had my gloves, so I gave her one of mine. She hasn't forgotten it to this day.
After you gave her your glove, what happened?
We saw each other at different times for many years, before we had the opportunity to go on a date together.
So what was your first date?
Technically, our first date was when she asked me to meet up with her after she was getting a mani and a pedi. We met up, and she had a scooter. I met up with her, walked with her, and then she showed me the sights and scenes even though I already lived in Chinatown, so I already knew all that stuff. We went to a special bar of hers for a couple drinks and then we took a walk, and then we both were trying to ride on the scooter together.
You rode on the scooter together?
Right by the river, we rode the scooter together. It was like a walking scooter, a Razor scooter, yeah. And we almost fell a couple of times. That could have been disastrous.
At what point did you know it was going to turn into something?
I guess I kind of always knew. After five years, the same person always remembers that you handed them a glove — and that was our first meeting. I've never had that in my life. I did like her for a long time. I just went through so many life changes. You know how when you watch Forrest Gump, and you see how they're separated in different decades at different times of their lives? It was like we were both growing until we matured enough. And we're still growing.
What kind of growing and maturing did you do during that time?
I had to stop being an asshole.
We all have to stop being assholes.
I think I was always a happy-go-lucky person, and then I went through a real down point in my life. And when I saw her, she was always like sunshine, and so I had to remember that that's okay. That it's okay have to have sunshine — not just this stern thing. You've got to be optimistic once in a while, and maybe the universe will listen to you more. I appreciate that from her.
When good things happen to you, it seems like the world is a good place.
Yeah, it's nice to have these moments where you block out everything. It's like having your earphones on when all these things are going on on the subway, and all you hear is what you're listening to. It's like this moment of stillness.
When you think back on the last five months, what's been the best moment of the relationship?
I met up with her, and we went for a walk at Battery Park. We were walking out of the park, and I was talking a lot, because I tend to do that when I'm really nervous. She makes me nervous, which told me I must really like her, because I'm rarely nervous, ever. So, I was talking, talking, talking — and she reached over and kissed me. I wasn't expecting that at all. And then she held my hand and was like, "Walk me to the subway." I was like, "Okay."
What do you do?
Jeez, I just lost my job today.
Wow, sorry to hear that. We don't have to talk about it. Are you in a relationship?
No. Things come, things go. Let's just say, I had it good for a while. I had a job, I had about six people I was with at the same time. And then, everybody moved out of New York City, and then the last one started going out with this, like, idol rock star of mine, and it's been a terrible two and a half months since.
Before everyone left, how did that look?
Just being able to call anybody on any day of the week, have them come by, and have intimacy and some sort of bond. It's hard to find somebody who's great, so having a lot of people is good. Everybody's a little different, and everybody has something to offer. I'm not saying I wouldn't be in a monogamous relationship, but it works out when you can hang around. It was great, but I feel like the ride's over, and I've got to move my life forward. Inevitably, the last girl, the one with the rock-star boyfriend, is the one who I'm actually pretty bummed about. Everyone else just moved. She's the only one who's still in New York.
So, she's with a musician that you really like?
She's with a musician who I'm absolutely obsessed with and I've been friends with for like, eight years. It sucks, you know. He's probably the most talented person I know. I know a lot of people who do a lot of interesting things, and this guy is like, number fucking one. I plug him to everybody, just because he was making great records. He made five great albums in a year — unbelievable albums — and it's like, jeez.
How did she get together with him?
She kind of knew I was messing around with other people, and that was a problem, the fact that I didn't want to be in a monogamous relationship. But it sucks because she made a choice over me. Like, specifically, "I choose him over you." Straight up. We had been together on and off — it was a great thing we had.
So you were a fan and a friend of his?
Yeah. I put out his first record, actually. Like, six years ago. And she's been in my life for about three years, and we'd been romantic for about a year.
What did you do to try and get her back?
Just tell her. I mean, I am who I am. But, he's fucking phenomenal, too, so it sucks. I started having these very lucid dreams. These crazy dreams, night after night. Unbelievable. I had these dreams where I'm holding this dude and singing one of his songs to him. It was so real. And then I see him at this anniversary show in real life. And I see her, and I talk to her. We were still in this weird thing; it was only three weeks after. He comes up to me and is like, "Yeah, man. Sorry things are what they are." And I was wasted, and I gave him a big hug, and it was like, "It's cool. It's fuckin' cool, don't worry about it." I've been bummed out since. I still am. I've been on the internet looking at their lives. As much as I can find of them, I've been obsessing over. I don't know, it's fucked. I don't know who I am. It's the most cliché thing to say, but you wake up every day with a stranger in your bed, and that stranger is you.
So, you're married?
You're not married? I thought you said you were waiting on your husband.
Well, we've been together ten years, so I call him my husband.
How did you meet?
Through a friend. We made out. We met at a Halloween party. This is kind of embarrassing.
What were you dressed as?
Sleeping Beauty. I had a nightgown on.
And what was he dressed as?
Nothing. He was just himself.
So, what was your first conversation like?
Actually, we first met during 9/11. He worked down in Wall St., so we went down to see everything that had happened, like, two days after.
Wait, so you met him at Ground Zero or at a Halloween party?
We got together at a Halloween party, but that was a month later. We met on September 13th.
What did you see at Ground Zero?
Tanks. It was cloudy — it was horrible. It was like a war zone.
And what were your initial impressions of him when you were first down there?
It was endearing. He was crying, obviously, because he'd known people who were in the towers. He was on the subway on his way to work that day, so he was saved. So it was hard, but I liked seeing that part of him. It was love at first sight. When I first saw him, I just had this vision of seeing him for the rest of my life. It was two different sensations, seeing the disaster and feeling this new feeling toward someone that you know it's going to turn into love.
What happened between then and Halloween?
We didn't see each other until Halloween. He broke up with his girlfriend, and then we got together.
What was it like seeing him —
After a month? Can you imagine, after a month of lusting after somebody, seeing them at a party?
So what happened that night?
We made out, but nothing more than that.
And we kept going out, and then I moved in with him, and then we broke up. I moved in pretty much right away. We went out for about six months, then we decided it wasn't going well. We moved in together again in 2004, and that was it.
How were things different the second time you moved in?
The time we were apart, we got to know each other really well as friends, and it changed. I think the love was always there, and we got to know each other as friends and we opened up. We were able to build a relationship that way. It was hard then, but it's been totally positive, because it was the first time I was able to open up with a man as a friend and as a lover. I was never a friend with any of my ex-love interests.
That's why we've been together for ten years, because we were friends, first and foremost.
Have you considered marriage?
Yeah, we have, but we're kind of lazy. It's not a major issue. We're together. We're a family either way.
You recently got out of a relationship, right?
That I did.
How long had you been together?
On and off, about four years.
Why did it end?
Because I got really miserable and tired. Realistically, I'm kind of an asshole. I kind of talked to other people, but I never really acted upon it. And I kind of wanted to, so I pulled the move on it. And also, she kind of sucked sometimes. Just sometimes, but she was fucking awesome the other eighty percent of the time.
Why did she suck?
Were there any specific times that that made itself apparent?
The day I broke up with her was the night she proposed me moving in with her. And I said no, and she flipped her shit, so I turned my phone off. I woke up the next morning, and I didn't talk to her. I went to the gym, and came back to find her sitting and crying on my stoop.
So, she asked you to move in with her?
And she said, if I don't love her anymore, then why are we together? So, I was like, "I don't love you anymore," and that ended it. And I haven't really spoken to her since.
Has it been hard for you at all?
Eh, at times. But mostly I'm pretty good. I don't know, I'm going out all the time. I work all the time, which I always did. I meet people a lot; I'm good at that. I've had some hilarious experiences since.
Tell me about those experiences.
Public displays of affection with random women. I got head in the bathroom of a bar. That was funny. And then a guy called me out on it, so I talked to him for a while. Then he criticized me for getting head and then going back and drinking a beer, so I said that's exactly what was I was going to do. Then, he came and sat down and talked to us for like, thirty minutes. It's really hard to bust in the bathroom of a bar.
Did you get off?
I did not. I've never busted from head before. Not that alone, at least.
How is that possible?
I guess I've never gotten great head.
Would you say you have freakish stamina?
I wish. Well, maybe when I'm hammered.
How did this guy know you were getting head in the bathroom?
Because I walked out of a one-person bathroom with two people.
Who was the girl?
Some girl I had brought home two weeks prior. We went to this bar and I explained how I'd never really had a great experience there. We left to get a drink at another place. Then she asked if I'd go back to the first bar, because she felt bad I'd never had a good time there, because she always had a good time there. She said that she would make it better for me.
So, how did you get from walking into this bar to getting head in the bathroom?
With absolutely no game. I said I was gonna go take a leak, and she followed me.
And have you spoken with her since?
Would you like to speak with her?
Not unless tonight goes awry.
You said you make videos about dating and relationships. Tell me about the films you make.
I basically interview guys about their sex lives and romantic lives. I made a fake porno movie also.
You made a fake porno movie? Tell me about that.
I'm interested in the awkwardness that comes in the first two minutes of a porno movie, where the guy comes into the room and they're trying to establish some sort of relationship or connection with somebody, but you obviously know they're just in it for the consummation of the act. What I'm really interested in is the setup, and I think you can totally relate to going out to a bar to try and meet somebody and the acting that goes into that. I think you're following a script the entire time. Maybe that's negative, I don't know. You always follow this idea of something you're trying to pursue. Just in porn, it's very exaggerated, but it's exactly the same thing. I can see it every time I go to a bar and see a guy try to hit on a girl.
Have you experienced that yourself? When guys hit on you, are you like, "I'm an expert — I know exactly what you're trying to do?"
I wouldn't say an "expert." I would say that I can recognize it pretty easily, and I think everybody can, too. I'm not saying that I'm really knowledgeable about this kind of thing. I think it's very easily found. If you're talking to somebody, you can tell within the first couple minutes what people's intentions are.
Are you in a relationship now?
Ah, not exactly. I'm sort of dating somebody, but it's casual.
How did you meet?
At a bar.
How did he pick you up?
I kind of picked him up, actually.
How did that work?
Oh, God. It was actually kind of unintentional. I was sitting there reading in a corner and not talking to anybody. And I sneezed — this is such a lame story, oh God — and this guy was sitting next to me, and he was like, "Bless you," and I was like, "Oh, thanks. That was so embarrassing — I have such a girly sneeze." And then we started talking after that.
So you picked him up by sneezing.
What's so girly about your sneeze?
It's just high-pitched and mouse-like.
How does he feel about your pre-porn filmmaking?
[laughs] "Pre-porn," that's gratuitous. There's nothing sexy that actually happens. It's the first part, so everybody's clothed. You know, it's wholesome.
What are some the scenarios you've filmed in the pre-sex part?
I wanted to do very generic situations for a porno movie, so I did a plumber slash handyman person and a housewife. I did a beach scene, an office scene, and then I did a camping scene.
How does the guy you're seeing feel about your interest in sex and relationships and porn?
I think he thinks it's pretty funny. This is going to sound really self-aggrandizing, but I see the work that I do as more than about sex and gender — I think of it as a bit more universal. I think that it does come through.
Would you ever do porn?
Do you watch porn yourself?
I've seen it before, yeah. Not frequently.
But you know it well enough to make videos parodying it.
I think everybody does. It's a pretty culturally acceptable thing to know about the really generic porn situations, where it's like a pizza guy coming to your door.
Do you have any advice that, as an expert, our readers can take away?
"Expert" — that's still a dangerous word. Umm… always expect the worst. Just never get too invested or excited about something, because it will probably go badly.
What do you do?
I'm a server at SoHo Park.
Oh, I live right near there.
You should stop in for a burger.
I have and will continue to do that. So, are you in a relationship?
Yes, I'm engaged.
Congratulations! What's your fiancé's name?
That's a gorgeous name. What kind of name is it?
It was her aunt's name, so I'm not really sure.
When did you get engaged?
January of last year.
And when is the wedding?
Hopefully this fall.
Where do you live?
Ossining. We've lived together for about eight months.
I've heard the stereotype that lesbians tend to move in faster with each other than non-lesbians. Do you think that's true?
I don't want to say that about myself, but I would agree with that stereotype. With the pressure of being gay or lesbian, when you find someone that you really like, things happen faster.
Had you been in a serious relationship before?
Shirah was my first serious relationship with a woman, but I had been in serious relationships with men before, and I'd dated women before I dated Shirah.
How did you know you wanted to get engaged?
It was just something that happened. I'd been with men for a long time, and I'd known that I was gay for a long time. Even though I agreed with the idea that you love whoever you want to love, it was still hard for me to accept, so I was with men for a really long time. Finally, I admitted to myself and my family and everyone that I was gay and started dating women. I found this woman and fell in love with her, and that was it.
How did the proposal go?
We were actually at her parents' house, and the power had gone out, so we were in the library. We had the fireplace going and had candles and cheese and wine, and I just asked her to marry me. I knew I wanted her to marry me, but I didn't plan on asking her at all. It surprised me coming out of my mouth.
Was gay marriage legalized before or after you got engaged?
Before, but it's an iffy thing because a lot of people ask me if that's why I proposed, and that's not it at all. It just happened to be around that time, but that's not why I proposed to her. We had already talked about it before. The plans before I officially asked to her marry me were that we were going to get married in every state it was legal to get married in before we could get married in our own state. We were going to put the notches on the inside of our wedding band for every state we got married in.
That's amazing. Where's the wedding going to be?
In our front yard. I'm going to fly my family out here. It's going to be very intimate. Then we're going to spend the rest of the week taking my family around New York, because they've never left Illinois before.
Anything else you'd like to add about your relationship or yourself or your upcoming wedding?
No, other than I'm marrying my best friend, and I never before believed that anyone could be so happy.
Photos by Alex Harris and Lisa Beggs. Want to talk to strangers in your town? Email email@example.com.