Talking to Strangers: New York, NY
Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
by Daniela Cervetti
What do you do for a living?
I'm a nanny. I've been nannying since I was a freshman in college, so that's about six years now.
How do you meet guys?
Being a nanny, you just really don't meet any eligible guys. They all think that the child who you're babysitting is your kid. It seems to repel them. I talk to a lot of people when I'm on my off-time, but honestly, I go on very few dates.
So, where do you live now?
I live in Brooklyn. I've only been there for six months. Before I lived in Annandale on the Hudson, NY. It's upstate.
How would you compare the guys upstate to the guys here?
The guys there... I mean, they were college kids, so they weren't big on asking girls out on dates. We had a mostly female population at Bard. The guys were more shy and artistic, and just quieter in general, not very outgoing. But here in New York City, you meet all kinds. I've had men literally just walk up to me and ask me for my phone number, and I don't like that. I don't give them my phone number when they do that.
What's the funniest or most inappropriate way you've been hit on, since moving here?
The most recent guy who hit on me, I was buying a smoothie from him, and I was just making pleasant conversation with him, and suddenly he said "I'm going to give you your smoothie for half-price." I was like "Oh, thank you," and I started to walk off, and he said, "Wait a second. You can't go without giving me your phone number!" I was like, "I don't give out my phone number! You were the one who gave me the half-priced smoothie. That was your choice."
Yeah, it was very manipulative.
What traits did you look for when you were younger, that you don't look for now?
When I hadn't dated anyone yet, I had this ideal of a classically handsome man: tall, with blond hair, blue eyes, and chiseled features, perfect abs. [laughs] Things that I had basically seen in the media. I put a huge weight on physical appearance. It's sort of sad. Especially growing up with a bunch of Disney movies, where Prince Charming is always this handsome man riding in on his white steed, I just sort of grew up expecting that, in a way. Now, obviously, if I'm attracted to someone, I'm attracted to them physically as well as emotionally, but I don't put such a huge weight on physical appearance. And then personality-wise, when I was a kid, I wanted the guy to be almost boring. Boringly sweet. Now I want someone who has a passion, a career that he loves, an adventurous nature. I'm more into adventure now than I was back then.
Would you ideally be with an artistic type of guy now?
That's who I've been falling for, unfortunately. I especially fall for musicians. I just can't help myself. Singers. Oh my goodness. I just met a singer/guitar player and I fell hard, but he didn't feel the same way about me. He broke my heart. I thought we were together for about two months, but he had different ideas. He didn't consider us "together," and I don't understand this confusion. He told me he loved me. But it happens, you know? People aren't on the same page. He actually moved away a couple of weeks ago, and he said something about not wanting to be in a long-distance thing — it wasn't convenient. But also, that we weren't dating. When he broke it to me, he was like, "We weren't dating. We were just hanging out." I was really crushed by that.
Do you still listen to his music?
I'm a huge fan of his music. I think he might be really successful at some point. He's a great singer and guitar player. Wonderful. But I don't listen to his music now, only because it makes me really sad. I mean, I cry when I hear my favorite opera singers, I cry when I just hear a beautiful melody, sometimes I cry at advertisements if they have pretty melodies, so I cannot listen to his music.
How long have you been a musician?
I've been a musician since the age of five, when I first picked up a guitar. Music is the universal language. That's why I just come out here and vibe with the people. It feels good to go home and get emails from people all over the world. That's why I work in Times Square, the crossroads of the world, and go home to see the people from Germany and Russia who like my music.
Do you think Europeans appreciate your music more than Americans?
Music is music. Even if you can't understand a word, if it has a good vibe, people are going to get into it. I can tell you this: they appreciate it more than the people who I make the music for — urban youth from the communities that I come from.
What's your type of woman? Do you prefer Europeans or Americans?
A woman is a woman. It doesn't matter where she comes from. But the European ladies I meet here in America — I don't know if they're just taken by an American man, but they humble themselves to me immediately, and it's very pleasing, you know what I mean? [laughs] It builds my ego. I guess it's just because I'm exotic to them. I never really know for sure.
Do you prefer meeting women when you're out here, or would you rather meet them somewhere else?
I have a wife. We're not really married, but I call her my wife. We've been together four years and we have a child together, so I consider her my wife. All the women I meet out here are strictly business. I may have to charm and "woo" them every now and then, and my lady knows that, and she accepts that because it pays the bills. I actually met my woman when I was out here doing this. When I spoke to her, it was just a sale, a dollar sign for me, you know? But I'm also looking for a fan, so when she started questioning me about my craft, I took a second and talked with her about it. She left with my CD and I didn't have any money. I let her have my CD, because I enjoyed the conversation. And we connected over the internet, and then we started texting. Now we live together, but before that, six months, just texting back and forth.
At what point did you think, "Okay, this might get serious?"
The potential that it could be serious was there in the first conversation. That's why I allowed her to take up my time, even knowing that she wasn't going to give me any money. Three months into it, when I was still texting her and I hadn't seen any action, I still felt good to go home and talk to her. And I was actually with a woman at that time — nothing serious, no commitment — but I felt better speaking to her and texting her, than I did with the woman I was with at that time. And that really meant a lot.
You said you're not officially married?
Like I said, we're not married, but I can tell you this: the first night we laid together, that was a bond, in which I took her under my wing to be my woman. We didn't go through the legal thing or do the proper paperwork. But I wish I had done this a long time ago.
How have you changed over the years, concerning what you want in a woman?
I like a woman to keep me on my toes. She has to have a mind of her own. I used to choose women who were very passive when I was younger, and allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do, and things like that. But now I need a woman who's strong enough to say, "Baby, you need to stop what you're doing right now, because you're moving too fast." If you just let me do anything I want, I could be leading both of us to destruction. I appreciate that you look to me to be your provider and protector, but sometimes, the lion may need to curl up under the lamb's shell, you know what I mean? I have a woman now who can think for herself and is not afraid to let me know when I'm doing something wrong.
Plasm, 19 & KV, 21
How did you guys meet?
KV: We met at the Occupy.
KV: It moved to Union Square. You know that place in front of George Washington, the statue where people used to hang out? But now they're enforcing the curfew laws, so we're starting to stay in different places, like Staten Island.
Plasm: Because it's dangerous to stay in Union Square at night.
KV: It's scary. You don't want to be there at night. There are like, a million cops.
Where are you two from, originally?
KV: I was born in Newark, NJ, but I'm from Lancaster, PA.
Plasm: I'm from New York, born and raised.
KV, how long have you been in New York?
KV: I've been coming here on and off since I was thirteen, and Occupy Wall Street made my stays longer. I play music, so I've played a lot of shows around here and stuff. New York's just exciting. Other towns... end, you know? This is fun. You can have fun every day.
How did you two meet?
Plasm: I just remember we were walking out of Union Square, and I went up to him and I was like, "Come with me! Let's just go and get some drinks!" So we just walked off and had a crazy night. Ended up sleeping behind a car wash!
KV: Yeah, in Staten Island. It was a weird night. We drank juice and stuff, but uh... I got this note, actually. Where is it? I'm trying to keep it. She left me this note.
Plasm: I was about to leave, because I go to college, and I had to go pick up some of my stuff, so I just wrote him a note. But then I felt so bad, and he had passed out.
KV: And then she came back. I didn't see the note. It was in my pocket, but I didn't even notice. Let me read some of it: "I tried my best to wake you..." You read it, it's your voice.
Plasm: "I tried my best to wake you up. I had a really good night with you. You are a lovely person in every way I can think of right now. I'm going to get my stuff. I will give you a call once I head into Manhattan, and if not, for whatever reason, you can meet me at Union around 4:30 p.m. Much love, Plasm. P.S. Juice is in front of you. Good morning!"
KV: We've been hanging out since.
Have you had sex in any crazy places?
KV: We haven't had sex yet!
How long have you been seeing each other?
KV: Five days.
Oh! For some reason, I thought it had been longer.
KV: No reason to rush. You rush a lot of things, and with some weird people. What's the point of that?
Do you think the lack of privacy is part of the reason you haven't had sex yet?
KV: [laughs] A little bit, yeah.
Plasm: It's refreshing to be around someone who's not all about getting laid, you know what I'm saying?
You're obviously thinking about it, though. Are you excited?
KV: Yeah, something like that. She's adorable.
What are you studying in school?
Plasm: Right now, it's rather confusing. I was trying to go for art. I'd be happy with just being able to practice my artwork and not really having to worry about surviving. I don't want to waste my life away doing something I don't enjoy.
What are some jobs that you've hated?
Plasm: Fast-food places? Burger joints?
KV: Long John Silver's. The fish would actually come by in blocks. You're just getting burned by hot oils all day. It's a miserable way to spend your life, you know? And you have to wear a stupid outfit, which makes it even more awkward. Fuck uniforms!
Is it possible to find everything you want in the same person?
KV: No. I think you find love, but there are things about Dr. John, one of my best friends —
Plasm: It's like puzzle pieces, you know?
KV: I don't feel the urge to do this to Dr. John. [strokes Plasm's leg]
Plasm: To love someone is to just selflessly care for them. To be in love is to obsess over them. I try to take up the first definition.