Talking to Strangers: New York, NY
Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
by Daniela Cervetti
Anthony, 28 & Camille, 24
Is this your first time in New York?
Camille: It's my second time. We're on vacation for one week.
How did you meet each other?
C: We had the same professor, and we were walking together.
Anthony: At the library.
Were you studying the same thing?
C: Yes. He always sat behind me in class, so he could see what I was searching for on my laptop, and he started talking to me about what I was researching. That's how he started communication. One day, he saw that I was looking for a dress on a fashion website. Later, it was my birthday, and to introduce himself to me, he sent me an email with a picture of the dress and told me it was my present. And he drew my head on the top of the picture — my head, my hands, my legs, and the dress that I wanted.
A: Now it's just very silly, but I thought that was a good idea. She was very shy.
Were you normally shy with guys, before Anthony?
C: No. But I sensed something special from him. I was very interested in him, so I used to watch him a lot in class. He was very smart in class, so it was a big deal, a guy like him, talking with a girl like me.
A: [shakes head] That's not true, that's not true.
How long have you been together?
A: Two and a half years.
Tell me about your dating lives before you met each other. For instance, what's the worst date you've ever been on?
C: Well, a few years ago, I lived in Spain for one year, and I used to go out to the discotheque, and I met a Spanish guy older than me. And he started to talk to me, and he was being very nice to me and my girlfriends, offering drinks and lots of stuff like that, and he said he wanted to call me, and he wanted to see me again and again. And he had a lot of money. He was living in Madrid, and I was living very far away from Madrid, so he used to send me plane tickets to meet him in Madrid, and [laughs] he told me that he was in the CIA. It seems silly, but it was very believable, because he had a gun, and he had a police card. When we met cops in the street, he used to show the police card, so I felt very protected by him. I didn't speak very good Spanish, and he was showing me the Spanish way of life. I started being very attracted to him, and I was going to see him in Madrid every week, and then one day he stopped calling me. For no reason. Like, four months after meeting each other, he stopped calling me, and I thought he had a real problem, because he'd told me that he was a secret agent. I was worried. I was very, very sad. I was screaming all day, waiting by my phone, and he never called me. Then one day, three months later, I saw him again in the same bar talking to another girl, and lying to her, and doing the same thing.
When you saw him lying to that girl, did you step in and say anything to her?
C: Yes! I said, "What are you doing?! I've been waiting for your call for three months!" and he told me, "Oh, you don't understand! I have a secret problem with the Spanish government!" and he started lying to me again [laughs]. But the whole thing was very believable! So, that was a very, very strange date in my life. It was the worst date.
What did the other woman say?
C: She was drunk, and he tried to push me out of the way so that I wouldn't talk to the woman. He was acting the same way, in the same bar. I guess she believed it.
Do you regret that relationship?
C: On one hand, I don't regret it, because I had a good time. I was a stranger in Spain — I'm French — and it was a good way to discover Spain because he offered me a lot of travel, a lot of gifts. But in another way, I regret it, because now it's very difficult for me to trust a boy. So I took a lot of time to try to trust my boyfriend now, because of him. I'm always a little bit paranoid.
A: Many times, she has gotten paranoid. About many things... like a restaurant receipt.
C: That was months ago!
Oh, you mean she saw that you took someone out to dinner?
A: Yes, yes. In my work, I take clients out to lunch sometimes. I work in a non-governmental organization, so I like to make contacts.
C: He forgot to tell you that I improved with my paranoia. I'm getting better.
I thought you were older!
I'm going to look eighty when I'm thirty.
Are you in school right now?
I'm currently a full-time student. I'm a freshman at Laboratory Institute of Merchandising, studying fashion-geared marketing, but it's also broad enough so I can go into any field.
Are you dating anyone?
I am currently dating. I'm in the process of... like, we're discussing being committed. I'm actually meeting him in a few minutes and we're going to a fashion show together. It's getting serious, definitely.
How long have you been together?
Since the middle of October.
Is he into fashion as well?
He does fashion photography, and you know, I'm involved in fashion shows. We're both very motivated on our careers, which is why we mesh so well. We both motivate each other and we push each other to do better, you know what I mean?
What's the most exciting thing about him?
He's super-adventurous like I am. I have a giant bucket list, and I've never met anyone my age who has everything that they want to do so planned out. He knew that the number one thing on my bucket list is to eat lunch under the Eiffel Tower. So, he took me to a French restaurant and he said, "If I could take you to Paris, I would, and I will eventually, but this is what I can do for now." It's really cool to have someone care that much.
Have you lived here your whole life?
I grew up in the Bronx for nine years, lived upstate about an hour away for another nine years, and now I'm back for college.
How would you compare upstate guys to city guys?
Upstate, they're more shy. And it was also different because when I was upstate I was in high school, so you don't have people come up to you all that often. Bronx guys are super confident and not scared to approach a situation at all, you know? It's a different culture too. The Bronx is more family-oriented. You're used to being foreward and enjoying someone's company. In Manhattan, you get the most diverse range of approaches. I've been asked to dinner with a few comments that could have been left out. [laughs] But it keeps the night interesting. You just have to know how to react, you know? "Thank you very much. I'm committed right now, but I'm flattered." Simple as that.
How long have you been married?
For seven years.
How did you meet?
We met in college. He was a basketball player, and we were in a Burger King drive-thru late at night. We didn't actually date until some time later, but we first made eye contact and watched each other from there. A year later, we met up and dated for about a year, and then we went our separate ways for six years, and then we reconnected, and we were engaged a year later. But during that six-year lapse, we would inquire about each other through other people. We were both on the same page.
What are the greatest things about marriage?
You're legal in the sex category, under the laws of the Lord, which is what I try to live by. And you always have someone to talk to, and you don't have to look for anybody to go on a date. And my husband is extremely handsome, so that's a perk for me, and of course on the inside, he's awesome. He's really, really great. I mean, I want to kill him sometimes, don't get me wrong, but he's awesome.
What does he do for a living?
He's very creative. He's a contractor, but in the design part of it. We both just know how to put things together. And he's also very fashionable. He loves basketball and he loves boxing. He's very athletic and very fit. You know, his exterior is very edgy. He has a roughness about him, but on the inside, he is so compassionate and warm. Once you get to know him, he is just totally different. You can truly never judge a book by its cover, because he is just soft as a teddy bear. Or, like he says, "soft as a cotton swab." [laughs] That's his catch phrase.
Were you intimidated by him? Did he seem unapproachable?
To be honest with you, he kind of chased me. I wasn't really into him, because at the time, I didn't appreciate the level of beauty that he had. Now I see his features, they're just so unique. He's so handsome. He has a big, beautiful nose, very pronounced lips, very thick eyebrows, and his eyes are kind of deep set. He has beautiful feet. He has a little mustache sometimes, but normally he shaves.
He's religious, like you?
Well, I don't consider myself religious. That's more man-made. But I'm spiritual, you know? I have a relationship with the Lord. And yes, he's the same way.
You're so happy talking about him.
Yeah. He makes me really happy, and I truly believe that when God created him, he created me for him. Like, I really consider that rib is me, you know? That rib was taken out of him, and is in me.
How was your dating life before your husband came along?
You know, how you approach dating has a lot to do with who you are, and if you don't know who you are, and who you belong to, and how valuable you are, then you're going to conduct life in a way that's really destructive. So my dating life was all just learning experiences. Destructive may be a harsh word, but just kind of meaningless and stupid and "What was I thinking?" and "Why didn't I see the red flags?" [laughs] But I did have a really valuable and good relationship before my husband, when I was in college. I dated a guy from my hometown for almost four years, and he was a good man. Still is. And he really showed me how a woman should be treated, even in his young and prime years, you know? He had his mistakes and we had our issues towards the end, but he raised the bar.
Have you ever done anything foolish to hold on to a man?
Simply put, you just believe the lies. And you know, you use your body to please people. All of the things that young-minded people would do, I've been there and done that. But I've always had a cut-off point, where I would say "No. I will not do that. I'm not trying to please you that much. You're not worth that much." I've always had that little force inside of me.
Did you save yourself for marriage?
Oh, no, I didn't. But we have to understand that sex is for marriage, you know? Especially when you're a woman, when you're dating somebody, as soon as you have sex, it's a whole different ballgame. It's like, "Hold up! Where's the relationship? Where's the ring? Stop! Why you doing this? Don't do that! You didn't call me! I feel so alone!" You're allowing someone to enter into your body. It's very intimate, and you're allowing forces into your body that cause you to be this emotionally distraught person. My husband and I had sex with each other before marriage, but our sex then — I mean, don't get me wrong, it was great — but now it's lovemaking. So, I wish I had known. We do teach our son that sex is for marriage, and right now, he's latched on to it. He actually studies the Bible on his own, and I'm starting to see it manifest in him in terms of how he talks to people and how he acts. He's a spiritual being, and I really thank God for that. But no. Honey, no. I didn't wait! [laughs] But I do advise people to. I really do.