Talking to Strangers: New York, NY

Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

by Antonio Cuccu and Martina Dechevska

David, 24

What are you doing in New York?
I'm in grad school and I bartend and I drink and I party. I study international affairs at the New School.

Where are you from?
I grew up in California, a little bit outside of Los Angeles, north of Sacramento. A really small, conservative, rural, piece of shit town.

Tell us a bit about dating in a small conservative town.
You know, I'm gay, so I didn't date at all in my hometown. It was kind of dangerous being gay there, so I didn't come out, because people were shitbags mostly and would harass you and beat you up. So I stayed under the radar when I was in high school. I came out when I was in college in Seattle.

How did that happen?
Well, I grew up in a really conservative Christian family, so when I moved to Seattle I saw how the rest of the world treats gay people, at least in big cities. They're valued like functioning members of society, they can have families, they can date, they can have jobs. I thought, "That isn't so bad," so I just came out.

When you were younger, was there a clash between what you had been taught and what you were finding out about yourself?
There was a big clash. I was very Christian, too. It wasn't until I went to college that I was like, "You know, I don't think I believe in this anymore," and that's when I kind of figured it out for myself.

Do you meet a lot of people through your bartending job? Have you ever dated a customer?
Yeah... well, no. I've slept with a couple. I haven't dated any of them.

Tell us about the the first customer you slept with.
That was this Sunday — Pride Sunday, no less. Well, that was the first regular customer I've had while bartending who I thought was really cute. I let him stay after closing, and I kept pouring strong drinks and that's about all it takes, I guess. I sound like a predator [laughs].

So you just get them drunk.
Yeah, that's pretty much my strategy. Well, I mean, he just so happened to be drunk but also, hopefully, he thought I was very cute. I mean, he called me the next day, so I think he did.

How do you decide which customers to hit on?
Oh, that's a good question. You don't always understand if he is gay. Sometimes you can tell by mannerisms. Sometimes you can tell by the way he walks. There's a very light swish sometimes. Sometimes you can just tell by the way they look at you or by the way that they smile at you. Then you ask little subtle questions, and usually they'll mention something about their sexuality. It's all about tact and subtlety when you're gay. We don't have the luxury of being openly aggressive when hitting on someone.

Which happens more often: you getting hit on, or you hitting on other guys?
Probably more guys hit on me. A lot of drunk straight guys hit on me, actually. The "three beers queer," we call them. I don't ever sleep with them if they're straight, because I don't know how they're going to react in the morning. I don't want them to freak out at me. I let them flirt, or maybe I'll make out with them a little bit. That's about as far as it goes.

Any particular stories?
There's a guy who comes into my bar pretty frequently, and he's actually usually drunk by the time he gets there, but he'll just hang out all night. I watch him hit on girls throughout the night and fail miserably every time. By the end of the night he'll just lean on the bar and grab my face and start kissing me and trying to stay after closing time. I once actually had to pick him up and piggyback him out of the bar when I was closing, because he just wouldn't leave.

Can you describe him for us?
He is six-foot-two, pretty handsome, but he's too much of a drinker for me, and that's really saying something. He dresses like a businessman from D.C., which is kind of weird — you know, button-down white shirts, black slacks, and square-toed shoes. They love square-toed shoes. I hate them. They are the worst. Never wear them.

Do you find mustaches attractive?
Oh, girl, I love a mustache. Definitely.

Do you go for the paintbrush or the handlebar?
Not so much the handlebar. I like the bushy straight across. I actually really like the Hitler mustache. It's just a shame he ruined it. No one can wear that one now.

What was your longest relationship?
I think my longest relationship was with a girl in high school. It was like a year and a half. She was my beard. She was a cheerleader. She irritated me, but she kept me from getting beat up, so I dealt with her. She didn't know I was gay. She was nice, because she was very Christian and so, you know, they don't have sex, so I didn't have even to touch her or anything.

Have you ever had sex with a girl?
No. Should I? I probably should. Some day. Just to know what I'm missing out on.

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