Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: New York, NY

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.


Lawrence, 29

How long have you been a personal trainer?
Uh… eight years. This is main gig right here: Teaching, training, and also coaching. My classes are mostly body-sculpting. It's a mix of Crossfit and strength training.

Is this your girlfriend?

How long have you been together?
The honest truth? Two weeks. I've known her for a long time, but we made it official two weeks ago. We wanted to feel each other out first, before things actually happened.

Do woman find it intimidating, being with a guy who evaluates fitness for a living?
Oh yeah, definitely. When I was dating, I'd go out to a restaurant, and the girl would always say, "Is this okay for me to have this?" Or they're always looking at their own physiques, like I'm analyzing them or something like that. And my thing is, if I had a problem, I wouldn't have started talking to you in the first place. I've dated women of all shapes and sizes.

Tell me about one of your strangest sexual experiences.
Oh! [laughs] Strangest… okay, when I was a freshman in college, I had sex outside of the monument in D.C., and uh… we got busted by a park ranger and two Secret Service police. They told us to leave, but we went back. We waited about ten or fifteen minutes before we went back, and then we got busted again.

So you knew there was a risk.
Yeah, I knew. And I was almost caught by a married woman's husband when I was twenty-one and living in Florida [laughs]. I had to hide under the bed for a good seven minutes. That was real scary. The woman was married and her husband came in through the back door unexpectedly. She was going through a separation and she told me that her husband was away with his daughter, and they came home and I had to hide until she snuck me out through the back door. That was a really scary moment because he was a Marine. It was crazy. You live and learn, though. I was really bad back in those days.

Do you like to be surprised in bed?
I like to be surprised, but it all depends on the woman. Some people, it's not that type of party, you know what I mean? A girl tried to suck my toe one time. We were just in bed, chilling. I fell asleep, and then I woke up and she was like, sucking my toe. Listen, I'm into some freaky stuff. I don't care. But let me warm up to that. Still, if I'm really sexually attracted to somebody, they can do whatever they want to do. They can handcuff me, they can pistol-whip me, they can tie me up and bondage me. I'm into stuff like that, but I have to feel you.

Have you two gotten there yet?
Well… we have. I can't complain. I mean, she makes a brother go over the top. Makes me just get a little wild. I get loose. Like a chicken with his head cut off.

Let me ask your girlfriend a question. How do you feel about your man working with scantily clad women all day long?
That's a good one. I like that.
[Lawrence's girlfriend: "I feel great. It reminds him of what he has at home. You have to be a secure girlfriend to have a fine and sexy man like this [laughs]."]

Exactly how did you two meet?
We met in Brooklyn. I actually noticed her from the back, first. I was like, "That woman has a beautiful skin tone and pretty hair." So I had to hurry up and scoot my little self up to get around, and I don't even know what I said, but I was just like the typical guy in New York: "I make six figures, and hey, I'm a celebrity trainer, and I do this and I do that, and I've got a house in Scottsdale…" And she was just looking at me like, "Boy, please. I've got these groceries in my hand. You're making my ice cream melt. Excuse me." But she gave me a chance, and it was love. It's no different from going to a restaurant and ordering something you've never had before, and you love it, and want to go back two, maybe three times a week. It's more than lust, because you start to falling in love with certain ingredients. You want to go home and study a little bit. How do they make this dish? Maybe they put a little garlic in this, or maybe this is cayenne pepper. But you're at the point where you're starting to get the ingredients right, like this young lady right here. I mean, she's no cayenne pepper — she's just her, and that is what I love about this woman. Straight up. Things are weird. I mean, these trees are growing, but why do they grow? Because of the water. And where does the water come from? The water comes from the sky. But you can't determine it. You don't know when it's going to happen. Love has no time limit. Love has no schedule.

Would you make any complaints about one another? Are there any pet peeves?
Yeah, I do have pet peeves. She's always trying to feed me these healthy drinks. She forces me. I had some real raw cranberry juice; I never knew cranberries tasted like this — I thought they were sweet! She gave me some raw cranberry juice with these little black seeds, and I tried to drink it. It was hot. It burned my throat! She made me drink it, and it messed my stomach up. [Lawrence's girlfriend: "But once he starts having it daily, his body will adjust. It's really good for you."] You see, she's very aggressive, and I like that. Don't let her fool you.

Do you have a background in theater, or something?
This is me, all the time. She'll tell you.

Just making sure.
I like you. You're all right.

Jessica, 36

Tell me about a time you were seriously played.
Well, there have been a few times. Once I dated somebody who was actually married, and I found out through somebody else in a rock-climbing class.

In a rock-climbing class?
Yeah. That was a little devastating, but I was younger and kind of didn't want to believe it. So although I discovered the truth, I also kind of let myself be played for a little while, because I didn't want to believe that somebody would do something like that. But nobody would ever be able to do that again. I always tell my girlfriends, the first question you have to ask when you go out on a date with somebody is "Are you married?" And the second question is "Are you married?" [laughs].

Another important question is "Are you in love with anyone?"
Right! A lot of times, somebody's in love their ex-girlfriend, or whatever.

How old were you when this happened?
Um… I was maybe twenty-seven or twenty-eight?

What happened in the rock-climbing class?
One of the other students just mentioned something about the teacher's wife, and I was like, "Wait… what?"

So the guy you were seeing was the teacher. How did that get started?
I think he wanted to go work out together, and I said, "Okay." I mean, obviously he was super-cute, and he didn't wear a wedding ring, so…

What happened? Did you confront him?
Yeah, I eventually did. He tried to lie about it still, to my face, but then finally I was like, "Well, if other people are saying this, then where are they getting it from?"

What do you look for in a man?
I think a guy who cooks is good, because it means he's a little more mature and organized, and I happen to be interested in food. Somebody who has that kind of stuff set up is living a different lifestyle than somebody who doesn't know how to boil water for himself.

Let's talk about first dates. How many have you been on, ballpark?
Maybe about eighteen? I'm more of a relationship person.

What was one of your most memorable first dates, for better or for worse?
A couple months ago, I went out with a guy who was in his forties, and he started to tell me that cupcakes were evil — that they were an evil drug. And that was a red flag for me, because anybody — I can understand if you don't want to eat one, and you might be watching your weight or you can't eat sugar — but anybody who's really going to have such a passionate hatred for a cupcake, which is like, one of the happiest things in the world… that was a red flag for me! There's some anger, or there's something a little bit wrong with that person who's going to tell me that in such a heated manner.

Was he being literal or figurative?
I think he was very angry at sugar, and maybe had some fat issues from being a fat child or something. He's in great shape now. God, there are so many weird men in this city! [laughs]

Are you single now?
Yes, since New Year's. My last relationship was for two years.

What happened?
Oh, he was… crazy. Like, seriously crazy. It's a sad situation, but there are people who have mental problems — anger issues, addiction problems. I just can't take care of anybody like that anymore. The point of a relationship is that you're both supposed to support each other. Women tend to want to mother people and make everything right, but if you really want to have a healthy adult relationship, that's not what it's all about. So, that sums up those two years! [laughs]

Kit, 28

What do you do for a living?
Right now, I'm an intern at a non-profit, and I'm a freelance writer.

How does being a writer influence your relationships?
Well, that title comes plagued with so much. When you say "I'm a writer," everyone looks at you with pity, like, "Oh. You're going to die penniless." In terms of relationships, it was actually my current girlfriend who encouraged me to pursue freelance writing, and really make that my thing, because before I did all this, I had run a business, and I had worked on an oil rig, and I hadn't really found what I liked to do. But I wouldn't want to date a writer [laughs]. Not at all.

Why not?
I guess I should say, if I were a girl, I wouldn't want to date a male writer. I mean, you have to be pretty fucking self-centered to be a writer, and males are a little self-centered to begin with. A writer also has the excuse to say, "I need to be this way, because I need to create." And if you then say to the writer, "You're being a jerk," you're not just saying something about who they are; you're also infringing on their career, and what they want to be. Fuck! There's no way I'd date a male writer if I were a girl [laughs]. It just seems horrible.

Tell me about your girlfriend.
We met in Austin at a wedding. I was working in Houston at the time, repairing the roof on a stadium after Hurricane Katrina. The stadium had a big fabric roof that had gotten torn to bits and I was in the construction crew helping repair it, for whatever reason [laughs]. So I was working on that for about nine months, with a bunch of men, living right across the street from the stadium, and just sort of hating my life. I got an invite to go to this wedding, and I was like, "Yes, absolutely! I need to get the fuck out of here." I was invited by a girl who I'd been sleeping with in the past, but we only slept together when she was drinking quite heavily, and she had just recently gotten sober. Which was really great for her, but we found out that we just didn't get along the way that we had when we were drinking [laughs]. So, by the time we got to the wedding, we were barely talking to each other. And that's when I met my girlfriend.

How did your date feel about this?
She was pretty pissed! [laughs] It put a serious block in our friendship for quite a long time. It's probably not advisable to go to a wedding with someone, and then pick up someone else. And truly, at that time in my life, I was probably as self-centered of an asshole as I could have possibly been about that sort of thing. The other thing is, I had been working so hard for those past nine months — although it's not really an excuse — that I just didn't give a damn about anything. I was just eager to meet people who would talk to me, who were not other… construction workers [laughs].

Before this relationship, how did you meet women?
I was living in Scotland years ago, and I was this tall American in a small Scottish city. I was dancing a lot, and relied heavily on that as my crutch to pick up girls. Like, "Hey, I'm from New York, and I'm dancing with you!" That was sort of how the conversation would start. But obviously this loses all power and effect in New York. When I came back to New York, I realized how poor my game was. I had no idea how to pick up or talk to girls.

How would you compare Scottish women to American women?
It's hard to make any generalizations about women, really, because they're always very surprising [laughs], but in America, there seems to be more of an emphasis on the status of your relationship very early on. People are so concerned with their futures here that it kind of takes the fun out of what you're doing at that moment. In Scotland — at least the part of Scotland that I was in — you can be dancing with someone, and going out to dinner with them, and sleeping with them every night, but there's never really a clear indication of what that is for many months down the line. Girls are a lot faster in Scotland. People do things without putting so much thought into it, which is freeing. Mind you, I was young and in college, so maybe it's the same way in American college and I just don't know it.

You said women are always surprising. Any examples?
There's one girl who's actually become a really close friend of mine. We had sex when we first met, but every time there was slightly less of it than the time before, until it just sort of ended with a handjob and a "Goodnight." [laughs] That's sort of how our friendship was sparked, because the next morning, she said, "That was really terrible, wasn't it?" and I was like, "Yeah, that was the worst ever!" [laughs]. We've somehow remained very close ever since.

Do you regret anything from your early twenties?
There were definitely some relationships where I found out later that the girl was more invested than I'd thought. Maybe I even knew it a little bit, but chose to ignore it because it was nicer to have this fuck-buddy. You're too immature and self-centered at twenty-three to make that conclusion. All you know is that you have this lusty thing happening, and to really analyze it — or maybe even to protect the person you're with, emotionally — would be to somehow ruin it. And that's the last thing you want to do at twenty-three, so you just keep doing what feels good. There was one relationship that went on for a really long time. It was just so sexy, all the time [laughs], but very much to the detriment of this girl's emotional well-being, afterwards. I may have been taking advantage of the feelings she had for me. But also, they had never been clearly articulated. I sensed they were there, but since they were never spoken, I didn't feel like it was my responsibility. The power dynamic that that created was just very intense, so it was tough to do the right thing. I didn't find out until several years later just how traumatizing it was for her. Which made me feel… pretty fucking terrible. For a long time.