Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Oakland, CA

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Nicole, 25

What do you do?
I'm a bartender.

Does that get you a lot of dates? 
Occasionally you meet people who are worthwhile, but that's pretty rare. The problem is that most people you date get freaked out or jealous about it. But in some ways it's cool, because you get to meet a lot of people and flirt with them over the bar, where they can't touch you, and if they do you get to kick them out.

Have you ever met a boyfriend at work? 
Oh yeah. I met my last boyfriend here. And I had another one for a year, when I was a cocktail waitress — I dated the bar manager. It's not the best situation, but it's nice to be near them.

Do you ever worry about your exes coming in to your bar? 
All the time. I have a few exes who are banned from my bar! It's always the weirdest when you work in a public environment. If the person you're dating is a little too clingy, or your ex is a little too creepy, or you're having a bad night and the guy you're dating comes in or the girl you're dating comes in, it's a bummer. Nearly everyone in my industry has a horror story. It can get messy.

A lot of people want to move to San Francisco from Oakland. Do you think people in the city are different from people in Oakland, dating-wise?
I've always lived in Oakland, but I used to work in the city. I have a super anonymous online-dating account, and when I meet a guy and see that he lives in the city, even though it's only seven miles across the bridge, it seems almost insurmountable when you're dating somebody. You have to take BART, and the walk of shame is a whole different level of effort. 11 a.m. BART is the walk-of-shame express. If you start puking, everyone is guaranteed to start puking.

How do you impress a guy? 
I'm mean and sassy and forward, and I'm usually at work, so my tits are probably hanging out.

Have you ever had sex at the bar? 
I've definitely hooked up with a lot of boyfriends or dudes that I'm dating after we close the bar. Or you pass your number on a napkin across the bar — that's always a fun move, because then you see three or four other dudes visibly sigh. It's a nice ego boost. My boyfriend would come in, and there are freezers, refrigerators, food elevators, stockrooms, beer rooms, dry storage. All sorts of nooks and crannies.

Which is your favorite?  
Top of the pool table. Or propped up on a bar stool against the back of the bar. Or leaning over the bar and getting fucked from behind while the dude is on the bar stool — that's always fun too.

Do you think guys in Oakland are different from guys in San Francisco? 
Dudes in Oakland tend to be a little more rough-and-tumble than guys in San Francisco. I really like scumbags, I guess. In San Francisco, guys tend to be giant pussies, and as much as I'm a raging feminist, I enjoy a man that acts like a man. That doesn't mean you have to pay for me or be an asshole tough guy, and it doesn't mean that I want you to take care of me, because I probably make more money than you, honestly, and I'm probably more educated than you. But I want a guy who's not shaving his chest hair. I want a tall, burly man with throat tattoos who can pick me up and fuck me against a wall. Yeah, exactly. I love how all the ladies nod. If you can't pick me up and fuck me against a wall, I don't want anything to do with you.

Bob, 34

What do you do for a living?
Piss people off. No, just kidding. I'm a floor layer. I lay floors.

Does that get you a lot of dates?
Does it get me mad tail? No. [laughs] Not really. Well, sometimes women will say, "Oh you work hard; you work with your hands." But it's hit or miss. 

How long have you lived in Oakland for?
Thirteen years.

How would you say the dating scene in Oakland compares to scene in San Francisco?
In San Francisco, you're not going to run into the same people who know you all the time. Here [Oakland], you come to this bar and you'll always see someone who you know or who knows someone who knows someone. 

What do you do to impress the ladies?
Um, I don't know; I usually come out and party. I just like to have fun, and sometimes I get obnoxious. Sometimes I don't shave.

Do ladies love the beard? 
Some do. Some will tell me I look really hot and I think, "What the fuck are you talking about? Half my face is covered in pubic hair! And you think I look handsome? You think this is hot? It looks like a horse's butt, dude."

What's the best dating experience you've had since you've lived in Oakland? 
Probably the first date I took someone on. We went to a shooting range, a brewery, and then we went to Whiskeys of the World on a paddleboat in San Francisco. I was thinking, "This is the best first date ever."

After that did you guys date?
Actually, yeah, for like two years.

Do you think it was the date that set it off?
Yeah, because she said it was her dream first date, too. "Well, this is cool someone else likes whiskey as much as I do." That's how we met — drinking. Partying.

What do you look for when you want to date someone?
I don't have a certain type. If someone is awesome, that's fucking rad. I don't change, ever. I'll go out of my way to be sweet and nice. I mean I go out and I raise hell and sometimes I take off, like riding trains or hitchhiking or whatever, and I can see how that would be a problem, but I still don't want to change. I need someone who accepts my lifestyle and someone who is open to communicating.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Really? Most people have said no recently.
There was a gal that I saw —  I don't know, maybe it's not love when you see someone coming in a bar and think, "Oh she's hot, oh he's fine." But if you see someone and the next day you wake up and you think of that person, and all of a sudden that person is taking space in your head, you're like, "Holy shit, I'd love to be able to tell that person." I think that's love, or damn near close to it.

Mia, 33

What do you do for a living? 
I work in non-profits. I'm a fundraiser.

How long have you been married?
Five years, and we've been together for thirteen. We met at college — we both went to the University of San Francisco. My husband worked the night shift at the door. I never had my key, so he was always opening the door for me.

What was your first date like? 
You'll have to ask him because he'll have a different story than I do [laughs]. We went to The Graduate — it was the twentieth anniversary or something. And we went to the theatre in the Castro. I think we had a good time, but then later he said I was really mean to him because he thought it was a date and I didn't. We didn't go on another date for a long time. It wasn't until later that I realized, "Okay, I really like this guy." I think I knew the minute we started dating that we would be together for the rest of our lives and have children together. I think I knew and might have been afraid. I was only nineteen or twenty.

What keeps the flame going? 
I feel like our relationship is so different now from when we first started. We've grown up together. I've almost spent more of my life with him than not. I think what's great is that we both have separate lives outside of our relationship, so we can come home, and we can learn from each other. That's a big thing. We're interested in each other. We like to talk to each other. I mean, if you don't like to do that, you probably shouldn't be together.

Is there anything you'd like more of as a couple?
We always want time alone together. We don't get any [laughs] — we have two kids. We're always excited to go out and spend time together. We just talk to each other and ignore other people.


Alton, 32

What do you do for work?
Well, I've got a couple of jobs. I work at a grocery store. And I just started doing some substitute teaching as well.

Do any of these jobs get you laid? 
Well, the store is a very social place. I went out with a girl from there, and, um, it turned into quite an ordeal. She was a very passionate, outspoken woman, and I've always been attracted to that. But she had me help her rent a car. She was going to visit her mom down south — that was the story — and she said she would be back on my birthday. Two days later she called me and said she wasn't coming back, because she was going to check herself into a mental facility in L.A. Then I found out she wasn't in L.A. — she was actually in Texas. Well, I made sure the car got returned. Then I was super-mad, because I've had to deal with people who've had mental illnesses before, and it's frustrating. Then a week later she was engaged to an abusive ex-boyfriend in Texas, but then she called me and told she wanted to come back to my house. She said she'd already booked a flight.

That's not good.
Yeah, you can run over me five times, but not six times. Well, then I met another girl in the parking lot of the grocery store who works at the café inside, and I just felt compelled to tell her everything about the situation. She gave me great advice, and now I'm involved with her.

Is she your girlfriend or just someone you're sort of dating? 
That's a real slippery slope because she's very passionate and wild and into some extreme sexual stuff that I'm just learning about. She's currently taking up a job as a dominatrix because she needs extra money. I mean, she doesn't act that way with me, and she's not getting fucked. I'm open-minded. I'm not going to freak out. It was first a way to get over that other girl, and it's been largely physical, but now there are emotions there.

How long have you guys been dating?
About three months, which is typically when things go bad.

What's your longest relationship?
Three years.

Where's the coolest place you ever had sex?
Against a chimney on a rooftop in San Luis Obispo. It was a party and we had nowhere else to go. We weren't hiding from the sky, but we were hiding from below.

Weren't you nervous you were going to fall?
Well, alcohol always helps with nerves. Unless you drink too much to perform — I've done that a couple of times, and that is the worst. I mean, you're telling someone you're super into them, and you can't show it. That was actually the first experience I had with this girl I'm dating now. We came here and Dave poured us some crazy shots. But luckily, we had another encounter and now she knows it works all the time.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
There's no way I can believe in that one-hundred percent, but there's a large percentage of me that can. There are too many variables in life that aren't one-hundred percent. No one is that clairvoyant. But I appreciate the passion.

Mark, 31

What do you do? 

I work at the grocery store with Alton over there.

Does that get you laid? 
It did one time. I met this really flaky girl who was staring at me outside. I tapped her on the shoulder and gave her my number. We went out one time and had sex. And then after that we just had a mutual no-calling thing.

Where are you from?
I'm from Boston. I've been here for about a year. I moved here for a girl who turned out to be an absolute piece of shit. She gave me six months and called it a wrap. She wouldn't wait for me to do anything I needed to do. I had a job but she just was over it.

Besides that one girl, how have your dating experiences been in Oakland? 
Pretty unfulfilling. I need to go out more probably.

What's your best hookup story?
I was twenty-one or twenty-two, and I was driving home in my car with my girlfriend. Her best friend was in the backseat and her best friend's boyfriend's younger sister was in the backseat, and I had been wondering if her best friend wanted to hook up as well. Her boyfriend was having surgery and was going to be away. So we were planning it, and I said instead of planning it, why don't we just do it now? So we pulled over and galloped into the woods, and then the best friend says to the boyfriend's sister, "I've always thought you were hot. You should be involved in this too." So, it was three chicks and me. It was wild. There were a lot of noises from these woods, and so a cop kind of showed up.

Kind of showed up?
Absolutely showed up. Flashed his light on us. There was this fence behind us so we jumped it, butt-naked, and kept going on the other side.

How do you get the ladies?
They stare, and they get numbered.

That's a verb now? They get your number? 
Yeah, I did it today actually. I am by no means a scumbag.

Do you believe in love at first sight? 
Yeah, there's just a certain feeling that overcomes your body. I had this friend in Boston who used to live upstairs from a chick, and when he introduced me to her, I was blown away. And I'm pretty sure it was the same way with her. But it took us five years to get together. 

Michelle [left], 29, and Brittany [right], 27

What do you do for work? 
M: I teach online college, and I'm a student at Mills College. 
B: I'm also a student at Mills and I have an assistantship there.

Does being a teacher ever get you any dates? 
M: No, I teach at a Christian school so it would probably be inappropriate.
B: It has in the past, but I've been in a serious monogamous relationship for the past eight months. We were set up on a blind date. My roommate was an intern where he works, and she insisted that I meet him. I ignored her for a long time.

How'd did that first date go?
B: It went well. We initially tried to go get coffee to be good citizens on the first date, but the coffee shop was closed. So we went and got a drink. And then we went on a little walk. It was very innocent and PG. I got a hug at the end of the night. [laughs]

Michelle, are you in a relationship?
M: Nope.

When was the last time you were in a relationship? 
M: It was actually with her! [laughs]
B: It was when we first met at Mills. About a year ago. 
M: We dated for a short period of time and… yeah. 
B: We're best friends now.

So would you identify as gay, bisexual, straight?
B: I would intellectually and emotionally align myself with "queer." But I've also mostly had heterosexual relationships.
M: I'd go with queer.

What's the most unusual place you've ever had sex?
B: Oh man, I don't know. You know, being nineteen and finding new places like in a car or outside in a backyard. Kind of the standard weird places. Oh, in a tree house!

How did that happen? 
B: It was my tree house when I was young. I was probably eighteen. You know, I had my first cigarette in there, I smoked pot for the first time in there. So I was continuing that trend.

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