Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Portland, OR

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Zita, 30  

What do you do?
I work for an IT recruiting firm.

Does that ever impress guys?
It can, but it's usually a bunch of computer guys and I'm not really into that. I have no idea what C++ or Java is, so there's no relatability.

What do you think of guys in Portland?
They vary. You get the douchebags who go the top-forty clubs, and they have some of the worst macking skills. Then you get the guys on the east side, and a lot of them are snobby about how they've read more books than you.

Okay, I can't say that's not true. If you could change something about the men of the world, what would it be?
A lot of girls say they'd want men to be more sensitive, but I think having a really good sense of humor and respect for people is good.

You had more than a little sarcasm in your voice when you said "sensitive."
Well, that's such a stereotypical female response. A lot of women just say what they think women are supposed to look for. But they're kind of demeaning themselves by saying that they're more sensitive than men. That's not every woman, though, and that's not every man. And, sometimes it's nice when a guy takes charge.

Do you have any good hookup stories?
When I met my ex-boyfriend, he was a DJ, super-cute, and when I saw him walking down the street I pretty much leaned out of the window of my friend's car and said "Hey, baby! How much?" And he totally went for it.

What did he do?
He stopped and said "Five dollars!" It was a funny way to hit on someone.

Did you, in fact, give him five dollars?
No, he donated his services that evening.


Johnny, 35

What do you do?
I'm in sales.

Does that ever impress the ladies?
No one cares. Before I was in sales I was in teaching, and that impressed them even less. If someone says "Oh, I'm a teacher," what's the first thing you think? They don't have any money. They're underpaid. Your chances of getting a free drink just got lower. One time I asked a girl for a free drink. That didn't go well.

How did you try to work that?
You get to know a girl a bit, for twenty seconds maybe, and then you say "Hey, want to buy me a drink?" Pretty much they're thinking that you're going to buy them a drink, but I tried to turn the tables. It didn't work out.

What has worked out for you?
Nothing. Okay, I'm being facetious. But being a teacher doesn't impress very many people.

Describe the perfect woman.
I've met the perfect woman.

Oh yeah. I walked into a bar in Chicago, and sat down next to this very beautiful blonde girl. We talked for a while, and we had a great conversation. I never saw her stand up, by the way, over the course of the whole conversation. I asked to see her again, got her number, and we planned to meet for lunch. That's the difference between Portland and a big city, by the way. You don't meet people very often there. You're not going to bump into them again. Here you might bump into someone again, but this girl in Chicago, we make plans because she knows that we're not going to bump into each other again. We met for brunch the next day. Same thing, I never saw her stand up. Later, we met again and she picked me up in her car. I still haven't seen her stand up. When she gets out of the car, she's about six feet tall, and I think "Oh my God — jackpot!"

Was she wearing heels?
No, she was six feet in flat shoes. She was tall, blonde, beautiful. Probably the most beautiful woman that I've ever seen in my life. She was really tall. I was in.

What happened?
We're still together, four years later.

Sarah, 22

What do you do?
I'm sort of in between things right now, but I just graduated and I'm going to law school next year.

Does your ambition to be a lawyer impress dudes?
Yeah, it does!

What do you think of the male population of Portland?
Those my age, around twenty-two, tend to be too nice and too bland. In order to get some excitement you have to look for out-of-towners who are here on vacation. Those are promising. Older men on vacation. That's promising.

If you could change something about the opposite sex what would it be?
I would make them more responsible and kinder, and have better senses of humor. I like men who call when they say they're going to call and show up on time. I like men who are cleaner than I am, and that's not hard — I'm not a very clean person. I like men who want to make me laugh and want to laugh with me.

Do you have any good hookup stories?
Yes, I do. A couple of weekends ago two friends and I were at Kell's and one of them wanted to hook up with this guy. She was very drunk and talking to this dude. My other friend was also very drunk. I was the designated driver, and I was talking to another dude who wasn't very drunk. My first friend said to me, "I wanna bring this guy home." But we'd all planned to crash at my house, so I said to her, "Mmm, probably not." This guy she wanted to sleep with though, says, "We can come over to my friend's house and we'll see what happens." We all knew what was going to happen, and we got in the car.

Just your friend who wants to hook up with this guy, or all three of you?
All three of us get in the car. We all go to this guy's house. There's me, and the dude I was talking to, my friend, and the guy who she was very shortly going to have sex with, and my other friend: the poor third wheel. So, we get there and friend one goes off to have sex with this dude. I'm playing pool with this other guy, and the poor third wheel is on the sofa and starts crying.

That sounds horrible.
It gets better! This dude that I'm having pool with…

"Having pool with?"
Well, we were "having pool," and then we decided to go have other things. So, we go and do that. Meanwhile, my friend who was having sex comes down and gets high. They were already both super-drunk. Now they're high. So, I'm having sex with this one dude, my friend is getting high and having sex with this other dude in the other room, and about an hour and a half later we hear sobbing. The guy I'm having sex with says "Oh my God, that's your friend. Your friend is sobbing." I put on some clothing, knock on the bathroom door, and find the poor third wheel sobbing, "My life is coming to an end! I got so high!"

Oh no.
She was drunk and high and the only one not having sex. She told me that she wanted to go home. Everyone there was super-nice and offered to let her sleep in an extra room, but she really wanted to go home. So I and the third wheel got in the car and left our friend having sex with this stranger in this stranger's house. She didn't have her phone on her, and she didn't know any of our numbers by heart because we all just use our contact list. My sobbing, high friend and I get home and think, "Thank God we got out of that alive, and too bad we're such terrible friends to our other friend who's still drunk, high, having sex with a stranger, and stranded in a stranger's house." The guy drove her home the next morning. So, one, talk to your friends before going to a stranger's house. Two, have an exit strategy. Know how you're getting home and when and make sure everyone's in agreement. Three, always have your phone on you!

Margaret, 22

What do you do?
I'm going to Jordan to teach English soon. I have a Fulbright. I'm nervous. I leave on Thursday. Celibate and sober is what I'm thinking my next year is going to be.

How are you planning on dealing with that?
Well, luckily I speak Arabic, so that's a plus. But, Muslims are not so big on alcohol and hooking up. They perceive American girls as sluts, and you really don't want to be that girl. That's why I'm getting all of my fun out in Portland.

Are you worried about being celibate for a year?
Well, I haven't hooked up with someone in six months at the moment, so I don't really think it'll be a problem. Another year? Big deal.

What do you think of guys in Portland?
My friend and I were talking. Today. We had breakfast. He's a guy. Very nice. If there are ten guys, four of them are only looking for sex. Another one or two: gay. Another one or two: dating someone already. And, another one or two are into Dungeons and Dragons and only doing computer stuff. That leaves maybe one, maybe two guys who are actually interested in relationships. And a relationship is what I want! It sucks to be me.

Guys could be into Dungeons and Dragons and computers, and also want a relationship — I've heard about that happening.
Our friend's marrying one. Hey, if I met Mr. Right and he was into Dungeons and Dragons, it wouldn't be a problem. But, I haven't met Mr. Right who's into Dungeons and Dragons.

If you could change something about the opposite sex, what would it be?
Make a commitment to one woman!

You were gesticulating a lot when you said that.
I don't feel they actually want that. I want to be in a relationship; I keep trying; and I keep failing. If someone else actually wanted to be in a relationship with a single person, I'd really appreciate that!

You're talking about long-term monogamy.
Yeah. But also, if you say you're going to call, call. Don't lie. If you're not into it, don't say, "Hey, it's been great," and say you'll call. Don't! At least then I won't be waiting for you to call!

It sounds like you're speaking from experience.
This guy said to me, "We'll do something on Thursday!" Never called. If you just say, "We should do something," okay, whatever. If you say, "We should do something on Thursday," that's specifics. Don't give specifics if you're not going to follow through! Maybe he died. That would be a good excuse. If he died. I'm not asking to get married here, but I wouldn't mind kissing someone!

On a more positive note, do you have any good hookup stories?
Well, I'd say don't hook up with friends. Especially friends who are younger than you. Younger boys aren't mature at all. Bachelor parties, though! I love bachelor parties at bars. Those are mostly stand-up guys with mostly stand-up friends, and they're a little older than us. That's a plus. But they're not super-old. They're not trying to be skeezy, they just want to have a good time and take pictures of young-ish girls. They're usually respectful, and that's nice… well, this one guy earlier tonight was a little grabbier than normal. Anyway, the guys are nicer because they're committed to the group. They're not going to try to take you home because it's all in a big group. It's safer. I don't really want to go home with strange weirdos.


David, 37

What do you do?
I'm in the Army. I just got back from Iraq.

Does that ever help you with girls?
Honestly, yeah. Absolutely. It's more of a sympathy thing, though. If I walk up to a girl and she asks what I do, I tell her that I'm in the Army and that's pretty much a green light, usually.

What do you think about girls here in Portland?
This is a fun scene to visit. I'm from the Seattle area, and I'd say that Portland's a little easier. It's really easy to go out and pick up chicks. In Seattle they have big-city attitudes. In Portland they're snobbier. That sounds like kind of a contradiction, but I feel like everyone here, they don't know it, but they have an attitude. That attitude is "we're different from you." That can make things difficult, but once you know it's there and you can roll with the punches, you're fine.

If you could change something about the opposite sex what would it be?
The thing that I don't like about the average American woman is a lack of accountability in their general demeanor. It happens with men, too, but it seems to be more prevalent with women. Say you meet a girl and you make out with her, and you're fine with that. If you call her the next night and she's not interested, she should have the gumption or adult-ness to say so. Up in Seattle, I'll call, get rejected, and that's fine. It's more of an upfront thing that big cities have. Portland hasn't really gotten to that point, that you can say no, be upfront, and everyone can be fine with that.

What do you find attractive in a woman?
I like tall women. I also like confidence. I know, everyone says that, but I like a girl who has a little moxie to her, who will tell you what she likes and what she dislikes. A lot of women are afraid to say what they dislike, and that's a fault in my book. I think women need to be more open and honest.

Do you have any good hookup stories?
Well, I'd just gotten back from Iraq. I was walking around in downtown Portland. I had a good buzz on, I was walking back to my friend's place to crash, and I saw these people walking down the street. I started talking to this girl and said I was back from Iraq. She threw her arms around me, said "welcome home," and then I totally boned her. She was gorgeous. So, there you go.


Megan, 23

What do you do?
Nothing, right now. I was a wife and a stay-at-home mom for three and a half years, but fuck that. Now I'm looking for a job.

What do you think about guys in Portland?
Honestly, I've only found one that I liked. He gave me two high-fives. I don't know what that is.

Two high fives?
Yeah. What's with that? Do you give a girl two high-fives when you're going to leave? No!

Like at the end of a date?
Yeah! He was like "Hey, have a good night! High-five!"

And then there was another high-five after that?
Yeah. What the fuck?

Did you ever have a second date with this guy? Did you ever see him again?
No! He gave me two high-fives, but he didn't even ask for my number!

If you could change one thing about the opposite sex, what would it be.
Maybe they could have more emotions, like females. Now, I'm pretty emotional. The last guy I was with — no emotion. None at all. I would cry sometimes. We were married for three-and-a-half years, and I saw him cry one time. Once! When he was wasted. And, he peed the bed every time he was wasted, so that didn't mean a lot.

Swear to God. He's a piece of shit.

How did you meet him?
We went to high school together. I was a freshman; he was a senior; he moved away, went to college, and then joined the Marine Corps. I was in the Air Force when we started talking again, and he convinced me to get out of the Air Force and move to Hawaii. A week after I moved to Hawaii, he went to Iraq, cheated on me, became an alcoholic. And we were together for three and a half years. I had a kid. He didn't help with the kid. After I had my son, he slept while I was up all night with the kid. I was in the hospital with a stitched-up vag. I was pissed.

I'm so sorry. How have you been since?
Well, we've been apart for a month and half, and I could not be happier. Life is way to short to live it with someone who tells you you're a bitch, you should die, that they want to kill you. Fuck that.

What are your plans, then?
I'm going to go to school in the fall, I'm going to finish nursing, and I would love to work in an ER or surgical. I love blood and guts and all that shit.

Could you describe a better guy?
Like an ideal guy?

I'm extremely sarcastic, so someone with sarcasm who can understand my sense of humor. Also, someone selfless, but not too selfless. Not someone who's going to give everything to everyone. There's got to be a balance. Someone who loves kids — I have a one-and-a-half-year old. Someone who has a career and isn't a mooch. You know. The basics.

What did you learn from being married?
I don't have time for petty drama and bullshit. Life is way too short to be anything but happy. You get to live one time. Don't marry someone unless you're 110%. Don't waste your time being unhappy. I was unhappy for three-and-a-half years, and now I'm only twenty-three and I'm happier than I've ever been, instead of being forty-five or fifty and trying to figure out what the hell I'm going to do.