Talking to Strangers: Portland, OR

Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

by Amanda Pampuro

Nicole, 30

Where are you from?
I'm from New York. My ex-husband brought me out here. He's from Salem.

He brought you out here, and it didn't work out?
Kicking and screaming, he brought me out here. I said, "If we move out here, we're going to break up. It isn't going to work out." And sure enough... He's homeless now, has been for years, and here I am in Portland, running a business.

Does he want to be homeless?
I kind of think so, yep. I think that he does. He seems to be relatively satisfied.

What kind of business do you run?
I run a homemaking service, so I'm like a rentable housewife. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, chasing screaming kids, organizing...

Do you wear a cute uniform?
No, that costs extra. If I have to wear makeup to work for you, it costs extra.

So you get to have kids without having kids?
I do. I get to watch other people's kids. We have a great time. It's fun. Some nights though — I'm not going to lie — I want to go home and Google how to tie my own tubes. But I was married to a kid for a long time, so I'm pretty good on that. Now, I just kind of chase after the younger guys.

Really? I've got a friend you might want to meet later on.
If you're eighteen to twenty-two, you're perfect for me. If you're older but cute, I'll make an exception. Otherwise, I like the younger ones, yes.

What is it about them?
It's their attitude. They're fun, they're spontaneous, they like to go out and do things. They like to go watch bands, they like to go watch movies. They like to go on weekend trips. Their career doesn't dictate their lives. They don't have all this baggage. They're not jaded. They don't think all women are out to get them. No, I don't want to cuddle and talk about my feelings. You're here for what you're here for, and then... you have a home. Go there. I'm done with it, essentially. That's not for me.

You're down for a good time.
You know, men say that's what they want, and then when I do it, they're almost offended when I tell them it's time to go. They seem surprised — they're like, "Wait, what do you mean I can't stay?" We've had our fun. The door's that way.

When they don't get the picture, do you lay it out, or do you try to be polite about it?
Typically, I'm like, "Do you need me to call you a cab? Do you have a car?" I don't want to end things on a bad note, but I don't want to be that clingy, crazy person either. Like I said, men say they want that, but then when they get it, they don't seem to understand. It seems as though I offend a lot of guys, and I don't mean to, but at the same time it's like, "Honey, you're nineteen. I'm thirty. What did you really think was going to happen tonight? I'm not looking to have babies with you. You're just pretty and nice to look at. We're good here."

Is that mostly Oregon guys, or are New York guys the same way?
No, the East Coast and the West Coast are very different. East Coast, everyone knows where everyone stands. The women are very much... they're going to tell you how it is upfront. And the men are going to be very upfront too: "I want you for tonight," or "I want you for a girlfriend." West Coast, however, the women spread like hot peanut butter, and the guys feel as though they're entitled to it. And that mystifies me. On the East Coast, I'd be married with kids right now.

Is that what you wanted?
I always thought so. Now that I'm out here, I'm like, "I look young and pretty." So I have fun with it. I don't know. I did want the white picket fence, kids, husband. I had the husband. It was okay. Everyone should be married at least once. It's a learning experience. You learn a lot about what you want, what you need from other people. But at the same time, if you're looking for fun, marriage is not for you. Marriage is so not fun. I was married for years — not a Kim Kardashian marriage — and it was an uphill battle every day. Let me tell you, the next time I get married, it's going to be for money, because if it's going to be Vietnam every day of my life, at least I'm going to have nice things.

NEXT: "I don't sleep naked, but I invite women to, by all means."


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