Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: San Jose, CA

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Thomas, 26

What do you do?
I'm an entrepreneur in home technology.

Does that get you a lot of dates?
I haven't used it to try to get me dates. It definitely doesn't get me dates in the industry, that's for sure. Unfortunately.

Where do you typically meet people to go out with?
At bars in downtown Palo Alto.

How does that work out?
It works out horribly because I never meet anybody! Honestly, I'll meet some girl that I'm interested in pursuing maybe two or three times a year at a bar in downtown Palo Alto.

What have those girls been like?
They've been younger, very sweet, not very interesting. Smart, but… yeah, not interesting. That's an easy way to say it. Actually, there's a better word out there — not engaging. That's the problem, really. I don't meet anyone who's passionate. I meet people who are not interested in something.

What about in San Francisco?
No, it's the same in San Francisco. Palo Alto is just very goal-driven.

What do you think of the girls in San Jose?
Girls in San Jose are party animals. They party all the time. I'm not a very hard partying guy. Not now, in my old age.

What was your last serious relationship?
I met someone in high school, and it went great for two years. And then we broke up at the end of my junior year. That was it. That was my last relationship.

Are you consciously trying to get into a relationship? Or at this point do you not care?
I keep an eye out, and every now and again, I do get entangled with somebody, and I totally wish I hadn't even done it in the first place. It becomes a nasty — not a bad mess — but you know, not something that you want to go back through after six months or so. You finally get clear of it, and you make it a few more years, and then you make a few more rounds, and then you get back in again. And then hopefully someone who's around will be somebody interesting. That's my game plan.

Any nightmare date stories?
Luckily, no. I don't let it get to that. [laughs] I have to at least commend myself on being able to spot the nightmares from across the room.

No blind dates, ever?
Actually, yeah. I had one blind date that was a couple years ago. That was the first time I said, "All right, let's try this dating service thing." I walked in — we met in the entryway of the restaurant. She proposed going somewhere else, a different restaurant. I said, "Yeah, sure." We had to drive there; we had two separate cars. I just lost track of her, and I never saw her. We never made it to the next restaurant! [laughs]

Where was this?
This was in Los Gatos. But I think she was trying to lose me because she was like, "Yeah, you just go down the freeway, two exits, make a right, then your first left, your first right, and it's, like, the third Mexican food place on the left." Ha! She gave me a restaurant name I couldn't remember, you know what I mean? I was like, "Yeah, I'll follow you." And then I'm waiting in the parking lot for five minutes. I obviously wasn't very impressive.

Genevieve, 25

What do you do?
I work as a hostess, and I work for an elderly lady, and I'm trying to be a writer. I'm writing a romance novel.

As a romance writer, what do you think is romantic?
When a guy courts me properly by asking me to go drink wine on the beach with him. I can't really sum it up in one sentence, but taking me out at least once a week and doing fun things with me.

Do you have a type?
I'm typically not attracted to American guys. They usually have to be from another country. I like Persian guys, guys from Iran. I meet a lot of guys from Iran around here. They're intelligent. They drive really fast, fun cars! They just know how to talk to a girl. They know how to romance a girl.

Any specific experiences?
Quite a few. I've become really good friends with a couple of people this year. This is my first time being single for one year. I'm usually in relationships, so it's kind of been an interesting year for romance. But in general, I've been let down. I think things will last longer than they do. I just ended a — not a relationship, but a dating cycle with a guy who I was really kind of falling in love with. And he was romancing me. He was using all the words that I liked. But it turned out, in a lot of ways, to just be talk. It wasn't what I wanted it to be.

Any dealbreakers?
My last one was kind of a dealbreaker, because the last guy — when he spoke to me, it seemed like we were exclusive, and when I asked later on if we were exclusive, he kind of said, "Well, in the beginning, I didn't fully trust you." That was definitely a dealbreaker for me. The way we had been going about our little dating "thing" — I wouldn't call it a relationship. But the way we were going about it, it seemed like we were exclusive, but we weren't.

Any crazy exes?
No. I broke my ex-boyfriend's heart when I broke up with him, but he definitely wasn't crazy afterwards.

Any nightmare dating experiences?
No, never. Actually, I've had really nice romances, just broken hearts. Not excessively broken-hearted, but a broken heart to the extent that it's just disappointment. There's always the utter disappointment in the end.

That's okay. Such is life. That's just a part of dating; you live and you learn. I think that the best thing that a girl can do is not have sex until three months into dating, because I feel like it — it doesn't ruin it, but it just makes it feel like the guy doesn't chase you as much after it happens. That's what I've noticed. They'll be really sweet beforehand, but after it happens, they're not as attentive. Now I'm just trying not to be played.

Eli, 31

What do you do?
A few things. I'm a barista, I'm a graphic designer, and I'm also a co-founder of Zobingo Games, a video-game company.

Does that get you a lot of dates?
I'm married. We met at Starbucks, serendipitously. We had a mutual friend, and she was introduced. That was in 1999. Ten years married, dating for twelve years.

Before that, what was your dating experience like?
Man, that's ancient history! Sporadic. I guess I'd say I didn't really date per se. If someone was cool or interesting, we'd hang out. It all came down to personality. I didn't go after any specific attributes physically, I guess. If someone was interesting, I guess, we would hang out.

Did you have any nightmare dates?
No. I'm the kind of a guy who kept an arm's distance — I guess I played it kind of safe. I never went on any blind dates or anything. But I had plenty of adventures. I almost crashed my date's parents' car; my emergency brake on my 1983 Camaro wasn't working, and her driveway was on an incline, and I was rolling backwards, and I came within an inch of smashing her BMW. That was… fun.

Any dealbreakers?
Girls with psycho ex-boyfriends. Big dealbreaker. That did happen once. It was when I worked at Starbucks. I met this girl after she got off, and as she was getting in my car, her ex-boyfriend pulled up next to me in his car, and she was like, "Just go! Just go!" And I didn't want to cause any more drama. I said, "Well, you know, it looks like you've got something that you need to take care of." Maybe three months later, I saw her again, and I think she "switched teams" after that. No more guys.

Since you're successfully married, do you have any advice for people who are trying to make a long-term relationship last?
Yeah. Just roll with it. Don't try to change other people. The second you try changing someone else, the second they're going to resent you for it. Just let people be themselves, and if you don't like that, move on.

Michelle, 23

What do you do?
I'm a hairstylist.

Is it possible to meet straight guys that way?
Yes. We get a lot of students from San Jose State that come in, so, yeah, most of my clientele is men. There are some cute ones. I'm not sure if they're ones that I'm interested in. There have been a few, but…

What's your relationship status?
Right now, I'm single. I've met a few guys. I recently just got out of a long-term relationship. It was four years' worth of bullshit. I mean, I loved him, but he just didn't really contribute a lot to the relationship, so it was kind of one-sided. So I stepped out of it to do my own thing.

What was your ex trying to do with his life?
He was going to culinary school, and then he stopped going because he got a job. He doesn't really make that much money, and never really went back to school. I was just kind of over it.

So you broke it off?
Yes. I think he was sad, but it was mutual because we had a lot of past baggage. We were both on the same level — we both knew that it was coming to an end. I was just the one to kind of let go of it.

Do you have a type?
I guess, yeah. I stay away from "bros" and frat guys and stuff like that. More like skaters and rockers, I guess. I meet them through friends. Most of my friends are guys. I don't really hang out with girls, honestly. I don't really like girls too much.

Do you think it's easy to meet guys in San Jose? What do you think of the guys here?
They're all boys! [laughs] There aren't a lot of men in San Jose, that's for sure. I've met a lot of guys, but they've just kind of been… whatever. They don't really know how to handle girls here, I think. I've just been trying to stay away from guys right now. I guess a lot of guys in San Jose don't really know what they're doing with their lives, and if they do, most of 'em — a lot of them have big egos. I'm not really too into that.

Any dealbreakers?
Yeah: no kids. I'm not really that much of a kid person. They should have a good job — they don't have to have all their shit together, but at least if they're on a track somewhere trying to get to where they want to be, then that's good. I'm working on my career right now; I want someone who's on the same level as me.

Daniel, 24

What do you do?

I'm a freelance musician — I play the trombone.

Does that get you a lot of dates?
No. It seems that that stereotype of people to be able to get dates off of music is much more related to guitar and voice. Girls seem to be attracted by that idea of musicians, but I still have to work really hard to find anybody who's willing to go out.

How do you typically find girls to go out with?
I wait. [laughs] I wait, and I talk to a lot of people. Downtown San Jose is notorious for not having many girls. It doesn't work to the boys' advantage. We often call it "Man Jose." Within the last couple of years, it's gotten better, but there's still overwhelmingly more boys.

Can you explain the kinds of girls you meet here?
The girls I hang out with are the type that make people throw the word "hipster" around. San Jose is such a large city that there are whole slews of other cultures, but that's the one that I'm most in.

Any dealbreakers?
A coke habit is a dealbreaker. I've walked down that road. Being able to do that occasionally was more important to her than me being uncomfortable. I'm a sucker for respect, so if I'm not being respected or not being taken care of, it's not worth it.

Demographics aside, have you had any experiences with San Jose girls?
Yes, I've had a few. I always go for artist types. I'm a sucker for a musician. The last two girls I dated have been musicians — I dated a guitarist. And a writer. The girl before that was a pianist. I dated a vocalist. In my youth, I dated a saxophonist/pianist.

"In your youth?" When was that exactly?
That was back in high school. I dated a few visual artists, a poet, two pianists.

Are you looking for that in the long-term? A kindred spirit?
Yeah. My life, my passion, my love, is music. I play trombone, I play piano, I play guitar, I sing. My life is music. So if I'm dating somebody who doesn't understand art, it's pointless. And if I'm dating somebody who doesn't understand music, then a good portion of my brain is off-topic. I think in terms of music. I'm a jazz musician. I live and breathe scales. So if I can't talk about that stuff with my significant other, then it's tedious. I've read some interesting studies about the ancient Greeks arguing that, in Athens, the reason there was so much homosexuality was not that the men were more attracted to men. It was just that the women were uneducated. So the women actually couldn't hold good conversations with the men. The men were attracted to other men on a deeper level, so they would end up making out.

That's a very "Man Jose" kind of observation.
Yeah, I guess it is.

Jessamin, 19

What do you do?
I go to school. I'm studying child development.

What's your relationship status?
I'm in a relationship. It's been going on for about nine months now. We've known each other since elementary school. We were really good friends. In middle school, we got to know each other more, but he was really mean to me; he'd call me names. We started talking more on Facebook. And then on Valentine's Day — we called it Anti-Valentine's Day. We just biked around, 'cause we both bike, and we went toLa Vic. And after that, we had a connection. We went to San Francisco with his friends. A few months later, he asked me out.

Had you had any dating experience before that?
Yeah, I did. I was in a three-year relationship, but I didn't see any future at all. It was one of my actual first relationships. And I thought, "I'm gonna spend the rest of my life" — I was in high school! That was my mindset. You say you're in love, but you're just being a child. It was nothing.

Any amazing, awesome dates you've been on?
Yeah! My boyfriend got me front row tickets to see Incubus. That was pretty awesome because I love Incubus. I've never had someone actually take me to a concert, so that was my first time. It was awesome.

What do you think of the guys in San Jose?
There aren't that many great guys out there. It's hard to find someone. And it's crazy that I just found someone I've known since elementary school, and we had such a great connection. A lot of people are like, "Oh, it's all about going out, having fun." I don't hear anyone saying, "I just want to settle down and find someone." It's just, like, partying and doing it all over again for them. I think it depends on how you were raised. My mom always told me, "Don't be one of those hoochie girls!"

She said "hoochie"? How old is your mom?
She's thirty-three.

Do you see long-term potential in this guy?
Yeah, I do. I really do. I mean, we're both weird; we're both dorks. We don't have serious moments; we can be best friends, and I think that's one of the most important things.

What attracted you to him?
His personality. He tried to act all cool. I was like, "I know you. Don't try to act all bad, 'cause you're not." So he showed his true self, like, "I'm weird; I'm a dork." And I was like, "Yeah, me too!"

How is he weird?
The things he does. Singing, mostly. We'll hear a song, and we'll sing to each other — not caring who sees us. And people are looking at us, but who cares?