Talking to Strangers: San Luis Obispo, CA
Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
by Marguerite Kennedy
What do you do for a living?
I work for an accounting firm — I'm a C.P.A.
Have you ever dated anyone you met through work?
No. I've never met an accountant I thought was sexy. Not even a little bit.
That explains why the "Accountants Gone Wild" series was so short-lived. Are you in a relationship?
No, I'm single for the first time in ages.
What's it like to be single in San Luis Obispo?
It's not a great place for it, especially if you're over twenty-five or so. It's a college town, and there aren't a lot of jobs outside of the university and the government, so you don't get a lot of young professionals coming into town. And I'm a lesbian, so that reduces the dating pool even further.
Have you ever considered moving to a bigger city, like San Francisco, that has more people and/or more of a lesbian culture?
I've thought of it, but this is a really nice place to live. There are a lot of drawbacks to big cities — they're expensive, polluted, all that. Here, it's pretty laid back, but there's still stuff to do. I love the outdoors — in San Luis, you're right by the ocean, and mountains, and there's good weather. So, I'll probably stay, and hope the right person will eventually show up.
How long was your last relationship?
About six and a half years. When same-sex marriage was legalized, we got married. Then, a little while after the law was overturned, we decided to part ways, so we got a divorce.
Wait. Your marriage was legally nullified, but you still had to get a divorce? Doesn't that seem like adding insult to injury?
Yeah, and it's expensive, too! We had to go through the divorce process just like any straight couple. You might say there's divorce equality, if not marriage equality.
What are some of the qualities you look for in a woman?
Athletic, smart, fun. Someone who likes to be home. Someone who's not looking to jump right into a relationship.
Has that happened to you before, that women want to move too fast?
Yes. In my previous relationships, we were pretty much a couple right off the bat. Next time, I'd like to take things a little more slowly.
Have you always lived in San Luis Obispo?
No, I moved here from Georgia about twenty years ago.
Are you in a relationship?
I'm legally separated from my wife, but it's very recent. We have a year to decide if we want to go through with the divorce or not.
How long were you together?
Eleven years, married for six.
Have you started dating other people already?
Oh, no. No, no, no. I'm not there yet. The idea is pretty scary.
Do you feel like it'll be different being single, this time around?
Yes. Definitely. For one thing, I'm a lot older now. But mostly, you spend that much time with a person, and they change you. You're a different person when you're half of a couple.
Would you say marriage changed you for the better, for the worse, or neither?
For the better. She's a wonderful person. We have our differences, but I'll always care about her.
Do you think it'll be very different, being single here, versus in Georgia?
Not really. I was single for a long time when I first moved here, and I had a lot of fun. But it was a different phase in my life. I don't think it matters where you are so much as who you are, when it comes to relationships. Although, here, I do stand out more, because — I don't know if you've noticed — but I'm not white.
Oh, really? But, seriously — do you feel like that's an advantage, or a disadvantage when it comes to dating?
It depends on who we're talking about. It's worked both ways. At any rate, it definitely makes me stand out.
What line of work are you in?
I cook at a local restaurant.
Have you ever dated anyone you met through work?
Yes. In fact, that's how I met my wife. I was working in a restaurant with an open kitchen, and she was a regular. I thought she was really beautiful. We would sometimes talk for a minute here and there, and finally, after a few months, I worked up the nerve to ask her out. The rest is history.
A man who can cook is a dream for a lot of women. Have you ever used your culinary skills to seduce the ladies?
Are you kidding? Of course I have! The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach. Food is very sensual, and I love a woman who truly enjoys her food. Also, I think most women aren't used to men who can cook, and who like to spoil them a little bit. I feel like they appreciate the effort, as much as the meal.
What's your idea of a romantic and/or sexy meal?
One of my favorites is a roasted pork loin wrapped in bacon and apple slices. It's delicious. Just the smell of it. There's something downright sexy about bacon. And I do the dishes, too.
What do you do for a living?
I'm a student, but I also work in an old folks' home.
An old folks' home? You mean, like, assisted living?
I prefer "old folks' home." It's more honest. I like to keep things real.
I'm guessing there's not much of a hook-up scene at work?
You'd be surprised. The last guy I dated is one of the cooks at the home where I work.
What was it like to date a coworker?
It was okay, until we broke up. That's the problem with dating people you work with — or even just hooking up. Afterwards, you still have to see them and deal with them on a daily basis.
Before the cook, were you seeing anybody?
I was in a long-term monogamous relationship for four years. But I've decided that monogamy is not for me. I don't want to get married, ever. I think marriage is a completely outdated institution.
You're still pretty young. Do you think you might change your mind about marriage as you get older?
[eye roll] Everyone says that. "Just wait until you meet the right guy," blah, blah. It drives me crazy. And, no, I don't think I'll change my mind. The more people say that, the more determined it makes me.
Interesting. So, what would your ideal relationship — or, I guess, relationships — look like?
Well, I want to start my own non-profit, and it's going to have branches all over the country, so I'm going to have to travel a lot. And I'd like to have a guy in each city, so I'll never be alone. I won't have a lot of time for a relationship, but, obviously, I have needs. They would all know about each other, of course. I wouldn't be lying to anybody — it'll all be out in the open.
Have you shared this idea with any guys you've dated — or would like to date? And, if so, how did they react?
Well, the last guy — the cook — didn't like it very much. It was one of the reasons things ended with us. I had a casual thing going on with a few other guys, and I didn't hide that. Besides, he was moving way too fast, and I wasn't ready to jump into another relationship. It's a cliché, but you might say I'm more like the stereotype of what a guy is supposed to be like. I don't want to settle down, and I want to have sex with a lot of different people.
Do you think most women don't want to have sex with a lot of people?
All of these things are socially constructed. Women have been programmed for hundreds, thousands of years to "need" men to be providers, for their identity, all that. Some women's need for absolute monogamy comes out of fears that are a holdover to another era, when women couldn't support themselves, and they would be destitute and/or socially ostracized if their husbands left them. I think it's time for women to take back their sexual power, in ways that aren't just in relation to men's fantasies.
How do you think men feel about sexually empowered women?
Whether or not they would admit it, I think most men feel very conflicted about authentically powerful women — even the most liberal, open-minded guys. Take the non-monogamy thing. On one hand, men are threatened by it. But at the same time, they find it sexy, even if they don't realize it.
They don't realize that they find it sexy?
Some guys get very turned on by the idea of "their" woman being with another man, even if this isn't socially acceptable. One night, one of the guys I was seeing knew that I had hooked up with this other guy the night before. He was all over me. The sex was incredible.
Do you have any dealbreakers?
Anyone who's married. Or who wants to get married, or be 100% monogamous. Also, kids. I don't want to have kids of my own. My non-profit is going to have branches in a lot of different cities, and I don't want to be an absentee mom. But, eventually, I'd like to adopt troubled teens. If a guy is bothered by that, that's a dealbreaker.
Have you had any good — or bad — dates, recently?
That's the thing. I've done plenty of hooking up, but in my entire life, I don't think I've ever been on a proper "date." I'd like to start a nationwide movement to bring back the date.
Is that what your non-profit will be about? "The Dating Foundation?"
Ha! Maybe it should be. But no, I'm going to start an arts-related afterschool program for disadvantaged kids — ceramics, photography, that sort of thing — all run on donations.
What are some of the qualities you look for in a guy?
I want to be treated like a lady, but also like a feminist. I want men who respect my values, even though they aren't very traditional.