Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Seattle, WA

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Matthew, 26

Where are you from originally?
Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Do you find that there's a big difference in the dating scene here, versus Colorado?
Definitely. For one thing, Colorado Springs has a pretty small gay community, unlike San Francisco or New York or Seattle, or another "big gay Mecca."

Why did you choose to move to Seattle, instead of, say, San Francisco?
I originally came to the area when I was in the Air Force, at a base near here. 

You must be thrilled that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was finally repealed.
I was. It was long overdue.

Did you feel like there was institutionalized homophobia in the military?
Not nearly as much as you would think. Most of the people I served with knew I was gay, but it wasn't really an issue. Of course, I didn't tell them outright, because I couldn't. But it didn't really matter to anyone. We were more focused on our work.

Would you ever consider going back into the service?
I would, in a heartbeat. I loved being in the service. My being gay had nothing to do with why I left. I was just ready to do other things, like going to college.

What are you studying?
Education. I want to be a math teacher. 

Do you ever hook up with guys from your classes?
Not really. It's a pretty female-dominated major. But I've met a lot of girlfriends!

I've got to say, men in uniform are pretty hot. Did you ever date any guys in the service?
Only once. Mostly I went out with non-military guys. The one guy I met, we had to speak in codes to figure out we were both gay. For instance, he mentioned that he liked to go out on Capitol Hill.

Seattle's "gay neighborhood."
Exactly. And that was kind of a code word for being gay. 

Did you ever worry about being "outed"?
A little bit. When I was in, I knew one guy who was outed. His commander didn't care at all that he was gay, and neither did anyone else in his unit. He was really good at his job, and everyone liked him a lot. But, because of DADT, his commander was required to go through the whole procedure to kick him out. 

It sounds like the law didn't reflect the sentiments of most people in the service.
Not at all. 

What's something you really like about living in Seattle?
In this neighborhood in particular, I love walking around and seeing a lot of other gay people. I feel really at home here.

That sounds nice. 
Yeah, it's a great place. If we could only do something about the weather…



Queenie, 40

Do you hang out here at this gay bar very often?
I do, in part because I live down the street. I also go to the so-called "straight" bars on the block, but a lot of my friends are regulars here.

This neighborhood is very lively. Is it a good place to meet men?
If you're another man, it's great. But even if there were more than zero straight men around here, I've never been one to go out with guys I meet in bars. You know the saying, "Never believe a man in a bar after midnight?"

I've never heard that, but those are words to live by. If not at bars, how do women meet guys in Seattle? 
Like I tell my girlfriends, the three best places are a bank, a Laundromat, and the grocery store. If he's in a bank, you know he's at least got some money. If he's doing his laundry, you know he takes care of himself, and he doesn't expect a woman to wash his clothes for him. And if he's in the grocery store, you can tell a lot about him by looking in his cart.

How so?
First, you can tell if he knows how to cook. If it's all just hot dogs and frozen pizza, that's no good. But if he's buying actual ingredients, that tells you something. And you can tell if he has kids, if he's buying diapers, or those giant, family-sized boxes of cereal, or juice boxes. Grown men only buy juice boxes if they have kids.

What's the first thing you look for in a man? 
A 401(k). I can tell you everything you need to know about a man just by glancing at his 401(k) statement. I can tell you how much he thinks about the future, and I can also tell you what kind of personality he has. 

How can you figure out his personality traits from a financial document?
From the portfolio. If it's all in aggressive, high-risk investments, that guy's probably going to end up cheating on your ass. If he puts it all into slow-growth funds, that means he has a more cautious personality.

You sound like a detective. What do you do for a living?
I'm between positions at the moment.

You need a detective agency, and then your own reality show. 
I wouldn't turn it down if they offered.

Are you in a relationship?
No, thank you. I've retired from relationships. Now that I'm in my forties, I've decided it's "me time." I spent my twenties and thirties taking care of other people and raising my son. Now, it's my turn. 

How old is your son?
He's sixteen, going on seventeen. 

Is he already dating, and all that?
Yes. He and I have very frank conversations about sex. I don't tell him, "Don't do it!" Instead, I try to give him a lot of clear information. I give him condoms, too. Telling your teenager, "Just don't have sex!" is the easiest way to become a grandmother. And I'm far too young for that.



Sharim, 36

What do you do for a living?
I work in a hospital operating room, as a surgical technician.

A hospital, eh?  Is it just like Seattle Grace Hospital on Grey's Anatomy? Lots of attractive people constantly hooking up?
Not exactly. But I do work with a lot of beautiful, smart women.

Have you ever hooked up with anyone from work?
I haven't, but I know plenty of people who have. A hospital is kind of a fishbowl — like high school, only smaller. If two people hook up, or go out on a date, everyone ends up gossiping about it. Which is why I've avoided it so far, although I've been tempted on more than one occasion.

While performing surgery, do the doctors and nurses talk incessantly about their love lives, like on every hospital show ever?
Not so much, but there's plenty of talk about such things outside the O.R. 

Are you currently in a relationship?
I'm at the end of one. I was dating a woman for two years, but it's sort of winding down. But we're still good friends. 

Two years? That's a long time.
Yeah. She was just coming out of a divorce when we met. Neither of us was looking for anything serious at the time, but we ended up getting along really well, and one thing led to another. But there's no animosity, and she's still an important part of my life.

Still. Even in the best of circumstances, breakups suck.
So true. But there's a certain beauty in heartbreak. It's something so universal, so palpable. Something we can all relate to. 

Are you saying you like being broken up with?
Of course not, it's awful! Worst thing ever. But in the course of history, that pain has inspired so much great art, and music, and literature. Even hundreds of years later, we can connect to those people through that pain. I'm a songwriter, on the side, and some of my best songs have come from a broken heart.

Have you started dating new people yet?
Not really. A few weeks ago I met a woman who seemed really nice, and attractive. I got her number, but I never called. I just don't feel like I'm ready.

How did you meet the woman whose number you got?
Exactly the same way, and the same place I met you. She sat down at the table next to me, and I introduced myself, and asked her name.  

That's a good way to meet. Have you noticed that people in Seattle don't seem to talk to strangers very often? Maybe it's the Scandinavian influence here.
It's so true. But I'm not from Seattle, originally. My dad was in the military, so I grew up all over. But I moved here from Las Vegas about eleven years ago. 

What's the biggest difference in the dating scenes here, versus Vegas?
For one thing, Seattle is more pedestrian friendly. That helps. There's a sense of openness that comes from the fact that people interact with each other on a more human level, on daily basis. Just being in physical proximity has something to do with it. In Vegas, you spend all your time in a car, and I feel like that creates a sense of alienation. Also, the culture in Vegas is a lot more superficial. 

Las Vegas? Superficial? You're blowing my mind.
I know, right? Here, women seem less obsessed with their looks, and they're less likely to have fake… well, everything. Don't get me wrong, I like a woman who takes good care of herself. But not one who spends an hour putting on makeup in the morning.

Cameron, 22

What do you do for a living?
I work in a bar. 

Is that a good way to meet women?
Not women of quality! 

You're laughing. You mean you only meet "floozies," to borrow a term from my grandmother?
Not exactly, you just meet girls who are really drunk and loud. 

Are you in a relationship?
Nooo! No, thank you!

You're pretty adamant about that. What do you like so much about being single?
I like the fact that nobody's constantly telling me what to do. That, and the sex. You get to have a lot of sex, but in the morning, you don't have to go have brunch with her mom, or go shopping for vacuum cleaners, or whatever. 

How are you meeting all these girls for the NSA sex? 
You know, here and there. 

What kind of qualities do you look for in a woman?
I like a woman who's independent, strong. Goofy. And — I don't mean to sound shallow — but I love a nice big, round butt.

"My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hun?" Are you too young for that reference?
"I like big butts, and I cannot lie…" It's a classic.

Thank God, I was feeling old for a second. Have you ever tried online dating?
Never, but a lot of my friends are into that. I just meet people when I'm out. You know, you go to a party, friends of friends, that sort of thing. And then, their friends want to have sex with you.

Wait, the girls you have sex with don't mind that you have sex with their friends?
Nah, because they don't want relationships, either. Just sex. 

Do any of these girls ever decide they want more than just a fling?
Actually, that happened recently. I hooked up with this girl a few weeks ago — let's call her "B." I thought we were just having fun, but then she decided she wanted me to be her boyfriend or whatever. So then, like a week later, she came to me and said me she was pregnant. 

How did you react?
I told her I'd support whatever choice she made, but I'm not ready to be a dad. Like, really not ready. Besides, it didn't add up. 

Did you use protection?
Yes. Also, I knew it wasn't true, because her best friend is dating my best friend, who's dating my ex-girlfriend, and she told him that B. told her she wasn't really pregnant. And he told her to tell me.

I need a chart, here. Your best friend is dating your ex-girlfriend, who in turn happens to be best friends with B.?
Right. And she — my ex — came to me and said that B. had confessed to her that she wasn't really pregnant. The day before that, B. came to me and said she'd gone to the doctor, and the doctor said the baby was "fighting for its life." And this is, like, two weeks after we had sex for the first time, so…

I take it B. watches a lot of soap operas. 
As a matter of fact, she does.



Hanna, 25

Are you from Seattle originally?
Is anybody? No, I'm from New Hampshire, originally. I came to the West Coast when I was working with Americorps, after college, and I really liked Seattle, so I stayed.

Are you in a relationship?
Yes. My partner and I have been together for about two years, now. 

I've heard that, for women seeking women, the dating scene is pretty hard in Seattle. 
I guess you could say it is everywhere. There's definitely a big lesbian culture here, which is great. The problem is that women tend to pair off, and stay paired off. 

Have you heard that song, "The Lesbian Second Date Move-In Service"?
Yeah, there's something to that whole cliché. Still, I know plenty of straight couples who jump right into serious relationships, so we're not the only ones. But in the lesbian community there's probably a more of a tendency to get serious early on in a relationship.

Seattle — and this neighborhood in particular — is said to have one of the biggest per capita gay and lesbian populations in the country. Does that make it easier to be part of a same-sex couple?
That's one of the things I love about living here — being gay isn't even a thing. I feel like people don't see me as "Hanna the Lesbian." They just see me as "Hanna."

Did you feel like that was different on the East Coast?
A little bit. A lot of it is generational, but New England still has a lot of the old-world Puritanical influence, even though it's often under the surface. Seattle seems a lot more open to "alternative lifestyles," whatever they may be.

Yeah, the family next door to me has two dads, three kids, and about twelve chickens. The only thing that seems unusual in that scenario is the chickens.
Yeah, what's up with Seattle and the urban chickens? I know more people with chickens here than back in New Hampshire.

Have you and your partner thought about having kids?
My partner is a bit older than I am, and I know she thinks about it. We both like kids, and would like to have them someday. However, there are certain logistics when you're two women…

It's easier than it is for two men.
That is true. But I'm in no rush. My parents were older when I was born, and I think that's influenced my mental timeline about having kids. For now, I'm happy with just having a dog.



Alquist, 38

What do you do for a living?
I'm a street performer. I make balloon art, mostly for kids. I'm also a children's birthday clown. 

Is being a clown a good way to get dates?
I don't know if it's good or bad, but I've never asked a woman out when I wasn't in clown face.

Why do you think that is?
When I'm in makeup, I feel more important. Like a rock star. If you're a guy, and you want to approach a woman, you need to feel important, confident. You need to give them some reason to want to talk to you.

Since you mentioned the "rock star" angle, has being a clown ever gotten you laid? 
Once or twice. One time, when I lived in New Orleans, I was performing at a bar, doing what I call my "stupid human trick." This involves sticking a slightly-inflated balloon up your nose until you can pull the other end out of your mouth. In the end, there's an inflated part sticking out of both your nose and your mouth. In the crowd that night, there was this woman I'd met years earlier. I'd always thought she was really gorgeous, but never had the courage to approach her. Anyway, after I did the trick, she came up to me and whispered in my ear, "I am so wet right now." So we went back to her place and had sex.

Wow. That is… impressive. Tell me about a time you asked a woman out while in costume.
One time, I saw a pretty girl sitting alone in the terrace of a sidewalk café. So I came up to her, and asked her two favorite colors. Then, I walked around the corner and made a balloon flower for her, made out of those two colors. Then I came back over and gave it to her. 

How did she react?
She was thrilled. Turns out, she loved clowns. And then, I asked her if she wanted to get a bite to eat with me, so we did. We went out a couple times, but nothing really became of it. 

Do you find that you attract a lot of women with clown fetishes?
Oh, for sure. It's not true for all the women I've gone out with, but I'd say the vast majority have a thing for clowns.

When did you move to Seattle?
About four months ago. I moved here from Dallas, Texas.

Are you in a relationship?
No. Not at all.

Do you find much difference in the dating scene here, versus Dallas?
Not a huge difference. It's sort of the same everywhere. Here, there are definitely more artsy and "alternative" girls, which I like. But on the whole, women aren't as approachable here. 

Why did you move to Seattle?
I lived here about ten years ago. At the time, a woman who lives here was financing a movie I wrote, directed, and produced. It was about a corporate businessman gets fed up with the whole bourgeois lifestyle, so he quits his job and gets clown make-up tattooed on his face. 

"The Sad Executive Clown Thriller of the Year"? 
Something like that.

From the way you talked about the woman who financed your film, it sounds like you have a bit of a crush on her. 
I guess you could say that. I should've probably made a move years ago, but I didn't have the guts. Besides, I don't think she's interested. I wouldn't want to compromise our friendship, or our potential artistic collaboration.

Have you ever considered making clown porn?
Nah, that's not my thing. But I bet it would be easier to sell than an independent art film.

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