Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Washington, DC

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we've just met.

Diana, 29

So you're a programmer. Is that a good way to meet people?
No. I meet people through riding bicycles.  

I've been warned about dating bike-messenger types.
That is definitely a type, and some of those people are amazing, but some of them are a little too extreme for their own good.  

Any disastrous dates since you've been in D.C.?
D.C. on the whole is very insular. It's kind of clique-y, but it has a different social protocol than other towns. In other towns, you almost play an "I don't know you" game for a while where you meet people randomly socially a few times before you actually hang out, and then when you finally trade phone numbers and hang out, it means that you're going to be friends. Whereas in D.C., you're wasted and you meet each other and in five minutes you're trading numbers. Not even for dating necessarily, just for being friends. But if you call them a week later, they'll be like, "Who is this?"  

Have any men or women impressed you here?
In D.C., the first thing you get asked is what you do for a living. Everyone wants to network and find out what Senator's office you work in. I'm a computer programmer, so I don't really fit in and I'm almost a pariah at parties. I've been at parties where women who work in the mail room are like, "Oh, she's not in our industry, she doesn't work on the Hill. She's not relevant." Sometimes I lie and say I do interpretative dance.  

So what are you doing for dates?
I imported my boyfriend from Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh, I was used to walking into a bar and saying "I'm kind of thirsty, I think I'd like a beer," and having lots of dudes say "let me get you one!" My first weekend in D.C. I strolled into the Black Cat and picked out a friendly looking dude and said, "I just moved here, can you recommend some other places to go?" And he's like, "Uh, my friends are over there, I gotta go." I realized women don't approach men here and you're supposed to wait for some schlubby guy who's six years older than you, balding, but works at Brookings. And you're supposed to get really pumped that he's talking to you. They expect every woman under the age of thirty to be a mom-and-dad funded Hill intern, and when you're a woman who's made your own way in a male-dominated industry, they don't know how to deal. They're looking for young girls who don't have a lot of opinions.

 

Aussie, 23

Are you a native Washingtonian?
Yes, I've lived here all my life. 

Have you met any special guys? 
I'm attracted to any type of race, ethnicity, it doesn't matter. My preference is a nerd who has street smarts. Not someone who would be too scared to protect me, but also not someone who's hardcore and doesn't know how to respect me.

Where do you meet your nerds?
I used to be a college student and that's where most of my dates come through. I don't date people at the club. I don't like that. I feel like everyone at the club is stunting. I don't want to go for guys popping bottles when that's really their rent money. Now I meet my guys at social gatherings. 

Are you friends with all your exes?
I am. Even the ones I never thought I'd speak to again. I can call up anyone I've ever dated in the past.  

So have you ever had your heart broken?
Yes, I have. Only once, although there have been other situations when I had really high hopes in the relationship and I was let down. I had my heart broken in 2008. I was with a guy for two years and he got back with his ex-girlfriend.

But you're still friendly with him?
Yeah, I saw him last year and we said hey. I'm over that hump where I was like, "I hate you and my life is over!" No one's life is really over after you get your heart broken. If someone comes along who really treats you well, your heart will mend.  

Are you a heart breaker? 
Well, I am picky. I have had some guys say "I wanted you, but you didn't want me." I'm not into settling. I'm not going to settle for someone just because they have an interest in me.  

Do you have a dream date in mind?
A dream date might be a dream wedding! I think someone picking me up and taking me somewhere I never expected. I'm a very simple girl. Maybe front-row tickets at a ballet or… something that shows he thought really hard about it.

Matt, 23

What do you do for work?
I've been in the fitness industry for four years, and my current gym for almost a year.

You must meet a lot of people.
Big time. A gym is a huge social scene, so you meet all sorts of people. I met someone at the gym and we were together for two years. That's who I recently broke up with.

Is there a policy about dating members?
Not at my current gym. At other gyms there have definitely been policies against it. But at this one it's not laid out, so it's fair game. Now that I'm single there's been an influx of interesting people. Not necessarily good people.

So the word got out and you've had a lot of offers?
Yes, and I don't know how. It's not like I posted it on Facebook or anything.

People are always complaining about the shortage of datable guys in D.C.
In the gym world, there's an abundance. To say the least. I don't have issues. I don't feel like there's a shortage at all. The majority of guys are pretty comfortable with themselves but there are people here and there who, because of job reasons or because of social reasons, are not comfortable. And that's a lot more challenging. You want to go out and be yourself, and if someone has to hide it's not really the same.

Are you happy being single?
I feel like I missed out on some college years and now I want to get those back! It's not that I'm throwing myself out there to anyone but I do want to go out and have fun, date around and see how it goes.

Have you had some awkward moments when someone hit on you, you said no, and then they're there every day at the front desk?
I think because I look even younger than I am, that's an attraction for older people. So I get a lot of older requests, and they're not exactly my type. I might end up seeing them every day at work, and that can be pretty awkward. But I work around it.

Does working at the gym make you pickier?
Definitely. Because you're around people who are trying to make themselves look better. It's a very vain industry. Everyone there cares about appearance, so it's natural — as shallow as that sounds.

 

Jackie, 25

What kind of work do you do?
I've been DJ-ing in the city for three and half years. I work mostly at night and my schedule's completely backwards compared to other people. Most of my friends, that's how we live. They're make-up artists or photographers, more of the artist scene.

I would think you'd meet a lot of guys DJ-ing.
Any girl who goes out in the nightclub scene, whether it's to have fun or work, if you have alcohol involved and late nights, you're going to get hit on. It's eventually going to happen to any attractive girl who goes out. Even if you're insecure and think you're not attractive, it's going to happen to you eventually. You're going to get hit on. But those will be pretty undesirable people. 

Dating is not going well?
If you're a girl in D.C. who is interesting and attractive and not completely psycho, you'd think it'd be easy to find a guy to hang out with. But for some reason, whenever my girlfriends and I talk about it, we all say it's so hard to find a guy worth dating in this city. This city is full of really interesting, cool people, but when it comes down to finding someone you're compatible with, not so much.  

So you're single?
No, I'm seeing someone who was a friend of mine before I got my heart broken last year. He was there for me and I realized he's really awesome. People think, "Oh, a rebound?" But this was somebody I knew who was already a good friend of mine, and I saw how much he cared about me and I trusted him. But that's a very rare situation where you realize, "I can be with this person, even though I never thought I could before." In most breakup situations you spiral into this vortex where you think, "Oh no, I want to die," or you end up being really crazy like, "I'm going to fuck everyone!"

Any serious turn-offs?
A guy who can't handle his liquor and gets blackout wasted is totally gross. That, to me, is pathetic. And that could never work, because I'm not carrying your ass home.

 

Jerome, 30

Are you seeing anyone right now?
I am. It's fantastic.  

How long has it been going on?
A couple months. She has an awesome smile.

Are you happiest in a committed relationship?
I don't really know. I just got into one, and then a few months after that I got into another. I don't really know what it's like to juggle multiple people. I think it's easiest to deal with one person. It's more honest like that.

Any pet peeves in a woman?
I'm a DJ and I do that about four nights a week. So, when I'm DJ-ing I see a lot of women who — I don't know if they're really throwing themselves at a guy or if they're just intoxicated, but they're being a little aggressive. Sometimes, from a guy's perspective, that's not always what you want. I think women have a natural aura about them and if a guy likes you, he's going to find a way to get your attention. Spilling a drink on you, tripping — something! 

Have you had any phenomenal dates in D.C.?
I try to make every experience phenomenal, because I try to be a phenomenal person.  

What about you attracted your current girlfriend?
I'm really hot! Other than that, I try to be very respectful. I still open doors for women. I try to be nice and be accepting of other people's interests. But especially, I'm hot!

Interviews and photography by Monica Shores.