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What It’s Like To Date In The South Vs. What It’s Like To Date In A Northern City

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I always knew I wanted to live in New York, it just seemed out of reach. I came here to visit some friends in February of 2012, and by May I found a room in a friend’s apartment, sold all my things, and got on a plane. I didn’t have a job lined up or anything, but I wasn’t worried about it. I’ve learned some very important lessons about dating in the relatively short time I’ve been here, which I discuss with Larry Hardin.
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Nichole: I grew up in a pretty conservative suburb of Memphis (and later went to school in Nashville), so most of the guys my age were church-going, into hunting and sports, that kind of stuff. During my junior year a girl transferred to my school, she was into punk rock and wasn’t religious or anything – we even liked the same books and movies. We ended up having a little fling, until I eventually met an older guy who was in a band. I dated him for a long time, until my dad found out his age and told him never to speak to me again.

Larry: You are the ultimate badass! I grew up in the South too (and currently live there), and my peer group was mixed between kids whose parents were Northern transplants and native Southerners. During the course of my life I’ve lived in both regions, experiencing different dating dynamics in each, so how have you found New York City?

Nichole: People have so much going on here, so relationships are not always a priority. That’s something I had to adjust to – not to take things so personally. I have a lot more anonymity here in New York: when I lived in Nashville, I was part of such a small community that everyone knew whom I was hooking up with or dating all the time. Here, there are so many people and everyone is so busy that no one cares.

Larry: I can definitely relate. I meet a lot of people through friends, so it’s a given your business will eventually get out there that way. Even when I meet women out or through other means, there’s always that subtle game of “Who Do You Know?” When you made it to NYC, how did you dive into the dating scene?

Nichole: I started with OKCupid. At first it was just a way to meet people, since I only knew a few people in the city. I wasn’t really looking for a boyfriend so I just went on dates, then I met someone. Our first date started badly and I almost didn’t go, because it was raining and I got lost. I showed up looking like a combination of Courtney Love and a drowned cat. I found him rude and abrasive, but by the end of the night I was infatuated. I left that night thinking I’d never see him again, however he called the next morning.

Larry: Oh man, what happened next?

Nichole: We met at Prospect Park – my first time there – and I planned on hanging out with him for only a few hours, but as we sipped beers I realized we had a lot in common. I ditched my other plans and went back to his apartment where we drank bourbon and he made me German food. We laid in his bed for hours, though I kept my promise to him of not having sex. We hung out almost every day for a month, then he got a call – he’d lost his job. I went over to his apartment a few nights later, and that’s when he told me he was going back to Berlin. He said it very matter-of-factly, like the month of almost nonstop hanging out had meant nothing…and maybe it didn’t, to him. But I was new to the city and extremely naive. I went into the bathroom and cried. I didn’t want him to see me cry. It was embarrassing. I saw him once more, but it wasn’t really the same. He left, I guess. Maybe he’s still in Berlin – this was almost two years ago. I think the only reason the experience stuck with me so long is because it was a sort of rude awakening. It taught me something important about dating in New York: people disappear.

Larry: Don’t they? I had a relatively brief but very intense relationship with a girl (who was a native New Yorker incidentally) when I lived up North. I don’t know that it would’ve lasted long-term or anything, but I certainly enjoyed spending time with her – that is, before it dissolved over the course of one Christmas holiday spent apart. We were virtual strangers after that. Once you had your realization, how’d you approach your next encounter?

Nichole: I didn’t take dating that seriously for a while after that: I think I tried casual dating, but I’m really bad at that. I didn’t want to jump into anything that quickly again, so I focused on hanging out with friends I already knew and getting to know the city.

Larry: How were those early experiences different from what you’d experienced in Nashville?

Nichole: In Nashville things seemed to move to relationship territory more quickly, I think because most people I knew were either from there or planned on staying for a long time. As I said, everyone knew each other’s business, so if you went on a few dates with someone, people knew. Obviously there is still a huge bar/hookup culture, but I felt there was no anonymity there. In New York, people are much more transient. Most of the people I know here are transplants. They don’t have roots here and will just pick up and move, sometimes totally on a whim. There’s so much going on here that even if you really like someone you might only see him once or twice a week. And it’s easier to date multiple people at once. At first I loved the anonymity here – you go on a bad date and you’re less likely to run into that person. But the flakiness and flightiness of some people took some getting used to. I started to become sort of flaky myself, and I didn’t like that. So I’d say I prefer a mix: combine my dating experiences in Nashville, which were more commitment based, with the less gossipy dating culture in NYC.

Larry: I would also love that mix. The melting pot of natives and transplants down here yields an interesting stew, especially when it comes to relationship expectations vis-à-vis people’s career trajectories. Do you think there’s a way to bridge that divide? What can Southerners learn from New Yorkers, and vice versa?

Nichole: I will say the kind of anonymity NYC provides does lead to less pressure in relationships. When you’re in the early stages of getting to know someone on a romantic level, and people see you out with that person a few times and start to ask questions, that can put a lot of pressure on a new relationship. As far as what New Yorkers can learn from Southerners (and again this is not a blanket statement…just from my personal experience) is to slow down. If you’re looking for a relationship, MAKE time to get to know people. Here, it’s so easy to go on dates with tons of different people. And that’s cool, if that’s what you’re looking to do. But for people who are actually looking for something more meaningful than a one-night stand, just slow down. If you meet someone and really feel a connection, it won’t kill you to miss a party or a networking event or whatever to go out on a date with them. TC mark

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