valentine's day

5 Women on Their New York Dating Nightmares

Photo-Illustration: by Preeti Kinha; Photos: Getty

My first mistake was kissing the guy who worked at the pizza place by my apartment in Queens. He gave me free slices, and I gave him cigarettes, and it wasn’t until he put his mouth on mine under the subway stairs that I realized I would have to find somewhere else to buy pizza on my way home at night. When I moved to Brooklyn, I vowed not to make the same mistake, and I didn’t, until I went on several dates with the bartender at my favorite restaurant, one sneeze-length away from my apartment. After it fizzled out, I would walk by longingly, yearning not for him, but for the tart margaritas I could see him mixing through the window. I had now Frenched myself out of delicious food in two boroughs, wandering through a sexless, cheeseless hell of my own making.

Dating can be fun, terrible, soul-crushing and life-affirming, no matter where you live. These experiences are only heightened when you live on a small, damp, expensive, trash island and its environs, smushed against eight million other busy, damp humans. You meet interesting, tiresome, fine people. Sometimes things go well, and that’s great, but sometimes, overwhelmed by the daily struggles and opportunities of the city, you end up thinking it’s a good idea to shvitz on your second date, or you argue about the price of Trader Joe’s tomatoes, or one of you finds an affordable studio around the corner from the other, and it’s simply too good to pass up.

Below, five women share their New York dating nightmares.

What a waste

I once dated a guy with a car when I, too, had a car — what a waste. Initially I’d thought it would be so impressive that I had a vehicle, because it meant that we could go places and do things, but then he also had one, and I think he’d also felt the same way, and so neither of us were impressed. We did go places and do things, during the first month, but then then we spent most of the rest of our relationship, like, talking about when and how to move our cars to comply with alternate-side parking rules. —Edith

Do not shvitz on a second date

When I arrived at Spa Castle in Queens on a second date two years ago, I was optimistic. It was literally hot and steamy, and I wanted my body to be limber for the inevitable sex after. What could go wrong?

I chose to ignore the fact that an elderly man was found there face down in a hot tub a year prior. Also, I hate spas. But my crush was cute and if all else failed, I figured it would be a fun story to tell our grandkids. Immediately after we arrived, I was handed a uniform that was far too big and had a mysterious stain on the front. Cute. When we entered the first sauna, I tried to make small talk like, “Ha-ha I hope I don’t pass out,” but the strangers sitting next to us didn’t seem to appreciate it.

By the third sauna, we agreed to sweat in silence. Finally, we made it to the pools, where I could show off my truly cute bikini, but every time I tried to get close to my date, my body would float away. And, to make matters worse, when I got out of the water after hours of boiling my insides, sex was the last thing I wanted to do. In conclusion: Shvitzing on a second date might seem like a fun idea in theory, but it is not hot. It’s just too hot. —Emilia

I worked on the second floor, where the Art-Erotica section is

I worked at the Strand Bookstore for a couple years and it was pretty
standard for women to wear bike shorts to work if they were wearing
skirts or a dress in order to prevent random men from taking up-skirt
photos. I worked on the second floor, where the Art-Erotica section is
housed, so a number of our customers were sort of mouth breathers and
we had to climb a lot of ladders while we were shelving. Being cheap,
I bought boxer briefs rather than bike shorts.

To make a long story short, I was seeing this guy and he asked me to
take care of his sick cat while he was out of town and at some point
over the weekend, I left a pair of boxer briefs (by accident!) under
his bed. I’m not sure if the problem was I’d never worn a dress around
him on a day I was working at the bookstore or if he’d just never paid
attention to my underwear? Either way, he found them when he got back
and was immediately convinced that I’d fucked someone else at his
house while I was supposed to be taking care of his dying cat. I
didn’t handle the situation very well (laughed at him) and we
eventually broke up, pretty much as a direct result of that fight. If
he ends up reading this I would like to state publicly — they were
actually my boxer briefs!! —Rebecca

She’d found an extremely affordable studio apartment … in Brooklyn … approximately two blocks from mine

When we met, Sam had been subletting a place in Brooklyn for about a month. She was new to the city and had plans to rent a place of her own with a roommate in Washington Heights at the end of the summer. This all sounded fine as we went about our first and second dates, getting to know each other and having a surprisingly good time. But on our third date, Sam mentioned her lease had fallen through and her roommate had bailed. And, wouldn’t you know, she’d found an extremely affordable studio apartment … in Brooklyn … approximately two blocks from mine. The date only went downhill from there. We had truly terrible sex and then she all but refused to leave my apartment. I still pick up the pace every time I walk by her building on my way to the subway. —Madison

So he announces that we’re going into Trader Joe’s to see how much tomatoes cost

It was probably seven or eight years ago, long enough ago that we were seeing Hannibal Buress do stand-up in a park in Red Hook and he was billed as an “up-and-coming comic.” The guy did not think to bring a blanket or chairs for us to sit on so we sat about three feet apart on the dirt. At one point, he got up to get himself a snack and didn’t ask if I wanted anything. But whatever, Hannibal was super funny so I enjoyed that much.

On our mile-long walk back to the train (this is Red Hook, after all), this guy talks about his favorite typefaces the entire time. That’s 20 minutes about how he thinks Helvetica is completely overrated and overused. Somehow the conversation eventually turned to grocery shopping and I mentioned how much I love Trader Joe’s. He says, “How much do you spend on tomatoes there?” I’m confused and don’t actually remember how much I spend on tomatoes. So he announces that we’re going into Trader Joe’s to see how much tomatoes cost because I could potentially be spending so much less if I just bought my tomatoes from the sidewalk produce vendor.

At first I thought he was kidding but no, we got off the train and walked to Trader Joe’s so we could do a price comparison. Turns out I would be saving about 20 cents if I just bought my tomatoes outside. I ask the guy to walk me home and he must have thought the date went swimmingly because he decided we should sit out on my stoop for a bit and look at the stars (there are no stars). He then takes his shoes off and asks me if I can give him a back rub. I was finally ready to make my exit and made something up about how my dog was freaking out inside and that I had to go in and calm her down.

But I was in the first floor unit, and for the next 30 minutes, I could see this shoeless little weirdo hanging out on my stoop. My dog really did need to go outside so I had to wait for him to go. Finally, he leaves and sends me a text about how much he enjoyed the evening and how he hopes there will be making out on our next date.

There was no next date. —Alexis

5 Women on Their New York Dating Nightmares