Words by Maria Mora. Photography by Stacy-Ann Ellis.
Finding love in New York City, whether it’s the thought or the quest itself, can be a challenge. In our five-part series, “Love in NYC,” three couples and two single New Yorkers share the good, the bad, and the ugly of dating in the city of dreams.
Dating in New York City is challenging, but despite the trials and tribulations, Justin Parker remains optimistic. The digital strategist holds hope and dignity close to his heart, which allows him to enjoy dating as a personal journey.
Maria Mora: What is dating like for you in the city?
Justin Parker: Dating life in the city is really interesting because you have to run through a lot of duds to finally land on a good few people. I feel like the people I’ve met here that I’ve liked have been really interesting, have a cool story and are —, unexpectedly —, very in tune with themselves. I would say I have a positive outlook on dating in the city.
What about those “duds?”
On a lot of dating apps, I just get a lot of messages around my ethnicity; where I’m from. It’s a lot of … I don’t want to say fetishizing, but a lot of people are interested in my ethnic makeup before they get to know me. People tend to be obsessed with mixed people, which I find to be weird. I block them.
I didn’t know I was in love with him until we spent time apart.”
Do you think finding love in the city is possible?
Oh, yeah. I’ve fallen in love in NY before. It was interesting. I didn’t know I was in love with him until we spent time apart. I had this big trip to Europe and did a lot of reflecting. This psychic told me I had a lot of blockage in my heart, because I’m in love, but I don’t want it to happen. It was really interesting.
We started off as friends. It grew into something more. We had a deep emotional and mental connection. Physical attraction came after. I guess that’s how I fall in love — getting to know people’s minds and hearts first, then comes the physical.
Falling for someone is not a 10-step process. It happens after transparency.”
Has the ending of that relationship tarnish your view on the possibility of love in the city?
I wouldn’t say that it’s over. He can still come to me and I can still go to him. It didn’t end on bad terms which is nice, because it didn’t tarnish my view on love. We have enough respect for each other to recognize that we care for each other, and you can also care from a distance too. You don’t have to talk to someone everyday and necessarily keep up with them to still care. We were friends for like a year before we took that next step. We already had that foundation. You can definitely care for people from afar, but it’s also healthy to cut people off.
There’s obviously still hurt involved when you part ways with someone. You’ll always feel like, damn, it could’ve been so much more. But when I reflect back on it, it’s like, wow, I was in love with someone. It’s really special to have those feelings toward someone and know that you know all of their flaws, you see all of their strengths. Falling for someone is not a 10-step process. It happens after you have transparency.
Every time I’ve dated someone, they’ve seen something in me that I see in myself but don’t recognize enough or give enough respect to. Dating makes me view aspects of myself that I take for granted.”
How has your dating experience influence the way you view yourself? Has it brought you closer to loving yourself more?
There are hookups and one-night stands, and then there’s actively dating someone and making a commitment. You make a choice to continuously see this person and attempt to build something. Every time I’ve dated someone, they’ve seen something in me that I see in myself but don’t recognize enough or give enough respect to. Dating makes me view aspects of myself that I take for granted.
What’s your favorite part about dating in NYC.
My favorite part about dating in NYC is trying out all the different spots in different boroughs. You get to share your favorite places with someone you like and they share their favorite places with you that you’ve never been to before.
It’s like you’re being invited into their world.
Yeah, exactly. That’s the great part about dating. You’re learning about different environments and spaces that the other person wants to show you.
What’s been your favorite date?
I’m very low-key. I’ve been on two great dates. One of them we went to go see The Read live at the PlayStation Theater. It was so cute. He never listened to the podcast before. We laughed together. We shared a moment together. We also went to a lot of concerts. The other date I went on, we went to The Strand bookstore and after we saw Call Me By Your Name. I broke down in tears. It was very emotional. I was crying next to him and was completely vulnerable. That’s why I thought it was a good date because I felt like I could be myself and not put on an act.
Do you ever feel pressured to date in the city?
I never feel pressured to date because it’s very much a personal journey. It’s all about how much energy you want to put into that. There’s only a finite amount of energy that we have and if you have so many goals and ambitions, dating just might not be on the radar, which is totally cool. I take the word “dating” very seriously. I have to know the person; I can’t be surface with them. Of course, you have hookups and one-night stands, but I feel like that’s a different conversation, because it fulfills a different need.
Any advice for single, dating New Yorkers?
I would say … Don’t stop yourself from falling in love because you have a lot of mental blockage. Don’t try to think about the situation too much. I’ve learned that it’s nice to let yourself flow. Take it day-by-day.