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.
New York City might be overwhelming, but one thing’s for sure, it makes you figure out what you want out of life. You see what type of person you want to be with, and most importantly, the person you want to be. For Brooklynites Elena Medina and Julian Stephenson, a sense of grounding, respect and love for one another has kept the two inseparable, ultimately bringing joy to those around them. We sat down with the couple, who touched on the importance of prioritizing time and sleep, and how the city nourishes their relationship.
Maria Mora: How did you meet?
Elena Medina: Through my cousin Hannibal. It was the summer of 2013.
When you guys met, who made the first move?
Julian Stephenson: We met for the first time at this dance party called, The Rub. It happens once a month; it’s like an old school, hip-hop party. It’s been running for 10 years. It’s always a good time. We met on the dance floor and I was like, Oh, who’s this little cutie over here? We started dancing and talking, and then I met her friend Megan who was there. We all hung out that nigh. I lived close by, so when we were leaving we all left together and we were talking. We began to hang out every now and then together. Having fun as a group.
EM: That was definitely the move. I was like, who’s this guy that knows my rhythm?
Prior to getting into a relationship, did you think that finding love in the city was impossible?
EM: I never questioned that when I first came to New York. I came for my career, trying to be a go-getter instead of being in Florida competing with my classmates after graduating. I honestly wasn’t looking or thinking about that ‘cause I know I’d get distracted.
JS: For me, I’m more of an optimist. When we first started talking, I guess I didn’t really think that we would hit it off as good as we did. I was like oh, I actually like this girl. As far as love being out there, I really believe it.
NYC is known for being a fast-paced environment. Does the hustle and bustle aspect challenge your relationship in any way?
JS: Definitely. There’s good and bad to it, but it does put a strain on the relationship because we’re always working and like you said, it’s a fast paced city. You got friends that you gotta hang out with. I got my friends to hang out with, work events, family obligations — it’s a lot.
How do you overcome it? How do you compromise?
EM: We both like to sleep. [Laughs] We make sure we get that down packed. When we’re both sleepless and running on E, it’s not funny and cute. I know that’s necessary and he does too ‘cause we both like to sleep. Once that’s taken care of, we can accomplish a lot with our friends and family.
JS: Since we’ve been dating, we ask ourselves, what’s best for the relationship? We prioritize what that is, and obviously it’s us. That’s where it starts. Then we make time for everything else, to be honest. [Laughs] “Let me make sure Elena’s good. Elena’s good? Alright cool.”
What’s your favorite part about having a significant other while living in NYC?
EM: My favorite part is dating someone that’s from NY. They know what’s poppin’ or what’s not. I get to hear many old stories about how New York was. I like to hear stories about how NY was, how hip-hop was from this guy.
JS: I’m from here and I do have a lot of family obligations, birthday parties, etc. It’s fun dating someone in New York because for me, I like to be able to experience all of these things. There’s a lot of things we want to explore and when you get to do it together, check out new bars, restaurants, etc., it’s fun. I like to go out, dance, party, listen to music and she does too, so it works out very well.
What has been your favorite thing to do as a couple?
EM: Coming to Lover’s Rock and dance reggae.
JS: I would say the same.
What was your most memorable date? First date?
EM: On our first date, we rode bikes together. We rode over the Brooklyn Bridge. Most memorable: he took me around West 4th for Valentine’s Day. We had a part of a full course meal at a different spot. We had an appetizer at one spot, entree at another, etc.
In what ways does NYC continue to nurture your relationship?
EM: Well, it does keep it alive. New York is very active and it’s ever changing, so the relationship is evolving as well.
JS: NYC is always evolving and your relationship should always evolve too. In that way, there’s always new things you want to tackle. Whether that’s a new job or a new side hustle, there’s a lot of things to do. NYC definitely has that.
Why do you think some people find it hard to find love in NYC?
JS: It’s hard to find love because there’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of people that you meet. You’re always thinking, Is there somebody else out there for me? Do I really want to be with this person in particular? Then the stress of the city is hard too because you’re always on your own path. I gotta do this, I gotta do that. Does this person fit in my life? Are they helping me get done with whatever I’m working on? Do I focus on my career? Do I focus on this person? I think that makes it difficult. What I think people should do is use that opportunity to be open to meeting different types of people to realize what you, yourself, want. What do you want out of the city? What kind of people do you like to hang out with?