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“I definitely assume everyone is a Republican,” Becky, a 26-year-old elementary school teacher and Democrat who dates all political persuasions, told me.“I can’t limit my options here; I don’t have so many.” She’s not kidding.Becky told me about a Marine she stopped dating after he told her he was “using a penis pump to get bigger for girls.” Now she sees him out and about all the time. “Unfortunately, New Bern does have that reputation,” says Natasha, a bartender, 29, “that most chicks in this town are trying to get pregnant to trap a guy.” Almost no one I met dates online, which makes sense: If you live in a small town, chances are you like a tight community where everyone knows your name, rather than internet strangers.From what I could glean, the local servers, bartenders, and chefs in town just sleep with one another.
You will inevitably run into an ex, or many, at one of the town’s three main bars. ’ He ignores me.”New women on the scene tend to be in town for weddings; new guys tend to be Marines, though they’re strictly nonmonogamous, due to a pervasive fear that — I shit you not — any woman who wants a relationship is angling for what’s known among locals as a “contract marriage,” an emotionless ploy to snare access to his good military salary and benefits.“Downtown, there’s lots of friends with benefits,” says Paul, a 24-year-old sous chef.“The women are, what’s the word, well-circulated.” John, a 24-year-old bartender, says that he’ll often have more than one waitress friend come by after her shift and ask if she can crash at his place downtown, and he’ll just sleep with the one who asks first.There was the young Marine who did an exaggerated double take before telling me I was the most beautiful woman in the bar.And the also-very-young hero who swooped in to rescue me when a woman was rude to me and held my hand as we ran through the streets to the next stop.