Date Lab: Do daters know themselves as well as they think they do?


(Courtesy of the dater)
December 6, 2012

In a world of matchmaking algorithms, self-selecting dating sites and pseudoscientific trends that offer to find your mate via genetics or pheromones or who knows what else, we here at Date Lab like to think of our technique as charmingly quaint. Take two editors (one happily married, one happily single), a database full of applications, and play Cupid.

We try to take into careful consideration what people say they want, what they claim as their deal-breakers and where a couple might share common ground.

But even when we pick a pair so perfectly in tune that we half suspect they filled out their questionnaires while sitting next to one another, dating chemistry is not guaranteed.

The trouble is, we know our applicants only as they present themselves to us on paper (so to speak). What if what they really want isn’t what they think they want or what we know they don’t think they want?

So we’ve decided that, every now and then, we will hand over the keys to the daters themselves — at least in part.

Here, meet Claire, and Mystery Bachelors No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. We gave Claire excerpts from the questionnaires of three guys who we thought might fill the bill, and let her make the final selection. In the interest of both privacy and emphasizing the written descriptions, we held back names and photos.

***

About Claire ...

Last book read ...

“Cordelia” by Winston Graham. I read an inordinate amount of literature (grad student in the subject).

Brag a little ...

I cook. I work out. I’m smart but also thoughtful. I like to talk, but more than that, I really value listening to people. That could be part of why I have dated so many different guys/types: I want to know what they love, what they dream, what motivates them, their quirks and secrets. I’m interested. Period. I make a big deal of little things, like an intentionally cleaned car or a good bottle of wine. Noticing when people are kind and considerate is one of the elementary, great things you can achieve in life.

Your type ...

I like spontaneous guys. My favorites have been the adventuresome ones. I’m a pretty analytical, grounded, cerebral girl, so I value having someone in my life who makes me go out of my little brain-shell. I took up motorcycling one summer and surfing another ... all because of who I chose to date. That’s a big deal to me.
I want someone who is determined and energetic — a sort of devil-may-care.
A streak of weirdness is an [incredible] asset when it comes to daily conversations or boring bars.

***

Bachelor No. 1: 25, media researcher

Smoke?   Details: On occasion.

Drink? Yes  Details: Socially.

Work out? Yes.

Attend religious services? No.

Own a car? Yes.

Eat meat? Yes.

Have pets? No.  If so, what kind? Love dogs, though.

Have kids? How many? None. 

If you could have any superpower, which one would you want? Why?

Time travel — the possibilities are endless.

You took a three-hour tour with some friends, and now you’re stranded on this island. Which three foods do you wish you’d remembered to pack?

Beer, Bubba burgers and buns.

Which three DVDs?

Despite the fact that we didn’t pack a television or a DVD player.... “Fight Club,” “Wedding Crashers,” “Cool Hand Luke.”

Which three people?

Two attractive females and a buddy.

What’s the first drink you’d order in a bar?

Whiskey Coke.

What are the chances you’d then start talking to the stranger next to you and end up making a new friend?

Chances increase exponentially with amount of alcohol ingested.

What’s the first thing people notice when they walk into your home?

That my home is very “humble.”

In what ways would you say you are very D.C.?

Almost all my friends work, or have worked, “on the Hill.” I’m a liberal Democrat. I’m taxed without true representation in Congress. The first question I usually ask people is “What do you do?”

In what ways aren’t you?

I don’t work on the Hill, never have, and hate how people who do think they’re hot s---.

Think about the last couple of people you dated (and, yes, "only once" counts). How/where did you meet those people?

Through friends.

C’mon, brag a little: What makes you a good catch?

I’m smart, funny, physically fit, attractive and ambitious.

Most singletons say they want to meet someone funny. But what’s your idea of funny?

When I see it, I know it.

Imagine your date writes you that s/he is "equally comfortable in jeans or in formal attire." Your reaction?

Cliche as hell.

What was your best date ever?

Sushi at a Japanese mom-and-pop restaurant on the island of Guam with the local weather girl.

What was your worst?

That time my card was declined....

What hobbies/interests/outlooks/passions would you hope to share with your date?

Interest in politics, staying in shape, not following the crowd.

In what ways would you hope s/he differs from you?

More responsible, freer spirit.

***

Bachelor No. 2: 27, journalist

Drink? A few days a week.

Work out? I kayak, play rec sports, try to jog on occasion.

Attend religious services? No.  

Details:I’m not a Jew... I’m Jew-ish. Haven’t attended services since childhood.

Own a car?  Ford Ranger pickup truck.

Eat meat? I’m a Texan and love to grill as often as I can and take pride if I can pull it off during a blizzard.

Have pets? No.

Have kids? How many? None.

What’s the last book you read?

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t,” by Nate Silver

If you could have any superpower, which one would you want? Why?

Fire from my fingers. Why? I could light the grill and melt the ice with just a snap. What else do you need?

You took a three-hour tour with some friends, and now you’re stranded on this island. Which three foods do you wish you’d remembered to pack?

Trader Joe’s pizza dough, which is the best thing that ever happened to at-home chefs. Avocados... mounds and mounds of avocados. Yellow peppers, which can add a great flair to any dish.

Which three DVDs?

Vin Diesel’s masterpiece “XXX” — my favorite movie of all time, and also my guiltiest pleasure. “Big Fish,” which every guy between 20 and 40 loves. Good Night, and Good Luck, which is a constant source of inspiration.

What’s the first drink you’d order in a bar?

Shiner Bock

What are the chances you’d then start talking to the stranger next to you and end up making a new friend?

I always try to chat up strangers at the bar, if the bar is divey enough. That’s sort of the Texan in me. There would also be old men alone at the bar, who would either have some sort of great wisdom — or at least some off-color jokes — if you chatted them up.

What’s the first thing people notice when they walk into your home?

My walls are covered in vintage Amtrak advertisements, so my home probably resembles Union Station.

When are you happiest?

When I’m in the National Gallery of Art or the Portrait Gallery.

In what ways would you say you are very D.C.?

Although I have an absolute disdain for politics, I follow it very closely. I tried to leave the city once, but missed it so much I came back two years later.

In what ways aren’t you?

I have a tattoo of Texas. I drive a truck. I’m not all that interested in networking.

Most singletons say they want to meet someone funny. But what’s your idea of funny?

Someone who is really quick and can slip a snide remark in without even thinking about it. Someone who is spontaneous, because that usually translates into funny.

Imagine your date writes you that s/he is "equally comfortable in jeans or in formal attire." Your reaction?

Perfect! I like wearing my formal attire, but have no problem retiring into my Wranglers. I consider myself relatively stylish, but there is such a thing as dressing casually yet with style.

What hobbies/interests/outlooks/passions would you hope to share with your date?

An interest in art is pretty big, as is an interest in history. She should also be willing to visit museums, because that’s a huge passion of mine. I’m also fairly into sports, so she should at least be willing to humor me and go to a game.

***

Bachelor No. 3: 29, real estate investor

Smoke? No.

Drink? Rarely.

Work out? Yes.

Attend religious services? No.

Own a car? Yes and a motorcycle!

Eat meat? Yes.

Have pets? Cat.

Have kids? How many? None.

Quick — what’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Morning? What’s that? Just kidding. Shower, make tea and breakfast, meditate sometimes.

What’s the last book you read?

How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

If you could have any superpower, which one would you want? Why?

Teleportation. Because I love to travel, but I hate being in transit.

You took a three-hour tour with some friends, and now you’re stranded on this island. Which three foods do you wish you’d remembered to pack?

I’d be happy I forgot to pack foods since it’d force me to eat the island food!

Which three DVDs?

The Matrix,” “Fight Club,” “Planet Earth.”

Imagine your dating history is being turned into a TV show. Pitch it to us.

“Man vs. Wild” of D.C. dating. A fun adventure, learning along the way, and trying to cross that crazy valley without drinking too much of my own urine.

What’s the first thing people notice when they walk into your home?

It’s pretty Zen.

When are you happiest?

In another country or being in a situation for the first time, playing guitar outside with great friends.

In what ways would you say you are very D.C.?

I’m somewhat an idealist and optimist. I firmly believe that things will always get better.

In what ways aren’t you?

I’m more interested in changing my world than the world.

C’mon, brag a little: What makes you a good catch?

I’m independent, in shape and healthy, goal-oriented, funny, creative, own a successful business, ride a motorcycle, and well-traveled. This winter I am going to Ghana with my brother, which will be the 12th country I visited in the last year.


Most singletons say they want to meet someone funny. But what’s your idea of funny?

It’s funny when someone gets that you don’t have to be funny ALL the time.

Imagine your date writes you that s/he is "equally comfortable in jeans or in formal attire." Your reaction?

"Oops, my tux is still at the dry cleaners, let’s go with jeans."

What hobbies/interests/outlooks/passions would you hope to share with your date?

Being outdoors, photography, travel, hiking, cooking, preferably non-religious spirituality, someone who is happy, mature, and has time for a relationship.

 ***

So, how did she make her choice?

“I was looking for overall tone more than I was looking for specific answers to any given question,” she says, adding that she “tried to think about their method of discourse or how they interact with people via what the questionnaire told me.”

The decision, she says, was mostly a process of elimination: Bachelor No. 1 struck her as “a bit egotistical,” while Bachelor No. 3 “seemed very serious for me.” That left Bachelor No. 2 as her middle ground, and she seemed confident: “I think I made a good choice. I know myself pretty well.”

Claire did have some reservations — as an Oregon native, she wondered if his Texas roots would lead to a cultural disconnect. But his background as a journalist appealed: “I knew that he would be fairly good with words, and that’s an issue for me,” she explains.

Next week, meet Bachelor No. 2 himself, and see how Claire’s DIY matchmaking turned out.

Until then, we’re still on the lookout for the right single ladies to match with Bachelors Nos. 1 and 3. Send your applications and matchmaking tips to datelab@washpost.com.

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