Editor’s note: In August, we asked online readers which of five single Date Lab hopefuls should move ahead of thousands of other applicants to the top of our matchmaking to-do list. Tony Porreco garnered 37 percent of the 6,200 votes cast, and we immediately set out to find the empathetic, non-smoking, music-loving conversationalist he was searching for. (See more about the contest at wapo.st/datelabcontest.) But even though he was now our No. 1 dating pick, the fates conspired against the Date Lab editors. The right girl just didn’t seem to be in our database, and even when we found a potential match (and we tried more than a dozen), we kept striking out — this one already found a boyfriend, that one had since left the Washington area. Finally, after months of trying, we found Ashley. Here's what happened on their date:
About the daters ...
Tony: I’m frequently told by others that I’m among the most considerate people they’ve ever met. I’m a pretty decent-looking guy. I hear from others that I may “overdo it” a little on special occasions (birthdays, Christmas, etc.). I see this only as a positive. I dress well and enjoy shopping for new apparel. I enjoy cooking, and I’m not bad!
Ashley: I’m open-minded and positive when it comes to things about life. I love getting to know people by asking questions, because I believe anything can be fascinating; it just takes some good curiosity.
Tony: I’ve found myself really into brunettes for a while now. Thin to proportional, not really into larger girls. Also, I’ve never really dated a “girly girl” — someone who takes a great deal of pride on their appearance — so honestly, I notice all the really well-dressed young women who I see walking around.
Ashley: Someone who likes to talk ideas and know a little bit about everything. I want that feeling that I’m learning from them just as much as they are from me.
Tony: Values relationships with others. A music snob with strong opinions. Someone with a lot of empathy and the ability to think through how someone will react to something they’ll say.
Ashley: An inventor who travels a ton and brings me along.
Ashley: “ Till Sunshine ” by David Guetta and Avicii vs. Laidback Luke.
Tony I’m not really big on status or people taking themselves too seriously because of their job, and I feel like that’s often a big part of “being D.C.”
Ashley: I’m less transitional as a friend.
About the date ...
8 p.m., Central Michel Richard, Penn Quarter
Tony: I was really flattered [to be in the online poll]. I got to the restaurant at 8 sharp. I was kind of unsure what to do: Do I wait? Do I let people know that I’m there? It’s funny, as it’s happening you’re analyzing your every move. So I made a decision and said [to the host], “Hi, I have a reservation with The Post,” and they said, “I’ll take you to your table.” [Then], it’s like this girl just parachuted out of nowhere and landed in front of me. I was just like, Oh, wow, this is her, ohhh, this is happening! I thought Ashley was just really lovely-looking. [She] really came in swinging, she just started talking and talking a mile a minute, and this was great, but I was also panicking at the same time.
Ashley: He was a good-looking guy. I don’t know, sometimes I can go for edgier, you know, a little scruff is good, but I’m open-minded. I love asking questions and trying to get this comfortable vibe, but I think he might have been a little caught off guard by how inquisitive I was.
Tony: There was such an energy to Ashley, she was just so bubbly, and the words were just kind of flowing forth from her. I’ve always liked it when a girl can talk my ear off; that’s kind of a turn-on for me.
Ashley: I said, “What do you do?” And he was like, “My interests or my job?” And I was like: Hmm, I really like this guy. Job talk didn’t come in until probably one-quarter [into] the date. He’s into music; I am [too], but it isn’t one of my hobbies, so I thought that was exciting, ’cause he seemed really well versed in music and venues. Also, he creates his own stuff. I had a frisee salad with a poached egg and bacon. He’s like, “I love bacon. I wrote a song about bacon.”
Tony: I’m kind of an amateur musician, hobbyist. I like to call it bedroom rock. Last year I wrote a song about bacon, and I put it on YouTube. Bacon’s been very in vogue for a couple of years. I got into bacon when I was a grad student and cooking a lot.
Ashley: I went to Penn, and he went to [the University of] Delaware, so he knows Philly. He did social sciences and communications, and I did visual studies. So he’s interested in human identity just like I am, how people work and sociology, so that was an interesting conversation. I think once he got more comfortable, he was a little more forward about things. We had a lot of eye contact, which was good.
Tony: There were moments of real shared understanding. I guess on a blind date, you’re trying to learn so much so quickly that there’s some kind of overload going on, and that might be in conflict with flirtiness. She certainly wasn’t walking out on me, and it was more than pleasant.
Ashley: At the end of the night, he walked me to the Metro and dropped me off on my side of the platform. That was really nice. There was this spark when we were standing on the platform, when he got my number. He seems like a funny guy if you get to know him. Like that bacon song — I mean, who would imagine a guy like that? I thought that was cool, ‘cause I’m kind of dorky like that too. I give [the date] a 4 [out of 5]. It definitely wasn’t perfect, ’cause I didn’t spend hours and hours after dinner walking the streets of D.C., the romance city. That would have been a 5. But I’d give him another chance.
Tony: I’d say a 4, 4.25. Did I expect a perfect date? I didn’t think so. There’s too much going on in terms of emotions and first-date jitters. It was really, really refreshing to be around someone like Ashley. It makes you think, Man, maybe people in D.C. can be laid back and have a good time. I definitely would like to see her again, maybe in another context. I just bet that she’s a ball in front of [other] people. It almost sounds like a cop-out for me to say I’d like to see her around other people. But you learn things about people based on how they interact with their friends, other people’s friends.
Update: Tony and Ashley texted in the week following the date, but Thanksgiving and her upcoming work travel made planning a second date difficult. Will they get together again? “I’m not sure. I’m going to figure that out,” Tony says. Adds Ashley, “I think it’s really for him to follow up.”
Nominate a friend for Date Lab! Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter or Facebook and tell us why he or she is a great catch.