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Date Lab: Good thing we ignored his idea of a dream date

By Amanda McGrath,

About the daters ...

Happiest when ...

Tara: Walking around in nature
with good friends, making plans for
an evening cookout.

Clay: Traveling to a new country
in the Third World.

Last book read ...

Tara: The Imperfectionists
by Tom Rachmann.

Clay: Zeitoun,” by Dave Eggers. I grew up in New Orleans, and my dad’s family is Lebanese, so I found the main character (a Syrian immigrant in New Orleans during Katrina) very relatable.

Your type ...

Tara: Nerd chic.

Clay: Very smart, funny, athletic
women who don’t say things like
“LOL” out loud.

Dream date ...

Tara:  Ryan Gosling. God, I bet you get that all the time. Someone creative but also practical who loves to travel and is equally comfortable in the city as they are in the country.

Clay: Basically, Catherine Deneuve’s character from the movie “Indochine”:
a smoking-hot older French woman who is fascinating, passionate, somewhat ruthless and dynamite in the sack.

Interests to share ...

Tara: Reading, writing, hiking, spirituality, love of animals, travel.

Clay: Love of travel is a must, as is something athletic (running, yoga
or hiking). I like to talk about ideas
with people.

About the date ...

7:30 p.m., Mourayo, Dupont Circle

Tara: I’ve done some online dating, which I absolutely hate. I think it’s because I’m sort of an awkward dater to begin with. I did this Date Lab thing as like an act of bravery, I guess! I wanted to see if I could do it and not be completely anxious about it. I got to the restaurant probably 15 minutes early.

Clay:I’ve done a little bit of online dating recently. It’s ... different. This was my first blind date. I was excited. I got there about 10 minutes early, and she was already there. She was really cute [and] had good style.

Tara: I usually go for darker features: dark hair, brown eyes. He has blue eyes and maybe lighter features and hair. So that’s why I say he wouldn’t necessarily be my type. But he was definitely attractive. He has beautiful eyes. I think he went in for a handshake, and I went in for a hug, so it was a little awkward. I get nervous on dates no matter what, but he seemed pretty at ease.

Clay: We were just talking very casually, going through what we did, how long we’d been in D.C., what our thoughts were for the night. I mentioned that I had no idea what to expect, because [on the application] I answered that my dream date was Catherine Deneuve from the movie “Indochine,” which is, like, a mid-40s French woman. Not the sort of person I would usually approach! I’ve never dated an older woman. I did that on a bit of a lark, and then I realized I had no idea who you guys were going to set me up with.

Tara: We got a bottle of wine and looked over the menu. After maybe 10 minutes, the conversation started to flow. We discovered both of us like seafood, which was awesome. We got an appetizer, the grilled octopus. We’d both done a lot of traveling and wanted to do traveling throughout our whole lives. That was an easy place to start in terms of getting the conversation going.

Clay: We’d both been to Turkey, so we talked about Istanbul for a while. The number one place on her [wish] list is Southeast Asia; I traveled there a lot when I lived in Singapore, so I told her a lot about really cool places there. We both have pretty similar travel ethos: figure out how to make your money stretch as far as possible in a cheaper locale, not so much western Europe. We are very different fields: She’s a writer, working as an editor right now. And I’m a mathematician, computer science guy.

Tara: I’m pretty creative, right-brained, and he seems to be more left-brained. I think that’s interesting, to put people like that together.

Clay: She had the grilled fish; I had the ground duck moussaka. We had the waitress take some pictures. We left the restaurant probably about 10:20. We started talking about D.C. sports. ... She’s a Caps fan. She sees Ovechkin [at Russia House] every once in a while. So we decided we’d go grab a drink there.

Tara: We talked about movies and music and stuff that we liked. We had a lot in common. He made me laugh a lot, in a very genuine sort of way. He wasn’t making jokes or anything, but we have the same sense of humor: kind of sarcastic and self-effacing.

Clay: We got on the subject of TV shows at one point, and I gave her my theory of how “Game of Thrones” and “Downton Abbey” are essentially the same show. And she was able to elaborate and make some more parallels. [We left the bar] probably around 11:30.

Tara: It was pretty late, but I was having such a good time, and I think he was having a good time. So we went to Gazuza and shared a hookah and got a couple more drinks.

Clay: We were on the same side of the table. We were a little more flirty, I guess, showing off our smoke-ring-blowing skills. We were very natural and comfortable with each other. I was definitely attracted to her. I thought there was chemistry.

Tara: It was funny, when [we first met], I had a very different first judgment.You sort of look at someone’s clothing and their demeanor and judge a book by its cover. Thought he was kind of straight-laced. But he was really different from what I had thought he would be initially, in a good way, a really good way. I looked at my watch, and it was, like, 12:45. I was like, “Okay, we should probably go.” We kept joking around that I was sort of “hipster,” [though] I hate that phrase, [and] he seems to not be that way at all. But as the date went on we both discovered that we were a lot more similar than those initial labels.

Clay:We have a lot in common despite having several things different about how we approach the world and what our skill set or talents are. We had a lot to talk about, and it was fun. I walked her to her car, and then she gave me a ride to my house. We talked for a few more minutes, and I kissed her good night.

Tara: We kind of both went in for the hug, and then it turned into a kiss. Which was nice. He’s from New Orleans, so he’s really gentlemanly anyway, but it was sweet [when] he was like, “Can you text me when you get home just to let me know that you got home safe?” So I did, and he texted back, “It was really great meeting you, I had a really good time.”

Clay: Let’s [rate the date] 4.25 [out of 5.] I enjoyed hanging out with her. I’ll definitely contact her again. I would probably go for another date.

Tara: I think it was probably a 4.5. I think that there definitely was a connection. I have a lot of guy friends, so I sort of know the difference between hanging out with a guy friend versus going on a romantic date. And it felt romantic to me. I read Date Lab every week and it’s funny, a lot of times people are like, “Oh, we had a great time, but I think we’re just gonna be friends.” I went into it thinking, Well if that happens, it will still be awesome because I’ll have a great time and maybe make a new friend. But I think for me it maybe ended up feeling like more than that. That was pretty cool and exciting.

UPDATE: In the week after their first meeting, Tara and Clay managed to squeeze in a dog-walking date, a dinner date and a night of after-work drinks. “It’s going well,” Clay assures us. “She’s a lot of fun to spend time with.”

Nominate a friend for Date Lab! Reach us at datelab@washpost.com or on Twitter @datelab or Facebook and tell us why he or she is a great catch.

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