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Date Lab: Start on a romantic note and the rest will follow

By Elizabeth Terry,

About the daters ...

Desert-island DVDs ...

Sean: The Notebook” (for quiet, rainy afternoons), “Life Is Beautiful” (when I need to remind myself what truly matters), “Toy Story 3” (to watch with my buddies).

Kevin: “Seinfeld” (because I could watch it over and over and not get bored), “Camp” (because musical theater just makes you feel better) and “Precious” (to remind me life off the island is not like the first two).

Your type ...

Sean: I like “guy’s guys.” I am into dudes who drink beer (though other cocktails are just fine), enjoy the occasional sporting event, work out, drama-free, etc. But beyond those superficial traits, looking for someone who is goal-oriented, likes to challenge/push themselves in all aspects of their life, family/friends-oriented, and wants to eventually settle down, get married and have kids. I also tend to be attracted to guys who are taller than me, but no worries if they aren’t!

Kevin: My height or shorter. I like a person of some color, although that is flexible. Not to sound bad, but I would like someone in a professional field, because I have dated people in service fields, and that has been an issue as the relationship progressed.

Interests to share ...

Sean: I love to run and am currently training for my third triathlon, so swimming and biking are fun, too. I am also a huge movie buff.

Kevin: I would love it if he ran, if he enjoyed talking government and politics, and if he were passionate about his job, whatever that is.

Deal-breakers ...

Kevin: Someone who would actually get into a fistfight by choice. Someone who would ever say, “You need to choose me or your family.”

About the date ...

6:15 p.m., Birch & Barley, Logan Circle

Kevin: [Date Lab is] one of the first things I read when the paper comes on Saturday, and you think, I could do that! I’m a pretty introverted person, and this is a pretty extroverted thing to do. I was actually off [from work], so I had the whole day to think about what was going to happen. So I was extremely nervous and cleaned my house like I haven’t cleaned it before, and went for a long run and just tried to relax and get excited for it.

Sean: I told a bunch of people [about Date Lab], and they were all really excited. They know I’m a big romantic. [The manager] showed me to the table, and then I was just waiting for a couple of minutes.

Kevin: It’s funny, but my first thought when I saw him was that, for some reason, I knew it was going to be a good night. I wasn’t nervous anymore; he had a really nice look about him that just made me comfortable. And he’s a good-looking guy, so that helped, too. I wanted to start the date off on a good moment. Everybody likes to get a little something, so I brought him a little box of chocolates.

Sean: [That was] the best part! No one’s ever done that before. I’m, like, a dude who dates dudes. We don’t bring gifts on the first date. Really sweet. He was friendly, good-looking. It felt really comfortable, and we just fell right into a nice conversation.

Kevin: We ordered drinks pretty soon — when you’re nervous, it’s always good to have a beer. They have a huge beer list, so I let him pick the first round, because he’s been there [before]; it was great. Our waitress was taking the first set of pictures of us, and he said, “Take a good one, my grandmother is going to be reading this.” My grandmothers are both still here, they’re both close to me, so what a great thing; you don’t often hear 30-something-year-old guys talking about their grandmothers. We’re both very lucky in the sense that our families and our extended families are still very active in our lives.

Sean: We talked about a whole bunch of things; we’re both passionate about what we do. I really like to listen. It can be tough for me sometimes to talk about myself, so I have a tendency to ask a lot of questions. I definitely felt like I was out with someone with a lot of common interests and shared values. It was almost like a very safe date. It felt like neither of us were broaching very controversial territory. That’s typically how I am on a first date. I keep things more PG, I guess. He laughed at my stupid jokes, so he has a brilliant sense of humor.

Kevin: We talked a little bit about [the Date Lab questionnaire]. One of the questions was, “What DVDs would you take with you [to a desert island],” and one of mine was the movie “Precious.” Him being in education, we talked a little about child abuse and how some people’s reality is quite different from what most of us get to enjoy.

Sean: I thought half the reason he brought that up was because of my last name. I completely forgot that he didn’t know my last name.

Kevin: My sense was that we were really enjoying each other. I don’t know if you’d call it flirting. In some ways, flirting is almost like working at it,and it didn’t feel like we were working. We were having a conversation that I could have been having with friends that I’ve known much longer. I think I felt more attracted to him as a person as the night went along. His cousin was in town, and he said he would go to her hotel and meet her at 9. [If he hadn’t had other plans], my sense is we would have stayed there longer. I would have asked him to go somewhere else. On the way out, I [said] I enjoyed it, and I’d like to do it again and [asked] if he wanted to exchange numbers, and he said yes.

Sean: We hugged. I’m a hugger! I’d give [the date] a solid 4 [out of 5]. Good food, good drinks, good conversation. I’m sure we’re going to hang out again. He’s definitely someone I’d like to know a little bit more.

Kevin: I thought it went great. I had a wonderful time. Regardless of what happens from this point on, I really, really enjoyed [the date]. So I’m going to be brave and give it a 5.

UPDATE: In the days following their date, Kevin and Sean chatted by text about Sean’s new job, the book Kevin was reading, Sean’s visiting friend and a race Kevin ran. At press time they were making plans to get together again for dinner. “Our schedules are tough, but we’re going to do it,” Kevin said.

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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