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Love in a Date Lab: They Met, They Clicked, They're Engaged

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Sunday, July 23, 2006; D03

Think blind dates are a wasteland of dashed expectations? One more heartbreaking entry in the Book of Love? Oh, ye of little faith! Consider Chris Bradley and Christine Brodigan , who met, fell in love and got engaged in four weeks -- thanks to The Washington Post Magazine's new column, Date Lab . "You know the Yiddish word 'beshert?' " says Brodigan. "It means 'meant to be.' "

Brodigan, 29, had just about given up when it came to love. The online producer at Washingtonian magazine was engaged once, had plenty of boyfriends, and got rejected by eHarmony earlier this year: Unable to match you at this time. Her expectations were low when she filled out Date Lab's online questionnaire .

"We're trying to explore the rules of attraction," said magazine Design Editor Jill Hudson Neal . "People can look great on paper, even say they want the same things, but they get together and there's no spark."

Brodigan wrote she wanted a "tall, dark and handsome geek." But when asked for her "pie-in-the-sky" dream date, the native Washingtonian answered, "A sexy chef." So Date Lab set her up with a short, bald guy -- Bradley, a 34-year-old executive chef at Ardeo restaurant who moved here from New York in January. (He asked for a "Tinkerbelle, pixie" type; Brodigan has the voice of a Disney cartoon heroine.)

The magazine's report on the blind date -- June 13 at Bistro Lepic -- hasn't even run yet, but the highlights: It started at 7:30 and they closed the place down at midnight. There was an awkward kiss for the camera and another later when they said good night. "Stomach flipping, butterflies, all that," says Bradley. Unlike many other Date Lab couples, these two clicked from the start -- he liked her three dogs, and by Week 3 they were already talking about living together.

It all happened so fast, Brodigan thought to herself: "The sex is so great, maybe I'm not thinking straight." But when he happily passed out doggy ice cream treats at her monthly pug party, she knew: "This is the man I want to spend my life with."

"This relation feels so natural," says Bradley. He had a seven-year relationship where "I kept waiting for it to feel like the right time. In the end, it wasn't the right person. I'm not going to wait any longer."

They got engaged July 11 -- their four-week anniversary -- and Brodigan sent a mass e-mail announcing the news Thursday (no ring or date yet). "It seems fast, but stranger things have happened," says Neal. "They sound blissful."

Hey, Who's That Guy at the White House With Taylor Hicks?

Big week for President Bush : On Tuesday he meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki , on Thursday with Romanian President Traian Basescu , on Friday morning with British Prime Minister Tony Blair , and on Friday afternoon with your American Idol Taylor Hicks .

Hicks and his fellow 2006 "AI" finalists ( Elliott! Paris! All those others!) will swing by the White House for a photo-op en route to their Verizon Center show that night. (Unclear whether runner-up Katharine McPhee , who has missed the concert tour thus far because of laryngitis, will make it.) Bush is the first sitting U.S. president to score a visit with the reigning American Idol; we checked with the protocol books, though, and it appears the occasion does not call for a state dinner. Possibly because international election observers do not sanction the Simon Cowell system of allowing viewers to cast more than one vote per candidate. So at least POTUS, who received 4 million fewer votes in 2004 than Hicks did in the final round, can sort of save face there.

The visit is a triumph for Laura Bush's press secretary, Susan Whitson , who has long been trying to arrange such a summit: She was Hicks's 9th-grade English teacher in Birmingham.

Quoted

"When I was 22 years old and working as a TV anchor in Baltimore, there was a young production assistant in the newsroom, Gayle King. One night there was a snowstorm and she couldn't get home. I said, 'Hey, you can spend the night at my house.' She said, 'I don't have any panties.' I said, 'Well, I do. I have clean panties, and once I give 'em to you, you don't have to give 'em back.' "

-- Oprah Winfrey , in an XM radio promo for her forthcoming "Oprah and Friends" channel that's been running since the start of last week, shortly after she and King made their now-famous announcement in the pages of O that they are NOT lesbians, not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-that-if-they-were-they'd-happily-tell-us.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company