Date Lab

Sunday, February 17, 2008

7:30 p.m., Majestic, Old Town Alexandria

Mercedes: When I got to the restaurant, Mike was already by the bar. He was good-looking. But we shook hands, and I thought, Shoot, I shoulda worn flats! because he was about my height. Sometimes men have a problem with that.

Mike: I'd imagined she'd be more stereotypically Latina-looking because of her name. She looked very Americana, so that caught me a little off guard. She was also taller than me, but not enough to put me off.

Mercedes: We went to our booth, ordered a couple of glasses of wine and immediately started talking about work. He'd volunteered to teach kids to use computers at a school on the border of Thailand and Burma -- on his own dime! Since I do HIV development work in Africa, it pulled on my heartstrings a little.

Mike: At some point during dinner, I realized we'd only been talking about work -- no past relationships or future plans. And I didn't get that overwhelming urge to push too hard into her personal life. Don't get me wrong: She was funny and smart, and she laughed at all my jokes, which was encouraging. But the more we talked about work, the date became a little friendlier and a little less passionate.

Mercedes: I had that moment, too, when I thought, All right, let's move on. That got us talking about our families, friends and what we're interested in. The night kind of took off after that. We started laughing more; the mood was more relaxed. We were still playing the "get to know you" game, but he came around to my side of the table to take a picture, so I got more encouraged.

Mike: The bartender told us about PX, a private speakeasy bar within walking distance. I suggested we head over. It was such a cool little place. The highlight of the evening was at PX. Mercedes told me stuff about her family in Puerto Rico, like her father living on a full-on plantation, which the government eventually nationalized. I had the feeling that if she'd been born a few generations earlier, she'd have been living an estate-princess kind of life.

Mercedes: I looked up and saw three women from my college sorority, so we talked to them for a while. I didn't want to cut them off -- that would've been rude -- but I didn't want to be rude to him, either. It sort of put me in a bad spot for a few minutes. Mike: That was another place where we sort of lost the "we're on a date" moment. [Afterward,] I walked her to her car, and we had a little kiss on the lips -- more than a peck, but nothing steamy.

Mercedes: [The kiss] was after dialing each other's cellphone numbers so we'd have them. I went to hug him, and he leaned in for a kiss. There was a little flirting going on, so it wasn't a big surprise or anything. We said goodbye and we'd be in touch. The date was a 4 [out of 5]. There wasn't "I can't wait to see him again tomorrow" kind of chemistry, but I might be a little disappointed if he didn't call.

Mike: I'd give the date a 3. There were a few little flashes of interest throughout the evening but no Hollywood flashbulbs. I don't think I'd pursue it any further.

Interviews by Jill Hudson Neal

UPDATE: After their post-date interviews, Mercedes and Mike decided not to reconnect.

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