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Sunday, May 18, 2008

7:30 P.M., VERMILION, ALEXANDRIA

Salil: Marisa got to the restaurant first and was at the bar when I arrived. She seemed attractive enough, but I didn't feel any instant Oh, wow! She's gorgeous. She was light-skinned with freckles. I tend to go for girls who have darker skin.

Marisa: I'm into the tall, athletic guy next door. He was 5-foot-6, if I was lucky. But that doesn't mean anything. I hate when people say, "He wasn't my type at all!" Very few people get that positive connection right away.

Salil: As soon as we sat down, she asked me, "Why do you think they set us up?" and my response was, "I have no idea." Then she asked me if I ride motorcycles. When I told her I did, she said, "That must be it." I had to hold back a laugh. I wanted to say, "Oh, I guess it wasn't my hot body."

Marisa: I wasn't sure why we'd been set up. He comes from a classically Indian family, and his first marriage was arranged. I'm an ex-military, motorcycle-riding female. That's almost as feminist as you can get, so my initial reaction was, Why the heck did they put us together? Are they trying to see how bad the date will be?'

Salil: It bothers me that she assumed my family is classically Indian. I agreed to an arranged marriage [several years ago] after I found out that my ex-fiancee married someone a few months after we broke up. It was a huge mistake. My sister is married to a white guy named Steve Jones, and I don't think of my parents as being conservative at all. They had a conservative moment [arranging my marriage] that had serious repercussions for us all, but Marisa didn't know that. I would never presume that she was conservative just because she's an Army brat.

Marisa: Well, I hate to say it, but I don't know many Americans who have arranged marriages. But I'm open-minded enough, and I've been around the world and have friends in many different cultures, and first impressions are almost always wrong. And he was a nice guy; he was articulate, and he seemed very interesting.

Salil: When it came time to order, I asked her if she wanted to share an appetizer. I'm a big communal eater. I tend to offer my food around the table. But people have different takes on that kind of thing. She wasn't really interested. So, I ordered an appetizer for myself. I was hungry!

Marisa: Actually, I had looked at the menu online, and I really wasn't interested in any of the appetizers. I don't eat red meat, so the chicken dish was one of the few things I was going to be able to eat. Later, he asked if I wanted a bite of his food, and I said sure, and I gave him one of mine.

Salil: We started talking about politics, which I know is a dangerous topic for a first date. She kind of went off on Dubya, so I was happy. I'm not very subtle when it comes to my political opinions. I invited her to a nonpartisan event I was having the next night to watch the [primary] election returns, but she wasn't interested. She said she had work stuff.

Marisa: I had an art class that night. [Politics] isn't something I pay much attention to. My work takes up a lot of my emotional energy, so when I'm not working, I'd rather not focus on something that causes stress. He did tell me that he does parkour, which seemed very interesting.

Salil: Her reaction was sort of indifferent. Overall, she didn't ask a lot of questions. I felt like I was driving the conversation. There was stuff we had in common -- we both like to travel-- but we had to hunt for it. She's very straightforward. There isn't any embellishment or hyperbole when she's telling a story. I'm the exact opposite of that. It was entertaining to see if we could find something to talk about. But I'm an easily entertained person.

Marisa: He was better at holding the conversation than I was. When there was a lull, he'd pop a question. I talk to my clients, but it's all very science- and medical-oriented. It's very different when you have to converse with people on a social level. I work with animals, and obviously they can't talk to you.

Salil: The waitress came by and asked if we wanted dessert, and she said yes. I think she had already picked out what she wanted. But I got the feeling that if she wasn't prone to sharing dinner she definitely wasn't going to be sharing her chocolate cake, so I got the bread pudding. And we did have a bite of each other's. After dinner, I walked with her to her car. I asked if she'd like to get together again--I'm always looking for people to go riding -- and she said yes. She was kind of rummaging around in her car, and I couldn't tell if she was looking for something, so I asked if she had a card on her, and she gave me one. I gave her a hug; she hugged me back, and that was it.

Marisa: I'd give [the date] a 3.5 [out of 5]. He's someone I'd easily invite to a group get-together. He's very personable, but you either have a connection or you don't, and there wasn't a connection.

Salil: She's a rough-and-tumble kind of girl. There aren't many girls [who ride motorcycles]. If there had been more chemistry, that would have been pretty hot. But overall I was a little bit let down. There wasn't even a good story in all of this. It was very safe, middle-of-the road. I'd give it a 3.

Interviews by Michelle Hainer

UPDATE: Though he was peeved at Marisa's assessment of his family, Salil hasn't totally ruled out another rendezvous -- in a group setting. "I was thinking about calling her to go riding with my friends," he says. Marisa would be up for it. "It's not going to faze me at all if he never calls me again," she says, "but if he does, I'd be more than happy to go out riding."

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