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Date Lab: Georgetown University's Date Lab Rat gives matching a whirl

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Unlike, say, figuring out a way to keep the U.S. economy from imploding, it shouldn't be all that hard to find two single people with similar interests, send them out for a free meal and expect them to get past the first date and a few halfhearted text messages. Right? Right. And yet, oh so wrong.

But hey, don't take our word for it. We turned over matchmaking duties to blogger Anna Bank, author of "Date Lab Rat," a sometimes cheeky Date Lab critique that runs on the Georgetown Voice's blog, Vox Populi. Set loose in a database of more than 1,600 singles, she was charged with finding just two daters who'd go great together. Her take on making matches, halfway through the process: "This is harder than I thought. Oh, man, you guys set me up."

Bank's first four matches fizzled even before the first date. "Either one of them didn't want to do it, or both didn't want to do it, or they were seeing other people," she says. Her second batch got off to an equally rocky start. "My first pick had actually already dated" each other, she reports. "They had no interest in doing that again."

Not until her sixth try did Bank finally score a dinner date. But it wasn't a totally desperate, throw-darts-at-the-board kind of pairing. (Not that we ever do that -- really, people.) "I had a good feeling about it," Bank says of Marisa and Jon, who she figured could bond over their D.C. roots, law school and a mutual aversion to "the preppy Late Night Shots kind of culture." The only question, as always: Would the daters cooperate?

7:30 P.M., CREME CAFE AND LOUNGE, U STREET

Jon: I don't really get that nervous before dates. There's nothing to lose. I did shave, which was the first time I had in, like, a month. Then I just walked over to the restaurant. I got there before Marisa.

Marisa: [The server] led me over to the table, and we introduced ourselves. Jon was good-looking. He looked a lot like Jimmy Fallon. Physically, I don't know if he was exactly my type in that he wasn't scruffy, but I was like, Okay, it could be good.

Jon: She is brunette, had a cute smile, and right off the bat I could tell she had a very outgoing personality. I don't know if I would say there was a spark. It wasn't like there was magic in the room. But she's the type of person I'd be interested in seeing.

Marisa: We started talking. We're two Jewish kids from D.C. with parents from New York and New Jersey. And we both had family dogs that we'd recently lost. People don't always understand what that's like. He said that he'd been at the [Democratic convention]. I'm not especially involved, so we didn't talk too much about it. [And] he told me he wasn't sure he was going to practice law, which interested me. I'm about to take the LSAT, and I always thought I might want to do something else with a law degree.

Jon: We have common tastes in TV shows, shows like "Arrested Development" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." It takes a certain type of humor to appreciate those. [And] we talked about the Smith Point scene. She said she'd gone a couple of times [but] felt like a sociological observer. I'm not really into that scene, either.

Marisa: On a first date, especially a blind date, people hold back a little. But the evening didn't feel like a business meeting or anything. We were talking and took so long with our appetizers that I saw the waitress start to bring out our entrees and then turn around and go back to the kitchen. We were laughing, joking about weird pictures we could take, and then we were like, "No, they'll publish that."

Jon: We were saying how [Date Lab] is the enemy. You have to be careful what you say just because everything could end up in the magazine. There was some flirting, some chemistry. We were leaning in for the photo, and after, I didn't scoot my chair back away from her. I just stayed there. It was about 10:45 when we left the restaurant. I'd definitely have considered hanging out more, but I had work to do for the next day. I got her number and gave her a hug.

Marisa: I'd rate the date a 4 [out of 5]. In terms of who I date, it tends to be smart, witty, talkative. He definitely fit. We talked about maybe going to see this band, Hot Chip, in a couple of weeks.

Jon: I'd give it a 4. I don't think I'm looking for sparks on a first date. [But] I had a great time, and I could definitely see hanging out with her again.

Interviews by Christina Breda Antoniades

Update: Jon invited Marisa out the Saturday night after the date; she was booked but stopped by his place for a quick drink. As for further plans, "I don't know," says Marisa. "We haven't made [any] yet." All in all, not bad for a beginner.

WANT DATE LAB TO SET YOU UP? Go to washingtonpost.com/datelab for details.


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