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(Copyright 2009 Richard Thompson)

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By Tom Shroder
Sunday, April 12, 2009

Paging through a recent issue of my son's high school newspaper, here's what I learned:

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1) The traditional Sadie Hawkins dance has been replaced by something called the "Blackout" dance -- probably not named with the intention of reassuring parents.

2) Academic honors students will no longer be called one by one to the stage at graduation but will be recognized en masse. (My bleacher-hating butt thanks you.)

3) There's a new feature, prominently displayed, that's exactly like . . . Date Lab.

That's been going around. The Boston Globe recently launched a Date Lab-inspired feature in its Sunday magazine. And just the other day someone called my attention to a Date Lab clone in the University of Virginia student paper -- mostly because, unlike any Date Lab we've run in the feature's nearly three-year history, this one ended with the young lady going home the following morning wearing a borrowed T-shirt and shorts. (Ah, college.) This week also marks the first week that Date Lab will appear in national syndication.

For whatever reasons, Date Lab seems to have found a soft spot in the communal consciousness, spawning endless comments on washingtonpost.com, cocktail party discussion and any number of regular commentaries on blog pages. (Like this from the blog Vox Populi's "Date Lab Rat," by Anna Bank: "Last night, I saw 'He's Just Not That Into You' ... This morning over Leo's brunch, we discussed which of the movie's many predictable happy endings made us the maddest in its absolute lack of connection to real life ... This week's Date Lab is the perfect bitter after-dinner drink to complement that sickeningly sweet dessert. She's into it and delusional, he's giving her the not-so-subtle brush-off.")

I'm getting used to knowing that Date Lab is often the first thing people will ask me about when they learn what I do for a living. Still, it was kind of a thrill to see a version of the column showing up as unexpectedly close to home as my kid's high school paper. "Sam," I said, yelling through the closed door to his room. "Did you know that your school paper is doing a Date Lab column?"

When the door opened, Sam just shrugged. "Sure," he said. And then, as if it were a vague afterthought, he added, "I'm going on a date for it tonight."

Special Announcement: Do you find mental gymnastics a little bit sexy? Adventure irresistible? Regular dates a drag? If so, we'll try to match you with a like-minded, puzzle-craving love interest to tackle The Washington Post Hunt on May 17.

Tom Shroder can be reached at shrodert@washpost.com.


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