Dating budget feeling the pinch lately? We hear you. So this week, Date Lab bows to economic reality to find out what happens when we give our participants half as much money to spend. Our test subjects: A banker who admits he's usually something of a "free spender" on dates, and a patent examiner with a wicked sense of humor.
7:30 P.M., Continental, Arlington
Julie: I got there a few minutes late and walked around the bar. It was really awkward because I couldn't figure out who he was. Finally I asked, and one of the waitresses introduced us. I was like, Whew, Date Lab didn't totally screw me. He was tall and cute. He was super-smiley.
Rich: I got there a few minutes early and was sitting at the bar. I thought she was very attractive. She has blond hair and blue eyes. I like girls with shorter hair. It's different and good not looking like everyone else. I was attracted to her right away.
Julie: We decided to get a table [so we could actually talk]. It isn't "Hang Out With a Friend" Lab. It's Date Lab. We sat down and ordered some beers. We both got appetizers off the bar menu and made a joke that it's a "recession date."
Rich: I don't know if we could have spent [the usual Date Lab budget of] $125; $62.50 was plenty. The menu has a section on it called baskets. Any menu with a baskets section is probably not the classiest, but it was a fun time.
Julie: We talked about the standard things: Where are you from, where did you go to school. We told stories about our families. He said he couldn't go out [to bars] with his sister because he was the overprotective-brother type. I thought that was cool. That's the way it should be. He's from Pittsburgh, and he's a big [Penguins] fan. I have a lot of hockey-loving friends, so we talked about that.
Rich: I realized as soon as we sat down that we were connected because of our silliness. We both talked about how our applications were ridiculous. She was very easy to talk to. Sometimes when I go on dates, I have to drive the conversation. It can get tiresome. She was very open. It was refreshing.
Julie: Continental is like Chuck E. Cheese for adults. Instead of tickets, you get a hangover. So after a while, we got up and played pool and Skee-Ball.
Rich: I suck at pool. I'm glad she wasn't good either. I thought maybe she would think I was letting her win, but I'm really that bad. We played for a while, and it was soul-crushing. The pool was secondary, though. We were talking the whole time.
Julie: We used our celebrity status as Date Labbers to get people to take pictures of us. There was a girl there who was having a lot of fun, assisted by [alcohol]. She was very friendly and bought us a shot. So we did a shot with her and played a game of Jenga.
Rich: Around 11:30, we decided we should go because I was getting tired. I could tell she was, too. And we were running out of money. We spent $58, and then I gave the [bartender] $10. I said to Julie, "Let's do this again." We exchanged information and had a high-five and a hug. I don't know if chemistry was there, but I'm not sure if I'm ever going to say that after four hours. I definitely want to spend more time with her.
Julie: It was a really good date. In terms of going out and having a good time, it was a great date. I'd give the night a 5 [out of 5] for friends and a 4 for chemistry. I think there might have been chemistry, but there was totally this next-day, talk-to-a-reporter thing. [As a result,] I was a toned-down version of me. Maybe there would be some romance outside of the Date Lab pressure.
Rich: I would give the date a 4. I sent her a text message [the next day], and she said she had a good time. I was happy about that. Whether or not it [will turn] into something, I don't know, but I definitely would enjoy her company again.
Interviews by Kelly DiNardo
UPDATE: Rich and Julie went on a second date, but future romance seems unlikely. "It was more friendly," says Rich, citing a lack of spark.
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