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Date Lab: Is it possible to have too much in common?

Sunday, July 11, 2010; W06

7:30 p.m., Againn, Downtown

Caitlin: I ended up at the restaurant maybe 20 minutes early, just because I despise Metro and never really trust it to get me where I'm going. I hung out at the bar and watched the door. There was nothing to be nervous about. I love meeting new people, and I was intrigued by who I would be set up with.

Mike: I got there about 7:20. I walked in and told the hostess that I was with The Washington Post, and she flagged Caitlin down from the bar. She was pretty; that was the first thing I thought. She definitely had a nice smile. She also had a Guinness in hand, so I was already jealous.

Caitlin: When I saw Mike, I thought, Okay, this is cool. I can go out with him. He looked like a really nice guy, a decent guy. The waitress took us to our table, and he was immediately like, "You already have a Guinness, so I guess I am going to have to get one." That was cool because I can't be the one drinking the darkest beer at the table!

Mike: I was nervous. I had never been on a blind date. There weren't any awkward silences or anything like that, though. We never seemed at a loss for something to talk about. It was a friendly chatting, but I don't know if it was more than that. I don't think there was flirting. It was more like instant friends.

Caitlin: It may have been his first blind date, but he didn't seem nervous. We talked for maybe 20 minutes before we even ordered any food. We got oysters for an appetizer. They had a seafood potpie as a special, which I got. He got lamb.

Mike: We talked about where we're from, our family. We didn't really talk about work, which is fine with me, because it can be a boring topic at times. I told her I was getting a graduate degree in European/Eurasian studies. She was like, "Really?" She said she got her degree in [Russian and East European studies] a few years back.

Caitlin: He asked me, in Russian, if I spoke Russian. I do, but kind of laughed it off and said, "I don't really want to be embarrassed here." It's fun to be able to talk to someone who knows how it is to work and go to grad school at the same time -- and then joke about Ukrainian politics. But I like to keep work at work. I'm not interested in people who are the exact mirror image of myself in that department.

Mike: She's traveled to all these places that I have studied for years. I thought it was really interesting to listen to her talk about them: Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus, all those Central Asian countries. There was one odd moment when we started talking about traveling. My older brother and I drove around Europe a year and a half ago. She was like, "Do you have older siblings?" I said, "Yeah, my brother is 27, my sister is 26, and I'll be 24 in July." She was like, "Oh, I'm 25." Because of my beard, people always assume I am a lot older than I really am.

Caitlin: It did surprise me. I was like, What? The way he carried himself was not that of a 23-year-old [at the time of the date]. I'd say age, in general, is something I consider but is definitely not a disqualifying factor. I'm 25, so there isn't that much of a difference between us.

Mike: The whole night was really just nice chatting. I wouldn't characterize it as much more than that. It was partly me not being that attracted to her, and partly that I felt like she wasn't that into me. So I decided to just enjoy myself and good company without trying to force anything. We talked about how we both go out and play trivia at bars, and she said I should join her team that plays every week.

Caitlin: I wasn't getting the impression that he was romantically interested in me, either. We had dessert, which was probably the highlight of the night. He had a Guinness ice cream float, and I got the strawberry rhubarb pie. At 9:30, we wound things up. I had got back from Europe [the week before], so my clock was still not quite normal. I felt horrible for being so tired. It was absolutely no fault of his, and I definitely wasn't bored. He was a complete gentleman and volunteered to pay the $20 that we went over [the $125 from Date Lab].

Mike: There wasn't any talk of "let's go grab another drink." So when she said she was getting tired, I was like, "Yeah, me, too." We walked from the restaurant toward the Metro. We took some pictures along the way and exchanged phone numbers. We hugged and said goodbye. I jumped on the Metro, and she walked back to her apartment.

Caitlin: I'd say it was a 4 [out of 5]. There wasn't this sudden chemistry or love at first sight or any of that sort of stuff. I'd definitely meet him for a beer or with friends for trivia. I told him I would get him back for the extra money he paid.

Mike: I would definitely rate it a 4. It was nice to meet someone new who has a lot of things in common. There wasn't too much of a connection beyond that. I might call her to see if she is down for trivia.

Interviews by Stephen Lowman

UPDATE: Caitlin left the country for a few weeks on business, but she and Mike exchange text messages and swear a low-key trivia night is in the works. "I assume he can't be worse at trivia than me," Caitlin says. "It'll be fun."

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