Date Lab: Silence isn't golden on a first date

Sunday, July 25, 2010

7:30 p.m., Panache, downtown

Jennifer: It's serious crunch time for this project I'm on at work, so I worked until about 7:20, then cabbed it over there. I'm not the kind of person to get nervous or anxious about this stuff, anyway. I am very much a people person. So my expectations in these kinds of situations are just [to] have a good time and a good conversation.

Ilan: My friends were super excited [about Date Lab]. I meet quite a lot of people through Internet dating, so I probably was not nearly as optimistic as my friends were. It can be awkward. I got there about five minutes early. [I was waiting for her] two, maybe three minutes. She was cute. Seemed nice.

Jennifer: He stood up, and we shook hands and did the kiss on the cheek. He smiled. I thought he was a good-looking guy. I don't know if he seemed nervous, but he definitely seemed shy. I noticed he was dressed down, so I was a little bit surprised, because it's a nice place and it's a first date, so I would think you'd dress up. I wore my favorite dress, and I put on a little extra eye makeup. I did make some effort, for sure. But I thought he looked like a nice person. We basically spent the first bit of time just going through the wine menu and the food menu and talking about each other's food tastes and things like that.

Ilan: I guess the thing that stands out [from our conversation] most is that she used to live in Israel, which I did, too. She was in Haifa not too long ago and was hanging out in a bar that my cousin owns. So that was a cool coincidence.

Jennifer: Overall, I really carried the conversation. I don't know if it's that he's shy; maybe he wasn't interested. If I wasn't asking a question, there was just an awkward silence. We both have family in Israel, but I'm Palestinian and he's Jewish. I asked him where his family lived and stuff like that, and he didn't pose any questions of me. I was very aware of the fact that I had to volunteer information [about myself] in order for it to come up. It was a bit difficult. At one point, I was laughing, and I said: "You gotta help me out here. I'm asking all the questions!"

Ilan: I've heard that before on dates. I may have tried [asking more questions after that], but I don't think I was very successful. I'm a little reserved.

Jennifer: He kind of just kept eating and smiling. He came up with the idea to take pictures with other people in the restaurant. I appreciated that he was being spontaneous and adventurous. [But] he became more focused on that than in engaging in a conversation with me. It had a fun element to it, but we didn't really talk.

Ilan: I thought, Let's make this interesting. We met a couple that was married for 41 years, a couple that was not supposed to be seen together -- they declined to take photos with us -- and a group that was celebrating someone's birthday.

Jennifer: He went to the bathroom, and they brought the check to me, and I signed off on it. He hadn't really been engaging or proactive at all, so I wasn't really thinking this was going to go anywhere afterward. So I put the cameras and the check receipts and everything into the envelope [for Date Lab], and I closed it. When he came back to the table, he seemed a little bit surprised that I had put the cameras away.

Ilan: I came back, and it was all nice and neat and ready to go. I was like, Oh, I guess we're done. That was probably the most awkward moment. We gave each other a hug and went our separate ways. I'd give [the date] a 4 [out of 5]. I'm going to say that taking pictures made the date. That was a good time. But I don't know that there was a real connection there. I'm not seeing a second date being more fun.

Jennifer: [I give the date a] 3. He was pleasant, he has an interesting background, but I would have really appreciated it if he'd taken more of an interest in me and not let me carry the whole conversation, and actually been on a date, you know, and tried to get to know me. Maybe he was just shy. For the sake of men who read this article, hopefully they will learn that they should be a little bit proactive. I'm the kind of person who wouldn't be with someone who couldn't carry their own weight in a conversation.

Interviews by Elizabeth Terry

Update: "I'm probably not going to contact her," Ilan said a week later. We're pretty sure Jennifer is okay with that.

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