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Date Lab: He’s into ‘Breaking Bad.’ She’s into ‘The Good Place.’ Can it work?

May 3, 2018 at 6:00 AM

Laurie Ohlstein, 28, a government contractor, and Arnold Rodriguez, 26, a proposal writer. (Daniele Seiss/For The Washington Post)

Laurie Ohlstein, a 28-year-old government contractor, describes herself as “outgoing,” digs the Spice Girls and Tom Robbins, and has a second-degree black belt in kenpo karate. She moved to the District about a year ago after spending three years abroad with the Peace Corps. That’s a good chunk of time to do anything, but Laurie told me she doesn’t like including that tidbit in her dating profile. “It’s cheap to use that as a dating lure,” she explained, adding, “I don’t want people to expect me to be a great, noble person.”

She loves hanging with her fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, but dating one is another story. “Peace Corps boys are flaky,” she said. She told me she is in search of a nerdy, compassionate dude who wears interesting glasses.

We set Laurie up with non-flaky, eyeglass-wearing Arnold Rodriguez, 26, who works as a proposal writer in business development. A self-described “curious” gent, he enjoys Trader Joe’s, Kanye West and the movie “Saturday Night Fever.” He said he’s looking for a foodie-type, funny gal who likes to go out. Arnold doesn’t do dating apps, preferring to meet people in person — in the right setting. “My MO is not to walk into a bar and start macking on girls,” he told me before the date. “Honestly, I don’t know how to hit on women at a club.”

But he didn’t feel any more comfortable at Masa 14, the Latin- and Asian-inspired tapas restaurant near U Street, where we sent him to meet Laurie. Arnold said later he was feeling “freaked out” when he got there. Then, Laurie “randomly snuck up on me and she shook my hand.” That’s when his nerves got the better of him. “I was frazzled,” he said. “I just started reading ... off the menu, telling her I’ve had this and I’ve had that. I was trying to initiate conversation about the food.”

Laurie told me that was a turnoff: “He said, ‘I think you should get this and this and this and this.’ And I was like, ‘Well, you can.’ I was open to splitting things, but I wanted to have a say.”

Fortunately, they agreed to order margaritas. Unfortunately, the drinks didn’t help. While they ate dinner — shrimp and steak fried rice for him and chayote slaw and pork-belly steamed buns for her — they got to know each other ... sort of. Arnold told me she seemed guarded. He mentioned the neighborhood he lived in. “But she didn’t want to tell me where she lived,” he said. “Not sure if she was wary of strangers.”

He felt they bonded somewhat over being the youngest employees at their offices. “The millennial tag gets thrown around, and we don’t like being underestimated,” he explained. “We want to excel and don’t want to be subjected to petty slander from older people.”

Arnold was thrilled to talk to Laurie about her travels because “asking a ... ton of questions is in my wheelhouse.” But, he soon learned, “she was very timid about telling me about Peace Corps. She said, ‘I don’t like to say I’m in Peace Corps because people get the impression you’re a righteous person. I did Peace Corps; it doesn’t define me.’ ”

“I told her, ‘I really don’t care. I’m actually just curious to hear your story.’ ”

For Laurie, an avid traveler, the conversation only highlighted more differences between them. “He was like, ‘I haven’t been out of the country in eight years,’ and I was like, ‘I have been out of the country like three weeks ago.’ And it’s not like I’m judging him or anything,” she said. “But I am a huge personality, and he’s more, like, easygoing and laid-back.”

I told her that when I spoke to Arnold, he seemed quite gregarious, and that she came across as quieter. Her response: “I’m overthinking my answers. The nature of this makes me more cautious.” She said she had hoped to be matched with someone who’s as “ridiculous” as she is: “I mean, I own a Britney Spears jumpsuit.” And Arnold, apparently, was not ridiculous enough. “We’re very opposite,” she said. “I’m into TV shows like ‘The Good Place,’ and he’s into ‘Breaking Bad.’ ”

Before ending the night with an awkward side-hug, Arnold and Laurie did their own Date Lab debrief. “I said, ‘I thought this went well. I had a good time!’ ” Arnold told me. “I noticed she didn’t reciprocate — I got nada. I mean, you can say, ‘It was fun.’ ”

Rate the date

Laurie: 3.5 [out of 5]. He was a really nice guy; we just didn’t have anything in common.

Arnold: 3. She was easy to talk to, but I wish she was a little more open.

Update

No further contact.

Related: More from Date Lab:

Related: Their attraction was immediate

Related: She thought it went well until he said, ‘Let’s keep in touch’

Related: Date Lab 2.0: Four new writers dig deeper to find out how the dates really went

Related: Apply now to Date Lab

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