Democracy Dies in Darkness


Date Lab: He questioned her choice of pants. And she questioned his.

May 31, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Stan Sundel, 30, graduate student, and Maggie Miller, 24, consultant. (Daniele Seiss/For The Washington Post)

Stan Sundel, 30, attends a graduate program focused on security studies and is a former semiprofessional drummer. He digs the movie “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” and singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton, and is looking for a quirky gal with a sarcastic wit. But he is far from optimistic about his odds. “There’s only so many of those people in the world,” he told me. “First you have to have the good fortune to stumble upon them, and having them feel the same way about you has to be a cosmic coincidence. All the stars have to align — and that doesn’t really happen very often.”

We tried to improve his chances by setting him up with the musically inclined Maggie Miller, a 24-year-old consultant from Seattle and relative newcomer to Washington. She is into Led Zeppelin, horses and a sleeping bag with arms and legs, and is seeking a kind, adventurous dude who is up for skinny-dipping in the ocean. By adventure, she means taking a year off after graduating from college, traveling and working her way through Greece and Peru, then driving cross-country and living out of her car for months before starting her job in Washington.

We sent them to Columbia Heights’ Meridian Pint, which specializes in American craft beer and casual cuisine. Maggie biked to the date, sans helmet — concerned that “carrying around a bike helmet” would make for “a weird first impression.”

However, she needn’t have worried about her headgear, because Stan only had eyes for her bottom half. “The first thing that I noticed were the pants she was wearing,” he recalled. “They were unusually baggy.” Stan told me he generally goes out with women who are more dressed up. “I don’t know too many people who would dress like that for a date.”

Maggie found him “cute,” but she, too, had issues below the belt. His pink pants “were usually outside of what I go for,” she said. “I go for laid-back, outdoorsy-type folk. He seemed more on the preppy side.”

Once they got past each other’s pants, it was time to drink and eat. Maggie told me that though she is more of a wine person, when Stan asked if she was a beer person, she said yes, “which I’m glad I did because he was and it ended up being really fun.”

“She was game to try a lot of beer — but she was a picky eater,” Stan said.

“I only eat meat when I know where it came from,” Maggie told me.

After they settled on an appetizer of burrata crostini, Stan was all about the brew. Maggie told me: “He had done his homework and came up with a list of all the beers that he wanted to try. This was a first for me — don’t get me wrong, I do love a good beer and I like exploring new food, but I tend to be a little more inclined to think spontaneously.”

Over the course of the evening, they each tried beers, ate dinner (fish for her, moussaka for him) and talked. Stan told me, “Her sense of humor was decent and she’s certainly smart.” But “she was a little on the young side for me.”

Maggie said, “I think he got hung up on the age difference.” She told me he said things like, “That was before your time” and “You’ll get there.”

Her impression of Stan was that experiencing new things “was not something that he was interested in.” She asked about his latest travels, and he told her the last time he was out of the country was 10 years ago when he went to Portugal with his jazz band in college.

“I had a tough time trying to figure out what he’s excited about,” Maggie said. “At no point did I feel like I got the thing that makes him tick.”

Well, except for craft beer. Stan said he enjoys rating new beers on the Untappd app and did it during the date. Maggie said that watching Stan pull out his phone and rate each brew after he tasted it “wasn’t a turn-on.”

“I have fun analyzing and being reflective about the things that I’m doing,” she said. “But to the point of a five-star rating for each beer during a first date?”

After three hours and 10 beers, the date ended with a friendly hug goodbye and no exchange of numbers.

Rate the date

Stan: 3.5 [out of 5]. “But the 0.5 goes to the beer. The date was average, but the beer was exceptional.”

Maggie: 3. “There were no sparks. The beer tasting was the highlight of the evening.”


No further contact.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Sundel is a graduate student studying cybersecurity. His area of focus is security studies. This story has been updated.

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