Democracy Dies in Darkness


Date Lab: These music lovers could be a duo. Or not.

September 6, 2018 at 6:00 AM

Deepa Mahadevan, 23, management consultant, and David Smith, 27, government contractor. (Daniele Seiss/For The Washington Post)

Deepa and David. David and Deepa. This pairing, with its melodious sound, made the alchemists of Date Lab hopeful that these two music lovers would make beautiful music together. Deepa Mahadevan, 23, a management consultant, and David Smith, 27, a government contractor, both work in Washington, but are not consumed by it. Deepa specifically asked for someone who’s “not a professional networker,” and David, who has lived all over the world while growing up as a “Navy brat,” described himself as “way more laid-back than most people I’ve met here.” They both described their sense of humor as dry. And most of all, they described their love of music, making it and going to shows.

We sent them to Declaration, a pizza-centric restaurant near Howard University. David, in a gray button-down shirt and jeans, got there a little before the 7:30 p.m. rendezvous, sat by the window and nursed a gin and tonic (gin — Deepa’s favorite spirit!). When Deepa, wearing a black shirt and a denim skirt, walked by, “I saw one person sitting alone and I thought, ‘This is him.’ ” When Deepa entered, David immediately knew, too. “I was like, ‘Okay, that’s definitely her.’ ”

But it turns out this mutual recognition was not a sign of pheromonal combustion. David said she looked cute but not like someone he would normally approach. Deepa says of her first impression: “He looked nice. He wasn’t my physical type, but that wasn’t going to stop me from having fun.”

Deepa is a vegetarian, David is not, but they decided on a vegetarian meal so they could share everything. They had appetizers of fried mozzarella and roasted Brussels sprouts, then split a pizza with butternut squash and truffle honey. Deepa ordered a specialty gin cocktail featuring cucumber soda and cucumber foam. She said, “It was like a salad in drink form.” That wasn’t an endorsement.

They talked about where they were from, then moved on to travel. David was planning a trip to Morocco, and Deepa exclaimed that she had studied abroad there. “She was full of tips, especially how super-touristy Marrakesh is.” They only briefly covered what they did for a living, which Deepa found “refreshing.”

Then she mentioned that the restaurant was near the 9:30 Club, and “it became clear why you matched us,” said Deepa. “We have very similar taste in music. ... It was cool we were both passionate about it.” David said, “It turned out almost every concert I had been to, she had been there, usually about five feet from me.”

David plays guitar and drums; Deepa plays piano and four other instruments. And so it would seem these two music lovers might have been on their way to becoming a duo.

But no. Their aha moment turned out to be another “so what” moment in an evening that while not painful, was not scintillating, either. By about 10 p.m. they had finished their meal, exhausted their conversation and topped out the Date Lab tab, and neither wanted to stay for dessert or shell out for it. “We parted by kind of mutually agreeing to not take it further,” Deepa said. “I don’t know if he sensed my vibes, or that was his feeling, too.”

That was his feeling, too. “By then we both knew: It’s done now.”

They walked to the sidewalk and ended the evening with a hug. They exchanged numbers and later traded texts about bands.

Deepa’s cocktail could be seen as a symbol of the entire night: fine to try once but not worth ordering again. When I talked to them about their big date a day or so later, the evening was slipping from them like dissolving cucumber foam. Maybe they heard the disappointment in my voice. Deepa: “He was really nice. It could have gone so much worse!” David: “I know you were trying so hard. But — always the but — there was no real romantic chemistry.”

I asked him why they got each other’s number. “She’s a cool person, and if I go to a show I’m probably going to see her there anyway. It’s always good to have more friends who are into music.” Even if you and that friend will never make beautiful music together.

Rate the date

Deepa: 3 [out of 5].

David: For fun, I give it a 4. For a romantic rating, 1.75.


No further contact.

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor to the Atlantic and a former Dear Prudence columnist for Slate.

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

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.

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