About the daters ...
Ben: Intelligent, sophisticated, witty, ambitious women. I generally go for thin, petite women with active lifestyles.
Anh: I like smart, tall, well-traveled, funny men. I’m not the romantic type and would rather have a guy tease me all the time than write me love poems.
Ben: Last summer I went walking around the national Mall and the monuments. Our last stop was the Washington Monument, and it was getting dark. We laid on benches still warm from the sun and watched bats eat bugs swarming in the spotlights.
Anh: A spring moonlit walk around the monuments. No tourists around, and the monuments look so pretty at night. We spent hours walking and had really great conversations.
Ben: After a first date, the girl invited me over for late-night food. When we got to her apartment, I discovered that the young woman lets her dogs [poop] all over the house and cleans it up “when she feels like it.” I told her I didn’t feel well and had to go home. Oh, and I got a parking ticket.
Anh: Being stood up by a guy I didn’t even feel a connection with. Our first date was awful because I realized we had nothing in common. I gave him another chance, because I was shallow and found him physically attractive. I accepted his request for a second date, and the punk stood me up.
7:30 p.m., Delhi Club, Clarendon
Ben: Date Lab called me and said, “We’re going to send you out on a date next week,” and I was like, “Great.” So I come home, and I tell my roommate: “You’ll never believe this. Four years ago I submitted this Date Lab thing, and I heard back from them today.” She goes, “No way. Me, too!” And I’m like, “Do you think they set us up together?” We e-mailed the editor, and she goes, “Oops!” You all have really good matchmaking qualities. She’s a great girl. She went to law school with me. Hypothetically, yes, [I would go on a date with her], but I’m living with her, so I can’t. It’s off-limits.
(Editor’s note: After reluctantly accepting that we couldn’t set Ben up with his roommate, Date Lab came up with another suitable subject for our ongoing experiment: Anh Tu Nguyen).
Anh: I just started a new job, so it’s been pretty crazy-busy so far. Toward the end of the day I was thinking about the date. I wasn’t too nervous. I wore a little black dress; it’s one of my favorite dresses. I look good in it! I got there maybe five minutes before we were scheduled to meet.
Ben: I ended up being two or three minutes late. I recognized [Anh] as a Vietnamese name, and I came in, and there’s the primo table with an Asian girl sitting at it, and I figured this must be my date. I just went for it and introduced myself. She was really cute. She was wearing a really nice dress. She had a warm smile.
Anh: I thought he was well put-together; he was well dressed. I wouldn’t say attractive, but he was nice-looking. He didn’t seem too nervous; he seemed very cool and collected. He told me [about first being set up with his roommate]. I was thinking, “What are the odds?” We were going back and forth. We talked about what we did over the holidays, got into our hobbies, what we like to do. I’m a big runner; he was telling me he likes to play sports. I think just running seemed very boring to him, which I can understand, but I enjoy it, ’cause I just get this runner’s high.
Ben: It was a somewhat superficial conversation, just because how detailed questions can you ask somebody you just met? We took our sweet time having dinner. There was a little bit of difficulty in getting the conversation going, which I imagine is just a fact of our being on a blind date. I was trying to push it along but trying not to be acting like it was some kind of interrogation. Things loosened up a little bit after we got through [a] bottle of wine. She asked me what was the craziest thing I’d ever done. And I told her that I had directed traffic once, naked. When I was in college a big hurricane had knocked out all the power, and [my friends and I] ran out without our clothes on, and as good citizens we helped cars get through the intersection. I can’t honestly remember what her story was. It was not directing traffic naked.
Anh: It wasn’t so crazy, but the drunkest I’ve ever gotten was right before college graduation. My friends and I threw a toga party. I keep the first date light and fun, nothing serious. Because you never know; I might disagree with you on a serious topic, so I sort of avoid those on a first date. Flirting, no. I’m the worst flirt there is. I’m not a girly girl. I like to look pretty and whatnot, but I’m very bad at acting flirty; I’m very blunt and to the point. He suggested [going across the street for another drink]. I was pleased that he suggested it. I guess we knew each other better at that point. We were more comfortable with one another.
Ben: We got a couple beers, and it was quite nice. She didn’t do anything that would keep me from wanting to talk to her again, so I asked if I could call her sometime; she said yes. I would give the date a 4 [out of 5]. Three means we got through it and nobody’s mad at each other. And I would say it was slightly better than that, so I’m going to give it a 4. I might call her this weekend. She was definitely nice, and I’ll talk to her again, and if it doesn’t work out, she’d be somebody I’d be happy being friends with, too.
Anh: At the end of the date, I had kind of the same [level of attraction], I guess, as my first impression. Friendly and nice. Too soon to tell [if there is any potential]. I’d give the date a 3. Wasn’t the worst date I ever had; wasn’t the best date I ever had.
UPDATE: The Friday evening following the date, Ben texted Anh to see what she was up to and if she was free to hang out later. “He only gave me an hour’s notice,” Anh said. “I know most girls hate getting text messages at 7 o’clock asking if they want to do something that night.” Ben said, “Unfortunately, I’m not a good planner.” Our advice to him: Are you sure your roommate isn’t a better match for you?