Gina: I do love all the cross-pollination that occurs when you have educated, professional people from all walks (military and ex-military, engineers, journalists, diplomats, teachers) talking about what they did/saw/experienced. I can chat with the best of ’em!
Dennis: Married into an old Washington family [now a widower], and I ran for Congress in 2010.
Gina: My friends describe me as funny, smart, bubbly and adventurous. I like what I do for a living and I’m good at it. I’m low-maintenance and upbeat. Physically, I’m holding my own — people routinely think I’m younger than I am and I’m a respectable size 4/6. Did I mention that I cook too?
Dennis: Smart, funny, deep knowledge and a great conversationalist, sensitive guy but very, very adventurous. If I haven’t done it, I’m usually game (except for singing).
Gina: Smart, nerdy, wonky guys who possess a masculine, capable he-man swagger and who are smart enough to know that they don’t know it all. Personal integrity is also very important. I guess I like Eagle Scouts with an edge.
Dennis: Very attractive (not short), on the slimmer side, active, successful, smart, really knows how to put herself together, three to five years younger than me, and, unfortunately, someone who can understand what it means to have a significant loss in life. Not that they have to had experienced it, but must be capable of understanding.
Gina: It would be great if they liked to cook or eat great food. (I once made pizza for a guy and he said, “I don’t know why you just don’t order Domino’s.”) I would also prefer someone who is educated and intellectual but also has a generous helping of whimsy and lack of pretension. For example, I loved “The Avengers” but also really enjoyed Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life.”
Dennis: Being active (golf, tennis, skiing), ballroom dancing, traveling, pushing yourself to experience new things to broaden horizons (thus my applying for this — God help me) and having a passion for things you do, great taste in contemporary design.
About the date ...
7:30 p.m., Filomena Ristorante, Georgetown
Gina: I knew his name and that’s all, so it’s like unwrapping a package that you have no idea what’s in it. I got there at 7:30.
Dennis: I got there right on time and went to the maitre d’ stand. There was a little confusion, [but] it turned out that Gina was standing right there. So, she just cut through the confusion for them and said, “Dennis?” And I said, “Gina?”
Gina: I wouldn’t say he was necessarily my type. He was tall and slender, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I generally go for people who are a little bit bigger, a little more built out. But it’s really about personality. The right personality can just make anything interesting.
Dennis: She looked great; she was really dressed very nicely. I’m not sure that she was would be the sort of person I would typically be initially attracted to — it’s nothing in particular, I can’t really nail down why — but as soon as I saw her I thought, This is going to be a great evening.
Gina:We did a little bit of the, “How long have you lived here?” We both have kids. We’re both in fields that involve both rigor and creativity.
Dennis: There was never a lack for conversation. We had several rounds of appetizers.
Gina: There was one appetizer, and I said, “Oh, gee, you can pick this up with your fingers,” and Dennis was like, “Oh, no.” And I was like, “Oh, right, okay, we’ll use a knife and fork.” I got the impression from him that he was a little more conservative, and I don’t mean politically but just in terms of behavior. I think I’m a little more outgoing.
Dennis: I probably mentioned early on that I had lost my wife a little over two years ago, and I talked about it a bit. I was married for 20 years to someone who was a wonderful woman. I may have gotten a little too deep into it; I don’t know. I guess I’m going into it cautiously just because, one, I don’t know what to expect as far as dating at this stage of my life and, two, I have no idea what I’m looking for. It’s just getting back out in the world, really; it’s part of that whole process for me.
Gina: We did touch on some serious things, although it wasn’t grim by any means. I had lost my husband in 1995, so that was just something that we talked about a lot, about what’s that like and how you deal with that.
Dennis: She said, “I think someone who goes through this should date at least three people at one time.” And I think she’s on to something. ... You don’t even half the time know what you’re doing. I haven’t dated in 24 years.
Gina: It was nice conversation. [But] I have to say I didn’t feel that we had a lot in common. We talked about cooking, because I love to cook, and he was saying he thinks it’s a chore. I know lots of people who feel that way, so it’s not a knock, it’s just that we didn’t have that in common. And he was asking, “Do you play tennis?” and I said, “Unfortunately, I’m terrible with everything to do with athletics.” So, that’s a case where I probably didn’t meet what he was looking for.
Dennis: We had had so much food that I think both of us took a couple of bites of our main courses, and we said, “We’re done for the evening.” So, they packed them up for us. Then, [the server] came to ask if we wanted dessert, and he brought a little chocolate for us that he wanted us to try with the red wine.
Gina: I didn’t really feel [Dennis] was very flirty. And I like flirting, so that was too bad. But by the end of the evening when we were taking photos together he had his arm around me.
Dennis: I didn’t feel any sparks flying. I just felt like I was getting to know a really terrific lady. She’s very smart, so the conversation was always fun and interesting. It was a very joyous evening — the restaurant and [Gina] made it that way.
Gina: It was pretty close to 10:30. He suggested that we walk a little bit on the Georgetown waterfront. He’s an architect and very aware of design and public spaces and how they’re used, so that was very interesting.
Dennis:As we walked, a couple of times she just paused, to keep the conversation going. That was the first clue I got from her that she wanted to keep the conversation, so that was nice. We were walking into the garage, and I said basically something like, “Would you be up for getting together again?” And she said, “Absolutely.” So, we exchanged information, I gave her a hug, she gave me a great kiss on the cheek, and then we chatted another 30 seconds, and then I gave her another hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Gina: I would [rate the date] a 3.5 [out of 5]. I would do another date. I thought he was very nice. I think this was a strange situation for him because it was so new, and I would like to see him again, because I think that he might relax a little more the second time.
Dennis: I’d probably give it a 4. I’d like to see her again and get to know her better. I really am just stepping out [into the dating scene], so it’s a whole new world for me. [But] finding that there are people who do understand the situation and finding that there are women out there who you know you want to meet, you want to get to know, that was nice. It was a memorable evening, no matter what happens.
UPDATE: Dennis followed up with an e-mail the next day and got “a lukewarm response,” he says. “She said: ‘I know you’re busy, and I have deadlines. ... Let’s talk next week.” A polite brushoff? Apparently not. Gina followed up the next week and asked Dennis out for dinner. (He said yes.) Plans were in the works at press time.