Did you ever have one of those dates where the evening started off slow or awkward, but once everyone settled in, things started to heat up?
This is absolutely not what happened when we sent Elaheh Eghbal and Aakash Shah to dinner at Agora, the Mediterranean restaurant near Dupont Circle.
In the early going, once the couple was seated at their table, the conversation flowed well and both Date Labbers smelled definite potential. “He was outgoing enough to be able to roll with it all,” said Elaheh. “It was easy to loosen up.”
“I was joking around a little bit,” said Aakash, who is indeed the charming chatter. “Embracing the awkwardness.”
So I asked Elaheh, a 26-year-old technology marketer, the billion-bitcoin question: Was there chemistry? “There was.”
Aakash reported something similar on his end. “It started off great,” said the 31-year-old self-described “Marketer. Technologist. Salesperson. Strategist.” He is looking to date a fellow vegetarian, calling it “not just a dietary choice,” but “indicative of your value base.” Since Elaheh is also a long-standing vegetarian, the pair spent some time talking about, as she put it, “their similar weirdness about certain food.” (For instance, they both have a “relaxed” attitude toward eggs.)
Aakash was also impressed that Elaheh was on a self-improvement kick with a bunch of friends, looking to read new books, listen to new music, try new activities and so on. She had even trained to run a half-marathon. “I’m very much about self-improvement and self-reflection,” said Aakash. “I value that a lot — to be able to have curiosity and to learn about something new, to have something you’re pursuing. So it was cool to learn about that.”
The pair discovered plenty of commonalities and much to talk about: family (both are extremely close with theirs), work, running (they both hate it), and “Game of Thrones.” On instructions from Aakash’s sister — who ran him through pre-date dos-and-don’ts — they steered clear of hot-button topics like religion or politics.
In retrospect, things might have turned out better if they had risked going there. Because, for Aakash, what killed the evening’s early promise was Elaheh’s supermild, unopinionated manner. “It would have been more interesting if someone had an outburst,” he said.
Aakash describes himself as “very effusive,” with big emotions and ardent beliefs. To make “a strong connection,” he needs someone “passionate” with “strong opinions,” he told me. “I won’t be compatible with a person who is a lot more reserved or resistant to being more candid. I don’t have that filter.”
Elaheh, he said, presented as a “very sweet girl” who was “neutral and calm.”
Annnnnnd there goes the spark.
Elaheh doesn’t consider herself all that reserved. (“I’m not a naturally quiet person.”) She did, however, bring up that she doesn’t have favorites — no beloved movies, songs, shows, games, books, foods, you name it. “I can’t pick favorites,” she said, noting that this “turned into this whole conversation,” with an incredulous Aakash eventually teasing her to name her “favorite thing not to have a favorite of.”
But Aakash wasn’t entirely joking: “It was hard to have conversations about certain things — to talk about movies or food or music — when she didn’t have a favorite of anything, or any type of opinion.”
Elaheh said she liked Aakash’s being “chatty.” (He went on for 10 minutes about podcasts.) And she ended the night potentially interested in an encore. But she had the vague sense that Aakash didn’t feel the same. “We left the restaurant and walked up to Q Street,” recalled Elaheh. “We walked to the end of the block, and he was like, ‘Well, I’m going this way.’ ” They parted without exchanging numbers.
On the whole, Aakash enjoyed the evening, most especially the food. And even though the romance part didn’t work out, “I think, at the end of the date, one of the positive things she’ll come out of it with are five good podcasts to get her started!”
Elaheh: 4 [out of 5].
Aakash: It’s a cop-out neutral answer, but I do a 3.
No further contact.