Digital strategist Renee Estrada, 24, is an independent, liberal and grounded woman from Southern California. She doesn’t like men who are name-droppers or gym rats or hooked on their phones. Web app developer Karl Sakas, 27, grew up in Northern Virginia with three older sisters and was one of the first men to graduate from a former women’s college. Both were in Scouts as kids. He played hooky from his company holiday party to meet her at Lillies in Woodley Park.
Karl: I walked up, “Hey, are you Renee?” I’m usually a hugger. She extended her hand. I was thrown off.
Renee: He went in for the hug. I also usually go for a hug, but it was so tight. The table next to us — they had a baby — and there was a stroller right behind me. I stuck out my hand.
Karl: I thought she was really cute. She seemed really well-put-together. I’m used to dating people that are taller.
Renee: He had a great beard. He was dressed pretty nice. He had a really friendly smile. We talked about the weather. I’m from California and not used to the cold. His sister lives in L.A. I lived in L.A. for two years.
Karl: A lot of our conversation jumped off from the point of Southern California and the differences.
Renee: He mentioned this bakery called Porto’s. They make these really good potato ball things. I was like, “Oh my God, I remember that place!”
Karl: She’s done a few different things. Right now she’s working on progressive campaigns. I work in technology, but I’m inept when it comes to social media. I’ve only used Twitter to let WMATA know there was smoke coming out of my [train] car. She is tapped into all this all the time.
Renee: He is a software engineer type at the World Bank. Before that he was a college admissions adviser and traveled the country a lot. He lived in China.
Karl: I was in China twice. Once after college as a marketing intern. The most recent time, I was starting my own market intelligence business for American liberal arts colleges. I got into a motorcycle crash nine months in.
Renee: He had this really crazy story about how he broke his leg. It took four days to get the surgery. It sounded really intense. He has traveled a lot more than I have. I’m just getting my feet wet. My brother lives in Thailand. He was like, “Oh, are you going to visit him?” I really want to. I have two older brothers and a stereotypical big Mexican family. He has four other siblings. We’re both the youngest.
Karl: One thing I really liked about her is that family is really important. I could see that twinkle in her eye when talking about her family.
Renee: The conversation felt more friendly — like someone you would meet at a party and chat up. He said Joe Biden and Tim Kaine are role models. I was like, “Yeah, totally, I can see that.” He was very much into the Dad jokes. That’s not exactly my style of humor.
Karl: Was there a spark? I’m not going to say there wasn’t chemistry. I was like, “This is someone I really want to get to know.”
Renee: We walked over to the Zoo Lights. We knew it was closed, but we might still be able to see a little bit. I haven’t been to any of the holiday happenings. He was really keen on it. He was like, “Hey, can I have your number?”
Karl: I texted her my number. We walked down [Connecticut] avenue. It was 10 at that point. When she got in the Lyft, she texted me, “I had a good time.” We were on Date Lab because online dating wasn’t so great. Neither of us were wanting to play games. There was an Aziz Ansari mentality there. I texted back, “I had a good time too. Maybe we can go on a second date?” She said yes.
Renee: Maybe on a second date there would be less pressure to be so friendly and more yourself. It was a friend thing. That’s the vibe I have now, but maybe get drinks and a movie just to be 100 percent sure.
Karl: It would take a second date to feel whether we’re friends or something more.
Karl: 4 [out of 5]. The rationale for that would be she has a personality that really fits well with mine, but at the same time I didn’t feel like there was a spark.
Renee: 3.5. Just because conversation flowed so well and we had a lot of shared interests. Regardless if it was flirty or not, it’s always fun to talk to someone you have a lot in common with.
Karl suggested a second date, but Renee ghosted. She said she felt lukewarm and didn’t feel compelled to squeeze in a date during the busy holiday weeks.