“The reason I took a chance with Date Lab is because my friend insisted this could be a way to find the guy that checks all of my boxes,” said Ally Brimmer, 23. “I’m overall not much of a dater — some of it not by choice,” the communications coordinator admitted with a laugh, adding, “I have very high standards of what I look for in a partner.”

The self-proclaimed “TikTok addict” told me she’s “definitely a romantic” and hopes for a movie-style “meet-cute” with her future partner. She’s particularly drawn to people who are talented at what they do. After a three-year relationship with her college boyfriend ended in 2019, the Virginia native took time to focus on herself and didn’t jump into pandemic dating.

Perhaps a Zoom date with Jason Ashley, 27, would be the meet-cute she’s been looking for. The Upstate New York native enjoys reading Date Lab because he likes “seeing where different people are coming from, how they interact with each other and where they think they both ended up.” Since ending a three-year relationship in 2018, he has dabbled in app dating. Jason, who has a wide range of interests, including tennis, romance movies, sci-fi books and cooking, is looking for a partner who likes to try new things. “I don’t want someone where we get home from work and just get comfortable. I want to be out,” he explained.

As Ally prepped for the date that night, she found that all of her “neuroses” were popping up: “I was very worried about the idea of boundaries. Due to the pandemic it’s not like you automatically have somewhere else to go. You’re at home. When do you officially end a Zoom date?” With this in mind, she committed to a celebration with her roommate at 8 p.m., giving her a hard end time. She thought it was important to leave someone wanting more — a second date.

Jason had his own predate jitters. He confessed to me that he was nervous about how to start a conversation when he knew nothing about her. When the date began, he was glad that Ally suggested doing quick bullets of their ages, where they lived and where they came from.

Jason’s first impression: “I thought she had a really great smile and a welcoming aura.” And it seemed the vibe was mutual. “He was so nice, open, down-to-earth, an overall good guy,” Ally said. “It just naturally went from question to question. I was comforted that Jason was very easy to talk to.”

While they ate dinner, Indian food for him and pizza for her, Jason revealed he was a Democratic pollster and asked her if that was a problem. “I say that as a barometer to check to see what their values are and if they want to talk about it,” he explained to me. Luckily for him, their politics aligned. “I’m a Democrat, and I am only interested in dating people with a similar point of view,” Ally told me.

Her other nonnegotiable is quarantine behavior. She was happy when she found out Jason takes safety seriously, interacting with only a small pod of people and limiting travel. “That showed me we had similar values,” she said. “Being caring, empathetic — and also believing in science and CDC regulations and guidelines.”

When the conversation turned to pop culture, Jason was excited Ally was into TikTok, and even had a viral video. “It was nice to talk to someone else who makes them,” he said. “I’m one of three people I know at my office who watch TikTok. And I’m one of the very few people I know who makes TikTok videos — outside of my teenage cousins.”

“It was nice that he was on TikTok,” said Ally, “but for some reason when he was talking about it, it felt like he was too old to be on TikTok.” She took note of their four-year age gap throughout the evening. “I asked if he had any plans that he had to cancel due to covid,” she said. “I had lots of concerts and comedy shows that I was excited about, that I had wanted to attend. He said he had a lot of friends’ weddings that had to be rescheduled. … It highlighted that maybe we were at different points in our lives.”

For Jason, age wasn’t an issue, but he felt that the conversation “moved quickly, rather than deeply.” “I didn’t feel like we had a deep connection,” he said. “It seemed like we were on the same page on things, but we didn’t have the time, or take the time, to go in-depth. I had trouble identifying what she did for fun.” As Ally’s end time approached, Jason asked for her number so they could stay in touch.

Rate the date

Jason: 3 [out of 5].

Ally: 4.


When Jason texted the next morning to say he had a nice time, Ally responded that she wasn’t interested in a second date. “She felt like we were in different places in our lives due to our age difference,” he told me. “I didn’t think we were in different places. Maybe not the same place, but not that different.”

Vijai Nathan is a writer and comedian in Washington.