“I’m actually really terrible at dating,” confessed Jeanie Gordon, 32. “I go out on a date and [I’m] like, ‘You seem like a nice person, but I have no interest in engaging any further.’ Which probably says something about me personally that I should talk to somebody about,” she told me with a laugh.

The D.C. resident, who works in database management, is an avid recreational soccer player and has primarily dated men she’s met through the sport or through friends: “I like people who are athletic, but also nerdy and passionate about something that I don’t know about.” Though she has dating apps on her phone, she’s rarely on them because she feels “really weird about making a snap judgment on someone.”

Perhaps Maryland resident Joe Denicola, 27, will be the “nerdy” athlete she’s looking for. Joe, who works as a technical information specialist, enjoys training for and running marathons and took up weightlifting during the pandemic. Joe has never dipped his toe into online dating, and has met his previous girlfriends through activities and clubs. “Most started out as friends and then we started dating,” he recalled. He believes open communication is the key to a lasting relationship. “It’s easy to have good communication at the start, but it’s hard to maintain it,” he said. “People need to be able to express what they need.”

We set the duo up on a virtual date. Joe’s first impression when Jeanie came on the screen at 5 p.m.: “She had a very nice smile. That really caught me.” What caught Jeanie’s eye was the bookshelf in his background. “I’m a big reader. It’s very important to me that someone is at least vaguely interested in reading,” she said. However, she told me that when she asked Joe about his books, he replied, “I don’t really read” — which was a bit of a turnoff. “But to his credit, he did say he was trying to read more,” Jeanie said.

Both Jeanie and Joe had dinner delivered, but neither ate during the date. Jeanie prefers to eat later in the day, and Joe said, “We just kept talking.”

Joe appreciated commiserating with Jeanie about the fact that they both started new jobs during the pandemic. “You don’t see your co-workers in person and you don’t meet everyone on your first day,” he explained. However, Jeanie was not a fan of talking shop. “I personally don’t want to talk about work for half an hour when you are on a first date,” she said. “If I’m talking about work for a half-hour, I’m usually networking.” Jeanie also felt pressure to lead the discussion: “I’m usually not the person who directs conversation, so that felt kind of odd.”

She was more curious about what he did outside of work and steered the conversation to one of her passions: Olympic weightlifting. “No, I’m not training for the Olympics,” she explained. “It sounds really cool and intense, but it’s just a subgenre of weightlifting.” Joe thought it was “awesome” that they had a similar interest. “It’s very impressive to me that she’s getting trained at a gym for Olympic weightlifting. I was definitely able to relate to her journey.”

Joe shared the story of how he sprained his ankle seven miles into his first marathon and kept going until he finished, which Jeanie didn’t think was the safest thing to do. “That seems like that’s a ‘stop and don’t hurt yourself’ moment — but I’m also of the age when I hurt myself I’m down for the count for a long time,” she told me.

When the topic of the furry loves in their lives came up, Jeanie was intrigued that Joe has an Instagram for his three-legged cat named Tripoli. “Three-legged cats are adorable,” she said. Joe was happy to meet Alfie, Jeanie’s dog: “She physically brought him up to the screen — he’s a cutie.”

By 6:30 p.m., Jeanie said she was ready to wrap things up since her home office was getting quite warm and Alfie, who usually gets walked at 5 p.m., was staring at her demanding to go out. Joe asked for Jeanie’s number just before they logged off.

Rate the date

Joe: 4 [out of 5]. “It was fun getting to know her. She had a lot of cool stuff to say about her job, weightlifting and pets. It just went pretty smoothly.”

Jeanie: 2. “He seemed like a fine human being. … It felt very trying to me. It was an effort to stay engaged.”


Joe texted her the next day to see if she could meet for an in-person date before he left for a trip. “I told him I couldn’t go before he left for his trip,” said Jeanie. “I’m kind of hoping to just leave it at that.” Joe said he asked if she’d like to meet at a later time — but he never heard back.

Vijai Nathan is a writer and comedian in Washington.