Michael Orenak, 35, a project manager, and Laurel Leitner, 33, a financial analyst. (Daniele Seiss/For The Washington Post)

If this were a trailer for a romantic comedy about Laurel Leitner’s life, we’d open on a petite brunette with saucer eyes holding up laundry that the dryer had just chewed up. Now unable to wear her favorite skirt and cardigan for that evening’s blind date, she’d instead select a classic black dress. But just before heading out the door, she’d notice the hem on the sleeve had come undone. “Son of a b----!” she’d call out in a mellifluous voice telegraphing good-humored frustration.

As she briskly made her way to her date, we’d hear her talking in voice-over about her ex-husband, who walked out on her six days after her wedding. “If that didn’t happen, I’d probably be popping out babies instead of having a career,” she’d interject for levity. She’d claim to not be pressed at all about finding a partner. “Maybe I should be more pressed. I’m not getting any younger,” the 33-year-old would say.

She’d arrive at the tapas spot Estadio in Logan Circle and lay eyes on her date, the quite attractive 35-year-old Michael Orenak. As if physically unable to keep the words in her mouth, she’d start babbling about cellphone usage, PBS documentaries and NPR. We’d cut to a scene of her recapping this later: “I felt like a blathering idiot.” We’d see no sign of Michael judging her for it, though. They’d sit at the bar and then begin talking in a time-lapsed blur, laughing and smiling the entire time. There would be snatches of their dialogue about their shared interests in scuba diving, hockey and motorcycles. Their eyes would sparkle and the music would swell. The trailer of this movie would lay out exactly what happens. And you’d go see it anyway.

We Date Lab writers are lucky: In the (rare) event that one of these things goes well, we are among a handful of humans who get to listen to two strangers who met only once say a litany of lovely things about each other. It restores your faith in humanity, reaching into your chest with both arms and cuddling your heart.

“I have been grinning like an idiot for the last 17 hours,” Laurel told me by phone the morning after her date. She thought Michael was “so handsome” and “really friendly.” Michael called Laurel “a very pretty girl.” He loved that she didn’t take herself too seriously. (At one point she joked that she had fantasized about buzzing her hair like his for the sake of convenience.)

Michael, who’s never been married, described himself as “incredibly active,” to the point where he doesn’t stay in one place long enough to watch television. He admired the energy Laurel brought to the conversation, though some of that may have been the nervous variety. “It’s kind of fun to be nervous,” Laurel explained. “If you’re not nervous, you’re not excited.”

They shared a variety of tapas: mushroom and ham croquetas, Brussels sprouts, steak, and foie gras mousse. And drinks! “They had sparkling wine cocktails, and I love bubbles!” Laurel recalled. Of course she does. They go so well with her personality.

Their conversation was “light and easy,” according to Laurel. They shared some stories about their childhood (Michael has a twin; Laurel’s brother and his friends used to kick her in the shins at her locker every day), but not work. (For the record, she does economic analysis of federal regulations; he’s a mechanical engineer who works with nuclear reactors.) Interestingly, from his lack of discussion about his job, Laurel surmised that Michael isn’t one of those guys who’s “trying to climb the ladder,” which is something he himself noted almost verbatim in his Date Lab profile. And if that’s not enough evidence of a connection, consider that after dinner, they took a long stroll to Chinatown. Holding hands.

“I’m not the kind of person to push that hard, especially on a first date,” said Michael. “But holding hands and walking and talking was really nice. I enjoyed it.”

They gave each other glowing reviews. “She seems very genuine and caring about people,” said Michael. “He was super, super cool,” said Laurel. “And nice and normal.” Who knows what the future holds for these two, but walking into the sunset hand-in-hand, they gave their night, at least, a Hollywood ending.

Rate the date

Laurel: 4 [out of 5]. Because of me! I felt like an idiot most of the time!

Michael: 4.5. It was really nice.


Michael and Laurel went out on a second date to a beer garden. They “had a lot of fun and realized that we weren’t relationship material,” Laurel said, but they plan to go out again as friends.