Meet Philip Rihm: longtime reader, first-time Date Labber. This 27-year-old federal program analyst grew up in Washington and has been reading Date Lab on and off for over 10 years. It is unclear if that has contributed anything substantial to his life, but for my purposes, it made him a breeze to interview. Philip even took notes that were detailed down to which side of the table he and his date sat on (Philip was on the outside, if you’re curious). A perfect specimen.
His date, Brandon Honeycutt, isn’t quite the Date Lab enthusiast. He’s 23 and works on the Hill. He came out about two years ago and has yet to experience a serious relationship, though he says he’d be willing to settle down “in a heartbeat,” provided the right guy. His general pattern with the guys he dates is: “We’ll talk for a few months, things will trail off, on to the next one.”
Brandon’s de facto Mr. Right Now is similarly relationship-minded. Philip signed up for Date Lab because he’s “interested in other avenues for romantic partners.” Philip, you see, has come down with app fatigue. “You’re sitting there using Tinder or Grindr, and you say to yourself, ‘I’ve been doing this for an hour. This is such a waste of my time and nothing is going to come out of it,’ ” he reported.
Philip and Brandon met at Hazel in Shaw, where they started the night with a gentlemanly handshake and his-and-his cocktails at the bar (a negroni and old fashioned, respectively). “As soon as we started talking, I was like, ‘This is a super nice guy. I can already tell,’ ” said Brandon. “Personality-wise, really, really great guy.”
“I wouldn’t say he was necessarily my type,” said Brandon, who generally favors the tall, lanky “nerdy look.”
You know how sometimes when you talk to someone you really vibe with, they get hotter and hotter to you and it’s almost like your intellect is forcing your eyes to adjust? Yeah, that didn’t happen here, though Brandon said the entire three hours he spent with Philip was an “incredible dinner in general.”
Philip said he was “definitely” physically attracted to Brandon, and when we spoke two days after his date, he still seemed hopeful that the attraction was mutual. He highlighted several instances he considered to be “good signs,” including:
• They were so deep in conversation that the waiter had to return several times before they ordered.
• Brandon agreed to try steak tartare despite never having eaten it previously.
• They pulled off the rare-in-D.C. feat of having a conversation that didn’t revolve around politics.
They shared four “medium plates” of the aforementioned tartare, smoked eel, scallops and a fennel dish, while discussing travel (Philip’s job frequently takes him to West Africa; Brandon just visited Honduras), work and their mutual love for “Arrested Development.”
They finished their meal with two complimentary glasses of white port. Outside Hazel, Philip asked Brandon if he’d be up for a night cap, but Brandon, a self-described “grandpa to the extreme,” had had his fill. They hugged, swapped numbers and then hugged again.
The night’s final positive sign, according to Philip, was that they texted later. Brandon said that Philip texted him a picture of an apron he owns that looks like the one Michael Cera’s character wore on “Arrested Development” (Brandon has a similar one that he wore for Halloween). Two days later, Philip texted Brandon pictures of puppies from the animal shelter where he was volunteering.
From that, I wondered, did Brandon get the sense that Philip was maybe a little more into him than he was into Philip?
“I have no idea,” he said. “I am generally super oblivious when it comes to most things dating. I couldn’t even attempt to discern whether or not he was into me at all.”
Well, Brandon, now do you get it?
Philip: 4.5 [out of 5]. I had a fantastic time.
Brandon: 4. I don’t see the prospects of the relationship panning out, but we had a great time.
Philip said they exchanged texts for several days following the date, but “alas, Brandon demurred at my suggestion of a second date.”