I believe in blind dates and love at first sight. I met my husband on a blind date in 1992 and fell in love with him the moment I saw him, standing in the lobby of my apartment building. Finally, I thought. Now I can stop dating.
On the strength of this conviction, I jumped at the chance to select this week’s Date Lab participants. I imagined myself giving a toast at their wedding, accepting the thanks of their families and friends, sending lavish gifts to the daughter named for me, the author of their happiness.
It started well enough. After work, Patrick Landes rushed home to change his clothes; there was schmutz on his khaki trousers. Three of his housemates helped select his outfit. Gray jeans, a blue pinstripe shirt. But what about shoes? By Patrick’s own admission, his shoe game is weak. They decided that he should abscond with a pair of shoes belonging to an absent fifth housemate.
Patrick’s roommates moved on to his hair, making sure it was “fluffed properly.”
Lisa Tucker’s preparation was more emotional than sartorial. She huddled with colleagues over a glass of wine, going over worst-case scenarios, such as “what to do if the other person doesn’t engage.”
What did she wear, I asked, having spent so long talking to Patrick about his outfit. “I tried not to overthink things,” she said. She wore a black pencil skirt with a “flowy summer top and strappy sandals.”
They met at Provision No. 14, the V Street NW restaurant specializing in American cuisine and craft cocktails. “What was your first impression of Lisa?” I asked Patrick, a little misty-eyed as I recalled the sight of my own husband, one hand clutching a bouquet of blue irises, the other nervously adjusting the drape of his blue plaid jacket. I proposed three weeks later.
“I thought she looked really friendly,” Patrick said.
My heart sank.
They shook hands, which threw him. He prefers to hug. Lisa’s first impression: “He was pretty cute. He looked like he knew how to dress and get done up. His hair was nicely coifed.” Kudos to the roommates.
The conversation began flowing immediately. Both are into beer, and they spent some time talking about beers they liked. Patrick ordered a very dark Old Rasputin imperial stout. Whatever that is. The two of them also decided to do their best to blow the entire $150 Date Lab dinner budget. They ordered three appetizers, immediately agreeing on which they wanted to share.
Easy conversation, shared plates: This was going swimmingly.
They decided to put off talking politics or jobs. (He is an operations associate at an education tech firm; she plans events for an environmental nonprofit.) Instead, they discussed places they’d visited. They talked about art, photography, theater and music. Lisa was taken with Patrick’s involvement in local theater. “The arts scene in D.C. is very underground,” she told me. “It was exciting to meet someone involved in that world.”
When the conversation did turn to politics, they were delighted to learn they were both progressive. “We were very much culturally and politically on the same page,” Patrick said. At the end of the night, he asked for her number.
I had done it, I thought. I had beaten the Date Lab odds. Planning my outfit for the wedding, I asked Patrick later if he was going to ask Lisa for another date. He said no. “I didn’t feel a lot of flirty vibes.”
He went on: “I’ll lean in and maybe try to touch her hand if I’m on a first date and attracted to someone.”
And he wasn’t attracted to Lisa, an adorable blonde? “I’m more attracted to people who make bold choices with their appearance or their makeup or their conversation.”
What, I wondered — though didn’t ask — does that even mean? Did Lisa not have enough tattoos? No black cat-eye liner?
And why get her number? In case he wants to talk to her about Date Lab, he said.
Lisa wasn’t feeling it either: “I had a great time, but I don’t know that I felt there was a real spark.”
Patrick: 3.5 [out of 5].
No further contact.
Ayelet Waldman is a best-selling author. Her latest book is “A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life.”