Success in dating is typically measured in profits. The dates that yield a surplus or the potential of one — relationships, emotions, simply more dates — are the good ones. The dead-ends yield zilch or worse. This line of thinking makes sense for the efficient-minded, but our Date Lab specimens this week make a good case for the joy of the self-contained date in a pairing that’s most likely going nowhere. A proper date for dating’s sake.
Flo Low showed up wielding her enthusiasm like a bouquet. Her name is something of a misnomer, as her energy flow is through the roof. She is the kind of person who makes eye contact in the grocery store, who pops into random bars solo and starts chatting with the people around her, who suggested to her date that they jump in the CityCenterDC fountain during their Date Lab photo shoot.
“I’m not gonna do that” was the reaction of Sam Fishman, who conceded that while he had been excited for the date, he didn’t quite sport Flo’s zero-to-all-in zeal. “She started to rock immediately,” Sam recalled. Flo’s energy helped gloss over the considerable age difference between them: She’s 38, and he’s 24. Both said they were immediately aware of it; neither said that it ultimately mattered. It did nothing to interfere with attraction, and later both gushed about their good time.
They met in May at Fig & Olive, where they sipped cocktails and shared the Mediterranean sampler app. She ordered the Chilean bass; he, the chicken. Sam reported that Flo talked a lot, but he noticed her listening, too; big, icebreaker-y “Miss America questions” were crucial elements of her repertoire. Flo said that because Sam immediately put her at ease and seemed unflappable, she felt comfortable to probe.
“She asked me stuff about dating that I was really not excited to be talking about,” said Sam. “On a first date, I don’t want to talk about ex-girlfriends.” So when Flo asked Sam, “Have you ever had your heart broken?” he responded, “I think not,” and kept it moving. He did acknowledge, however, that Flo’s prying was “super well intentioned.”
Flo, who manages a fellowship for Israeli artists at U.S. universities, felt a sense of do-gooder kinship with Sam, who works on Latin American issues at a democracy-promotion organization. They found they both dig the Mexican classical guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. They’re both Jewish, though Flo sensed that cultural identity is way more central to her lifestyle than it is for Sam.
By all accounts, things were going great. So after completing dinner (and downing three drinks each in the process), they decided to move things elsewhere. They walked to the bar Jackpot in Chinatown, where they finally broached the age issue. “I just said, ‘I’m older than you,’ ” said Flo. “And I think he said, ‘Probably.’ And I said, ‘Is that an issue for you?’ And he said, ‘No.’ ”
And so, it wasn’t. A basketball game was on at the bar, and Flo, who’s not a fan, told Sam, who is, that he’d have to hold her hand through it. She apparently didn’t just mean that figuratively. Throughout the rest of the night, which stretched on for several more hours and featured some whiskey shots, they slowly magnetized. They sat closer. Arms rested against arms. At one point, Sam put his arm on the back of her chair.
Flo was transparent about her attraction to Sam, whom she described as “really cute” and well put-together. Sam was a little more nebulous. (Kids these days!) He said that he went out of his way before the age discussion to not give any clues as to how young he is, and that he also didn’t want to reveal that he was planning an imminent move to New York. He didn’t want to break the mood. But at the same time, he didn’t feel a romantic spark. And yet still, he described Flo as “very attractive,” both physically and socially.
So what gives? Even Sam had a hard time putting his finger on why he behaved as he did, but the best I could tease out of him was that he was enjoying the fun of flirtation and living in the moment.
Flo was too. She’s at a different stage in life, ready to settle down, but she didn’t need the date to be anything other than what it was. She set out to have a fun evening. Mission accomplished. “It made me feel really good about dating,” she said.
After over six hours together, Sam walked Flo home. Before they parted, they kissed. Flo took a page from Sam’s book and declined to describe the nature and intensity of said kiss. “A lady never tells” is how she left it.
Rate the date
Flo: 5 [out of 5]. “It will be in the legendary column of great first dates.”
Sam: 4.5. “Easy. No doubt about it.”
Flo is still in the DC area and, in addition to her regular job, has been developing creative projects while working at home — including a series of animated documentary short films featuring the stories of covid-19 first responders.
“I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Zoom dating,” she tells us. “I always loved the venue, there was no confusion over the check, and I didn’t have to worry about awkward goodbyes! I ultimately went on a number of successful, fun first and second dates before meeting someone I have been dating in person for the past several months.”
Sam, meanwhile, has gone back to school — in New York. “The pandemic has definitely impacted my dating life — but in a positive way,” he says. “Due to the pandemic, an old friend moved back to her parents’ apartment in New York, and we are now in a committed relationship.”