Editor's note: The couple went out before the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.

Dylan Cohen, 28, is not a romantic. Well, he's "romantic in theory. I love rom-coms," he explained. "I've read d--- near every Date Lab article. So I love the concept. I'm just not sure about the application to my personal life." He didn't date in college or after. Dating, he found, "was hard and not worth it." He's shy, happy to do his own thing and is "perfectly okay" if he doesn't wind up dating someone.

Molly Diamondstein feels the same way. “What’s the word that Emma Watson used?” she asked. “Self-partnered,” I offer. “Yes, that’s what I’ve been doing since I graduated from college. Dating hasn’t been my primary focus.” She downloads the apps and forgets about them; she’d rather hang with her friends. She’d never heard of Date Lab until a friend suggested they sign up. “It’s not that I don’t believe in romance or love,” Molly said. “I do. But I’m not a hopeless romantic. I never dreamed about my wedding. I wanted to go to law school. That’s my dream.”

That dream is on the verge of being realized; she works as a client development coordinator at a law firm and plans to go to law school next year. And she’s starting to feel like everyone else in her family is in a relationship and, well, “I’m the last one.” (Molly is 24. Twenty-four! All 24-year-olds should be single, honestly. Tell your moms to let you live.)

Meanwhile, Dylan is done with graduate school (he studied technology and public policy and planetary science, which he jokes has prepared him for “asteroid policy, which is not a thing”). Now he’s a staffer on Capitol Hill for science, space and technology, a grown-up job for which he sometimes wears a suit — like, for instance, on the day of his Date Lab date. “I was like, ‘At least I’ll be well-dressed,’ ” he said.

He took the Metro and got to the Smith, a Penn Quarter restaurant, 15 minutes early. He was nervous. Noticeably nervous, according to Molly.

She was wearing a blazer with a sleeveless turtleneck sweater, jeans and chunky black booties, which she described as “a very driven outfit. Very boss vibes.” It made an impression on him. He recalled thinking, “Oh, she looks excited to be here!”

She was a little nervous, too — she texted friends for conversation starters — but is pretty sure she presented as outgoing and comfortable.

Once they were seated, Dylan started with what Molly clocked as a fairly bold order: oysters. (Molly: “In my brain I was like, Oysters are an aphrodisiac.”) After that, they shared a salmon tartare appetizer. He ordered the salmon entree; she had mussels. Dylan had a ginger-beer-based mocktail called the “midnight chair” while she drank an agave buck.

Molly told me she is looking for someone who shares her big-picture values (Jewish, not a Trump supporter) but also is “willing to disagree” and bring a different perspective to serious subjects. Also, “someone that appreciates a good Disney movie and isn’t afraid to admit that they watched ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and cried.”

So she was happy to discover that the last movie Dylan went to was “Frozen II.” “We talked about the songs we liked from it,” she said. On a more substantive note, “We just seemed to click on a lot of levels. We’re both really into politics; we talked a lot about the election. We both like to read, and we talked about books,” even ones they disagreed over. He told her he didn’t like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” she said, “and I was shocked, but it was fine.”

“I know it’s on the list of things you’re never supposed to discuss, but we talked politics and we talked religion,” Dylan said. “We both had different perspectives, but I think at least — I hope she feels the same — that we were respectful of the other person’s perspective and could ask why we feel what we feel, without being judgmental.”

“It was nice that he was very honest and genuine,” Molly said. “And super-close with his family, passionate about what he studied in school, really loves his job. He just seemed stable.”

So would they go out again? While I was talking to Molly, she got a text from Dylan: “How’s it going, do you still want to hang out Saturday?”

Molly’s reply? “Getting together on Saturday sounds great.”

They’re thinking they’ll hit the Hirshhorn. And though Dylan thoroughly enjoyed date No. 1, he’s hoping for one area of improvement: “She only got close to really laughing once,” he said. “So it would be nice — I’d like to make her really laugh.”

Rate the date

Dylan: 5 [out of 5].

Molly: 4.5.


They went out on a second date.

Jessica M. Goldstein is a writer in Washington.