How you do prefer to communicate?
And so on.
Kyle, a 30-year-old country desk officer for the Peace Corps who describes himself as “unusual,” signed up for Date Lab in the Before Times. Back then, Kyle preferred meeting potential dates on the train, or while volunteering, or any number of places where cute strangers are now either absent or masked-up. He has tried dating apps but has found it “hard to get a good read” on people through carefully put-together profiles and ice-breaking text messages. So he decided to give us a shot.
We matched him with Rashel Rabinovich, a 24-year-old international-development consultant, whose dating life until now has had a ghost problem. She doesn’t much like “the apps” either, preferring to meet people through friends — “which makes dating in 2020 kinda difficult.”
Their applications suggested they share a taste for adventure: They both enjoy traveling and they both lived in Africa (he in Zambia, she in South Africa). So, maybe this could work?
[Sound of a new person logging in to a Zoom call.]
“There was, I don’t know, two or three seconds of awkward silence, and then I introduced myself,” said Kyle.
Ah, Zoom. Those of us who have been teleworking, or even catching up with friends and family, are used to the weird rhythms of video calls. Remote dating also deprives each person of the chance to take in the other’s entire physical presence, complicating what is usually a matter of instinct: Is this person attractive?
“He deviated from my normal type,” said Rashel — as far as she could tell, anyway. “You don’t get their whole body. I don’t think you can really judge.” She usually goes for tall guys with dark features. Kyle appeared to have light hair, and Rashel didn’t get the sense that he was very tall. (Kyle is 5-foot-10, by the way.)
Kyle wore a button-up shirt, and “that’s probably all she ever saw, so, yeah,” he said afterward.
And was he wearing pants on this date?
“Who wants to know?” Kyle laughed. (He was wearing shorts.)
“She had a blue dress on,” Kyle said, then paused. “Actually I ... I never saw anything below her belly button. So maybe it was a shirt, who knows.” (It was indeed a blue dress.)
The date started off a bit “job-interview-like,” according to Kyle, but gradually they fell into a more natural cadence. They talked for close to four hours. Kyle told Rashel about a solo biking-and-camping trip he’d recently taken. Rashel told Kyle about the half-marathon she’d been training to run. They talked about living abroad, although as it turned out their experiences were quite different: She lived in Johannesburg, population 5.7 million, while he lived in a rural area of Zambia with no electricity or running water.
“He definitely seems very down-to-earth,” Rashel said. “He doesn’t really care about material things, which I really appreciate in another person.”
“We had a lot of similar interests,” Kyle said.
“She did seem … young, I guess.”
It wasn’t literally the age difference, he explained. He remembers Rashel saying the pandemic was the defining event of their generation, which struck him as a bit sweeping. (What about climate change? The Trump election? The Great Recession? Some cataclysm yet to come?)
As for Rashel, she found the setup a bit off-putting. “You can’t really judge body language as much on a Zoom date,” she said. “Even making eye contact or judging interest is kind of hard.”
But, all things considered, both had a nice time. “Nothing notably horrible” happened, she said, “which, for a blind date, seems amazing.”
“There was definitely potential,” Kyle said. “I was certainly willing to do it again — hopefully not on Zoom.”
Rate the date
Kyle: 4 [out of 5].
They did not “go out” again. “I don’t know if there was necessarily chemistry,” Rashel told me.
Steve Kolowich is a Post Style editor.