Millennials, be comforted: Dating in this modern era doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be caught up on all the pop culture references of the day. Venu Katta, 22, a law enforcement analyst originally from Richmond, knew nothing about the long-simmering feud between rappers Pusha T and Drake that reached a boiling point just as he was heading out on his Date Lab date with Los Angeles native Candice Le. Candice, 24, works in real estate finance, and she was more than happy to give him the scoop when the two met up at Tico, a brightly adorned tapas joint on 14th Street NW.
Venu, 22, had eaten brunch at Tico before and was eager to try dinner. He came straight from work, arrived at the restaurant five to 10 minutes early and immediately started palling around with the staff. He said the host and the bartender were as nervous as “parents on prom night.” And Venu? “I was kind of excited,” he told me. “I’d been looking forward to it during the day” — the date, not just the meal.
Candice went home to change and showed up at Tico dressed casually in black jeans and a polka-dot top. She later recalled spotting Venu in his navy blue suit and pink shirt and thinking, “I’m definitely not dressed for this.” Candice, Venu told me, “was smiling when she came in.” Still, he could tell that the clothing differential didn’t sit well with her. “I felt awkward for her,” he said.
Venu only vaguely remembers signing up for Date Lab last summer, shortly after he arrived in Washington following grad school. He says the thing he loves most about the city is that everybody’s got a story. In social situations, he often gets so wrapped up in learning about the individual he’s sitting next to that he has to remind himself to actually be a presence in the conversation. “I have to remember that I’m there on a date and I’m trying to impress the other person,” he said. “You have to make sure you’re landing your jokes — make sure that you’re on your game.” Some of Venu’s colleagues tease him for having a “pretty corny, dad-joke vibe.” He describes his humor as “mostly observational.”
Candice says she let her roommate sign her up for Date Lab after two to three months of “mindlessly swiping” through online profiles on Tinder and Hinge. “I felt like there wasn’t any humanity attached to the photos,” she said. She was intrigued by the idea of a completely blind date. Otherwise, she said, she had zero expectations.
Venu ordered a Knob Creek neat; Candice, a Modelo Negra. Then they proceeded to call for nearly every small plate imaginable: fried octopus, tuna, hamachi, ceviche, cauliflower. “We shared everything on the menu,” said Candice. Venu said that by the end, “we were just stuffed.”
And while they ate, they talked. Their 2½ -hour date spanned unsurprising topics: sports, music, work. “Small talk,” said Candice. “A lot of small talk.” Nevertheless, Venu said the conversation was “super natural.”
Candice agrees, but “I felt like I was grabbing lunch with a colleague,” she told me. Also, she thought Venu was asking too many questions, not putting enough of himself out there. “He kept asking me questions back-to-back,” she said.
It didn’t help that Candice was not attracted to Venu. Or that Venu seemed perfectly content to let Candice go on about anything, even rap, which he does not listen to — leading to the aforementioned, long-winded Drake vs. Pusha T debriefing.
“On a normal date,” Candice told me, “I would probably hold back a lot more. No one should know how much hip-hop gossip I know.” For those unfamiliar, Pusha T, the lesser known of the two rappers, recently released a song essentially accusing Drake of making a lot of money while not being a very good rapper. Drake then retorted with his own song confirming that, yes, he does make quite a bit of money, to which Pusha T responded with yet another song claiming that Drake is a bad father.
Candice is staunchly Team Drake, but she believes that Pusha T came out on top thanks to the viciousness of that last volley. Venu’s take: “That seemed like a really low blow to me.”
Venu: 4 [out of 5]. “I had a wonderful evening having great conversation with an intelligent woman.”
Candice: 2.5. “I wish I liked him more.”
Candice says Venu asked her out on another date, but she declined.