Space: the final frontier for most of humankind. But for our Date Lab specimens, boldly going where hungry people downtown tend to go (in this case Zaytinya), it was the launch point.
Vanessa Lloyd, 26, works in communications/public affairs at NASA, and Christopher Weeks, 23, works in health-care research and account management. He is also kind of obsessed with the space agency. "It felt like I was on a date with a celebrity just because I love NASA," he told me. When they discovered this intersection of her career and his personal interest, they knew it was no coincidence. "We were like, this is why they set us up. Got it!" recalled Vanessa. Bingo.
There were more commonalities: Both like traveling (she tries to hit at least two new countries a year; he's been to Iceland eight times), both are ambiverts (equal parts introvert and extrovert), both ordered three of the same dishes (baba ghanouj and hummus among them) without realizing it until their waitress pointed it out.
The date, however, began on a discordant note:When they met, she went in for the hug, and he went in for a handshake.
"I probably over-thought it," Christopher lamented. "It's probably D.C.-minded of me to always go in for the handshake."
"It was fine," Vanessa said. "He acquiesced to the hug."
Both have been dating via apps in recent months. It's going "well-ish" for her, a self-described serial monogamist. He has been on a string of mostly first dates and is cautious about getting too serious because he's starting law school while holding down a full-time job.
Christopher described Vanessaas "very attractive," noting her eyes and, especially, her confident presence. Meanwhile, Vanessa said he was cute, with a minor caveat: "I don't normally date blond men, but I'm open to it." She also ribbed him periodically on their age difference. Now, three years is a mere drop in the bucket of time, but, in your 20s, it can make for a considerable gap in terms of life experience.
"I've been out of school for almost five years, and he's been out of school for only a year," Vanessa explained.
"I asked her if she dated anyone younger than her before and she said yes, so that didn't get into my head too much," said Christopher.
On the positive side, Vanessa appreciated Christopher's maturity and conversational aptitude. It meant that she didn't have to do the proverbial heavy-lifting, as she is accustomed to. "Growing up in a bunch of different places, I constantly had to meet new people," said Vanessa, whose father was a diplomat during her childhood. "I'm pretty good at maintaining conversations with anyone. But he did a great job — he totally carried his weight." And Christopher managed to do it without interrogating her about work. "I could talk about NASA with her for hours and hours given the chance," he said.
Vanessa liked that he asked about her jewelry. They also talked about his vegetarianism and his interest in studying law, both of which seemed to impress her. "He wants to be able to help people, which I know is a thing that millennials say," she noted. "But it was definitely nice to hear that."
The only other potential romance-killer came toward the end of the evening. They owed a bit more money beyond what The Washington Post covered. When they both pulled out their credit cards, Christopher "made kind of a weird face, and I was like, 'What's wrong?'" Vanessa recalled.
"I grew up in rural New Hampshire, and that's how my family raised me," he said later. "Coming to D.C., a lot of my female friends have said that they dislike it when men pay for dates because it creates a mind-set that they owe them something or that there's an element of misogyny to it. I was a bit unsure of how I should move forward." Vanessa did her best to clear the air. "I was like, 'I don't mind going halfsies." She told me later it was "refreshing" that they actually talked it out. Outside, they hugged goodbye. Hey, it's better than a handshake.
Vanessa: 4 [out of 5]. The conversation flowed really well.
Christopher: 5. It worked out really well.
Since the date, they have seen each other three or four times.