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Date Lab: He was looking for substantive conversation. She was too.

Armen Ghazarian is 34 and an epidemiologist. He says he sought out Date Lab when the pandemic hit in search of something serious, not to “mess around or do casual dating.” Kathryn Braisted is 29 and a kindergarten teacher. She is hoping to find someone “connected to themselves but also connected to the world around them.” (Photos courtesy of the daters)

This is how Kathryn Braisted, a 29-year-old kindergarten teacher, approaches dating: “A mind-set that has helped me take some pressure off dating is to know the values that I’m looking for, but also treating dates as just an opportunity to get to know someone new that I might not have otherwise,” she said. Among those values: “Someone who is thoughtful ... self-aware, reflective, kind.”

Ideally she’d find someone who shares her progressive political leanings, “because what I believe in is super-important.” On her application, she listed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a personal hero. (Her dealbreakers: “Sexism, racism, being selfish, being rude.”)

Kathryn’s 3  1/2-year relationship ended just as covid was beginning; as autumn settled over D.C., she felt ready to get back on dating apps and entrust her heart to the fine matchmakers here at Date Lab.

Her match, Armen Ghazarian, 34, applied to Date Lab at the start of the pandemic, when he realized, “Well, there goes dating!” (The apps don’t appeal to him: “I’m not big on online dating. I’m very traditional, in that sense.”) He’s an epidemiologist who works for a pharmaceutical company. He says women he’s dated previously have lacked substance. “It was more about image,” he said. “Like everything looked good on the surface, but the relationship, the foundation wasn’t there.”

Both were excited to be selected. For their evening Zoom date, Armen “frantically cleaned” his house in Silver Spring and put on a button-down and pajama pants — but changed into jeans at the last minute in case he had to stand up, which eventually he did. He ordered salmon from True Food Kitchen in Bethesda and poured himself a glass of pinot noir.

Kathryn set up where the natural light was brightest in her Petworth apartment, put on jeans and “a super cozy alpaca sweater that feels like a hug,” and ordered emperor’s dragon noodles and a gimlet-style cocktail from Tiger Fork in Shaw.

Armen was first to the date by a couple of minutes. When Kathryn signed on, Armen liked what he saw. “I thought she was cute! I thought she was pretty. She looked sophisticated [and] classy. Her room setup was really nice. She had an easel for art and a nice plant. It looked very magazine. And I liked that! I’m all about that image.”

By Armen’s account, the conversation “flowed naturally” from start to finish. “There was never a silent moment. We spoke nonstop for an hour and 15 minutes.” They discussed shared interests: travel, Spanish culture, classical music, running. He liked that she was encouraging when he shared more vulnerable parts of himself, such as that he’d struggled to stay motivated to run during the pandemic. (“He said I inspired him, so that warms my teacher heart,” Kathryn said.)

“You could tell — remember when I said substance? She had that,” said Armen. “She was well traveled, educated. We talked about classical music, guitar, piano. A lot of the girls I’ve talked to are very like, ‘Oh, I like Louis Vuitton and Chanel.’ We had more meaningful conversation about stuff that actually matters.”

Kathryn said that Armen was “a good storyteller” who made her laugh a lot, and she liked that he seemed close with his family. But her recollection of the conversation and its flow does not align with his.

At the start of the date, she told him that she was a teacher. “And he — and this was a common theme in the date — did not ask any follow-up questions at all,” she said.

“I kind of tried to model it a little bit, to see if maybe he would pick up on that,” she said. “But it just gave him more of an opportunity to talk about himself.”

In an interesting twist, she found his take on their shared interests to be lacking in, well, substance. When Spain came up, for instance, “I’m over here going on and on about how I love the communal aspect of meal-sharing and emotional intimacy between people … and he’s just talking about how he likes tapas and siestas, that Spanish people are sexy. And all of that is true! But for me, we’re not on the same wavelength.”

At the end of the date, Armen asked for her number, and they followed each other on Instagram. “I just didn’t feel that romantic chemistry,” Armen said. “I would be open to a second date,” though given the pandemic, he’s not sure when they’d safely meet in person. “I think it was nice, but the timing probably just isn’t right.”

Said Kathryn: “I can tell that we’re both taking the pandemic seriously. But when he said something about getting together in person, I didn’t really acknowledge that part.”

Rate the date

Armen: 4 [out of 5].

Kathryn: 3.


“No plans for a second date,” Armen tells us. Says Kathryn: “We exchanged a couple texts about the interview but have since unfollowed on social media.”

Jessica M. Goldstein is a regular contributor to The Post’s Style section and the magazine.

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