Chris Thomas, a 36-year old project manager, applied to Date Lab a few years ago but never heard back. After the pandemic hit, he went through a breakup and figured: Why not try again? This time around, we found him a match — a pleasant surprise, even if the date was virtual.

Then reality set in. The date was going to be featured in a national publication, and Chris had recently had a taste of how the Internet can be a cruel place.

Comedian Mike Birbiglia publicly roasted Chris after he misspelled the comic’s name in an online review of Derek DelGaudio’s book “Amoralman.” “People were trashing [“Amoralman”], so I went on Amazon and wrote like a five-second review for five stars, figuring no one would ever read it,” Chris told me, explaining what prompted him to write: “I would say if you like David Sedair, or the Mike Brigriallia then this will be up your alley.” Birbiglia tweeted the amusing review with the hashtag #MikeBrigriallia. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) “What’s the worst people can say about me?” Chris said, laughing. “I’ve already misspelled two of my favorite authors’ names to the point where I got ridiculed by them.”

His friends didn’t help put him at ease. On the day of the date, a co-worker joked, “Don’t be the Chipotle guy!” a reference to a previous Date Lab in which a man ordered a burrito from the fast casual chain for dinner while his date ordered from a fancy tapas restaurant. “I understand why he ordered Chipotle,” Chris said, “but yeah.” He did not want to risk giving the impression that he was not taking the date seriously.

Chris forged ahead, shaving so as not to “look like a bear,” and hit the gym to calm his nerves. “A black T-shirt might put me in Chipotle-guy land,” he said, so he wore a dress shirt instead. He set up his laptop in the living room with an IPA and duck and spring rolls from a local Thai restaurant, and logged on to Zoom at 5:30.

He met Shiri Yadlin, 30, who works for an affordable-housing nonprofit. “She seemed really friendly and vibrant,” he said. He also admitted to texting a friend: “She’s super cute, probably out of my league.” Like Chris, Shiri is interested in a long-term relationship with “a true life partner” who shares her values and wants to start a family. However, she is not rushing the process. “I haven’t really had any serious relationships in the past,” she said. “Part of the dating process for me is just dating.”

Shiri set up her laptop in her usual work-from-home space outside her bedroom and dressed like she was going out, opting for a “pretty, comfortable sweater” and jeans. “But I did not wear shoes,” she clarified. She too had ordered Thai food — a spring roll, Brussels sprouts and a noodle dish — but it didn’t arrive in time for the date. Instead, she sipped on a margarita.

Immediately, they found they had a lot of things in common: Both are from California, love traveling and enjoy being in the kitchen — baking for Shiri, cooking for Chris. “I felt welcome and a sense of openness” from Chris, Shiri said. Neither one had prepared questions, but the conversation flowed nonetheless.

Christianity is important to both of them and something they hope to share with their partner. “I run a small group at church, a group of nine other guys who will show up at my house randomly because they need to talk,” Chris said. He got the sense that Shiri shared his values.

“The ideal for me is someone who shares my Christian faith,” Shiri agreed, but added, “it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker.” As an Israeli American, she’s looking for someone who can respect her faith and embrace her Jewish background as a part of their life. “What I got from him is that he’s very active in his church, but we didn’t talk specifically about his faith or mine.”

The date lasted a bit over an hour, stopping at what both felt was a natural endpoint. “We had a good rapport and easy conversation,” Chris said.

“For me, the conversation felt like it went as far it was going to in this initial meeting,” Shiri said. “I suggested that we take some screenshots for Date Lab and then thanked him for taking the time to meet.” Chris asked for Shiri’s number, and they exchanged texts later that evening.

Despite a nice conversation, “there is a little bit of ambivalence or apathy after the initial date,” Shiri said, unable to pinpoint the reasons. She decided to give things another shot, wondering if that missing spark was simply because it was a virtual blind date during a pandemic.

Chris, for his part, felt chemistry, saying, “For just meeting someone and having no background, she seemed awesome and worth getting to know more.”

Rate the date

Chris: 5 [out of 5].

Shiri: 3.5.


The two made plans to meet for an in-person date.

Prachi Gupta is a writer in New York.