What if you'd spent four years on a college campus in Chicago and then found — by happenstance — that The Washington Post had matched you with a person who had walked those same pathways even though neither of you had mentioned Chicago or school when you applied? Coincidence or fate?

This is the situation our daters found themselves in. Robert Sherman, 24, goes by Bob and works in public policy. He had applied at the urging of friends “on a lark.” He figured that, “at the very least, I am going to meet someone new and have a nice meal.”

Jamie Leventhal, 23, is a science video journalist and said she also applied at the suggestion of friends who “knew I had a fun and spontaneous dating life.” She, too, was up for making a new friend.

We sent them out on an early November night to Convivial in Shaw. Jamie prepped by texting several outfit options to friends and her sister and still managed to arrive early. Bob, who donned a suit but no tie, showed up right on time.

“He seemed like a nice cute guy,” said Jamie, remarking on her first impression. And Bob, well — “I thought she was super cute,” he said. But there was more. “She looked really familiar. I could swear I’d seen her before. I told her that, and she said, ‘I think I have one of those faces.’ And five minutes later we realized: We went to the same school.” Not only that: They had contributed to the same on-campus climate awareness groups and knew people in common.

Ice broken, Jamie said, “We spent a lot of time talking before we got food.”

As they perused the menu, she pointed out the escargot. “Before the date I really wanted to try the escargot,” Jamie said. But she worried that, “on a first date, very loudly admitting you want to have snails can be a turnoff for some people.”

Bob showed Jamie a food that he had wanted to try: beef tartare. Jamie said she was relieved when Bob started telling her that his friends had suggested he shouldn’t get the beef tartare — they were concerned it might turn off his date. So both Bob and Jamie ordered their desired appetizer. “We had a ‘trying it together for the first time’ sort of thing,” Bob told me, “which was really nice.”

The conversation turned to work, which, he said, “I would normally be kind of opposed to” — it’s too D.C. — but “ it felt like we were both genuinely interested in what the other was doing.” He thought her job sounded “super cool.” She was impressed he was working on issues that help his hometown in Minnesota.

They learned they each have an older sibling. Jamie told Bob she is close with her grandparents. “They are my best friends,” she said. “I found it endearing,” Bob recalled. And Jamie’s other set of grandparents live near Bob’s grandmother in Manhattan.

Over entrees of poulet rouge — chicken with vegetables and tarragon sauce — for Jamie and a cassoulet for Bob, they also discovered their travel ethos seemed in sync. They both “like to keep enough of the trip up in the air to be spontaneous,” said Jamie.

Both also share a commitment to, as Jamie put it, “living with purpose — the idea that we are in D.C. not to network but to make lasting connections with people.”

There were a few points of potential misalignment. Jamie said she is deeply committed to exercise — squash, the gym. She wondered later whether her passion for fitness might be greater than his. And their tastes in music did not fully overlap. But Bob thought that was surmountable.

When it came time to order dessert, Jamie said they split a bavarois with honey, passion fruit and crème anglaise. (She watches “The Great British Bake Off.”) Bob called it “the food highlight” of the evening.

After dinner, he walked Jamie to her car and gave her a hug and a kiss on her cheek. They exchanged contact info. Bob told me he could really see going out with Jamie.

But was a second date fate? Sadly, for Jamie, all their commonalities only added up to a bunch of coincidences.

She said, “We definitely had a lot of common interests. He is a nice and genuine person.” But in the end, “I see him much more as a friend than anything romantically.”

Rate the date

Bob: 4.5 [out of 5]. “Someone I could see myself dating and at the very least someone I’d be interested to see a second time.”

Jamie: 4. “Even though I didn’t really have a romantic interest in him, I had a genuinely good time.”


The two exchanged text messages in the hours after the date, but after that there was no further contact.

Sarah Wildman is the author of “Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind.”