For anyone with a vague working knowledge of astrology (which is all I can lay claim to), you’d expect the gregarious and extroverted Leo to carry the conversation, which, Allison said, is her usual tendency. But these two may have proved the stars wrong: Self-professedly “effervescent” Ella, it seems, ended up pulling the lion’s share of conversational weight.
“I thought she was a Leo because her personality was so big and vibrant!” Allison reflected. “I was like, wow, she is a show woman. I also identify with having a big personality, but she blew me out of the water.”
This dovetails exactly with the image of herself Ella gave me: She had arrived at the trendy Korean restaurant Mandu near Mount Vernon Square fashionably late, out of breath and “flustered.” She was also wearing “one of my favorite wigs, wavy blond hair with brown roots” and a “cute and flirty ’90s outfit: white T-shirt tied into a crop top paired with a mid-length chiffon blue skirt with a slit up the side for some fun movement.”
Allison was captivated: “I was like, wow, she’s really pretty! Date Lab did a really good job! I mean, she just looked so cool.” Allison, for the record, wore stripes. And that first impression feeling of physical attraction was mutual, Ella said.
Once the two sat down, Ella immediately set the tone by addressing what Allison called “the whole awkwardness of this sitting-down-for-dinner-with-a-stranger thing.” Allison said they “commiserated on this being weird and that we were both pretty nervous.”
While the candidness lightened the mood for Allison, Ella admitted that her own nerves may have caused her to dominate the date. “I have a worrying feeling that I monopolized the conversation,” she confessed. “I tend to do that when I’m nervous.”
Ella is not someone who likes to be out of control, and she tends to take it upon herself to make sure there are no lulls in a conversation. This makes her a great date — according to Allison, “she totally nailed it!” — but tends to leave her feeling unsatisfied, even guilty. “I did feel like I was hosting the conversation and was encouraging her to speak,” Ella said. “I don’t want that to be the case. I want it to be a give and take.”
Despite this imbalance, the two managed to cover a relatively broad range of topics over cocktails, vegetarian dumplings and noodles: all the normal get-to-know-you stuff, including every possible type of favorite. Allison works in biotechnology manufacturing, and Ella is an evolution education project manager and an archaeologist, which, for Allison, brings to mind “Jurassic Park.” Ella declared that she loves potatoes because they are “a versatile queen,” to which Allison added that eggs should also be considered multipurpose royalty. And beyond the small talk, an unlikely coincidence: High on Ella’s bucket list is a romantic trip in a tiny airplane. Allison has flown in a tiny airplane, and reported that it is kind of scary.
Ella noted that Allison seemed to relax and become more talkative as the date progressed.
As the date wound down, the two decided against dessert because it was getting late and Ella had to attend a conference early the next day. They exchanged numbers but agreed that it might be logistically difficult to see each other in the future. Ella works during the day, and Allison works nights. Ella lives in the District, and Allison lives several Metro stops outside the city. They shared a cordial hug, and Allison put Ella in her Uber car before heading to the Metro.
“She was super,” Allison told me later. “I feel like we vibed.”
For Ella, the feeling was less mutual than one would hope. Although assuring me that she found Allison “lovely! Really lovely,” Ella admitted that she “did not feel sparked.” But her takeaway was optimistic.
“Honestly, out of the dates I’ve had recently, it was a really good date,” she said. “That’s the thing in this city — it’s so staffer, Hill, button-up-centric. But there are wonderful pockets that I haven’t gotten into yet, so this was me trying to see what else was out there. It was weirdly exhilarating. I’m realizing that I need to do more things that are fully, utterly out of my control.”
And barring a tiny airplane, a blind date will do.
Rate the date
Allison: 5 [out of 5].
Ella: 3.5 to 4.
No further contact.
Please join us for our annual Date Lab happy hour on Feb. 14, from 6 to 8 pm at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Eighth and G Streets NW.