I've spent a lot of time watching old "Mary Tyler Moore Show" episodes recently — don't ask me why — and I think they've really helped me contextualize this week's date. Like Moore's character Mary Richards, Lynne Griffin moved to a new city because she wanted to begin again. Mary relocated to Minneapolis after her two-year engagement went nowhere; Lynne had been living in Queens for 14 years and ended an eight-year relationship a year and a half ago. "I wanted to do something different," she told me. "A new start. I needed everything new around me." Unlike Mary, who scored a coveted but underpaid job at a local TV station, Lynne is self-employed as a haberdasher, a career that could take her anywhere. It took her to Bethesda.
"Part of moving to a new city is trying different things," Lynne said. And so, in the spirit of Mary Tyler Moore, with which I am arbitrarily retrofitting her for the purposes of this article, Lynne took a part-time job at a farmers market in town "so that I can be outside and meet people." Determined to leapfrog out of her comfort zone at whatever cost, Lynne went even further when she applied for Date Lab. "I never would have done this in New York," she said. "But I don't know too many people here."
One of the things that struck me about MTM was how much more it is about dating than it is about actual men. Most of the guys who paraded through Mary's apartment could be reduced to a quirk or job description encapsulated within a TV Guide episode blurb. They were almost all utterly disposable, which brings us to Lynne's date, Andy Brown.
"I used to say I'd like to meet my soul mate," Andy told me. "Now, I'm just looking for somebody that I can split rent with. Because real estate here — amirite?"
Andy is an avid runner and production manager at the Kennedy Center who once worked with the circus. It seems only fair to Andy to mention these potentially interesting things about him before revealing that Lynne, pretty much from the moment they ordered drinks, knew that Andy would not be returning for another episode.
Lynne and Andy met at Tonic at Quigley's in Foggy Bottom, a multilevel publike place that specializes in tater tots. Andy thought Lynne was "very pretty" and "definitely in shape." But Lynne wrote on her application that her ideal type was someone tall with dark hair. Her last long-term boyfriend was about her height, and Lynne was, once again, looking for something new: "I haven't worn heels in 10 years." Andy, at least by Lynne's standards, is not particularly tall and, also, bald.
They talked about running — mostly — why Lynne moved to the area, and Andy's job. Lynne said Andy was very polite. He might have even been trying to be funny; she said he would occasionally slip into a "goofy" cartoon voice to punctuate a thought, but neither could quite recall what that sounded like. "I probably did several," Andy said. "I do a lot of voices."
Nevertheless, Lynne eventually found herself gazing upward, looking at the pictures on the walls of the restaurant. When the dessert menu came, Lynne ordered the Belgian waffle made from tater tots. "It sounds gross," Lynne said. "And it was a little gross."
"I got the sense that she might not be that interested," Andy said. "I could be wrong about that. I'm often wrong about that." In this case, though, he wasn't. Andy took her on a tour of the nearby monuments, but Lynne only grew more quiet. The date was over long before Lynne got on the train, maybe hours before. "I knew there wasn't going to be any clicking," she said.
Andy seems to have been more into Lynne than she was into him, but he wasn't too disturbed by the absence of a connection. This is a man who once dated a woman who drove a motorcycle in a globe of death. Of Lynne, he said, "I'm a guy who works with artists and dreamers. Is she the most exciting woman I ever met? No."
Lynne has a long way to go before she's ready to attempt life-threatening circus stunts, but she said this date accomplished what she needed it to. It was, in her words, "a springboard" that helped propel her a few yards further into her brand-new life: "Nothing bad happens when you do things out of your comfort zone."
Lynne: 3 [out of 5]. "I didn't have a horrible time. He wasn't rude."
Andy: 3.5. "I had a good time."
They exchanged some texts, but Lynne says she is not interested.