There are moments when playing Cupid gets a little frustrating. It’s not that we can’t find two people who can get through a meal without wanting to stab each other with their dinner forks. (We can!) But the gap between pleasant dinner meet-up and spark-filled evening-you-never-want-to-end has proved to be achingly wide. Even when we get close, seemingly promising matches go belly up over busy schedules, lost interest or silly missteps (“he texted when he should have called!”). It’d be enough to crush a matchmaker’s spirit if it weren’t for bright spots such as the fall wedding of former Date Labbers Jane and Bennett, which garnered deep sighs and high-fives from the Date Lab team. To close out the year, we checked in with the happy couple and a few daters whose matches ranged from meh to magnificent.
We felt pretty sure when we sent them out in summer 2011 that Jane Leinecker and Bennett Podolsky would hit it off, but we had no idea their blind date would lead them down the aisle. And we didn’t know until now that their first date nearly didn’t happen. “I almost backed out of it,” Jane says. “I’d had a really terrible day and was going through a slightly rough period. I was really just not feeling it.” Fortunately, a pre-date happy hour paved the way (don’t they always?). Arriving for dinner with low expectations, “I came away with just this amazing feeling,” recalls Jane, a program manager. “I was on cloud nine.”
After that, “we jumped right in and were just dating,” says Bennett, a lawyer. That New Year’s Eve, they stood on Bennett’s rooftop and watched Chinese wishing lanterns launch from a nearby park — “a nice moment,” he says.
Soon they were living together, and then, in February 2013, there was the proposal, which unfolded adorably at a rental cabin in the Shenandoah Valley. “We did a little bit of wine tasting, did a hike, made dinner, and then right when it was getting dark, I said, ‘I have a surprise,’ ” says Bennett, who’d brought along wishing lanterns — and something more. Together they launched a lantern, giving Bennett his moment. “She was looking away, and I got down on one knee, and then she looked back and there I was with the ring,” he says. “It was perfect.”
At the September wedding — Date Lab’s fourth — the two paid homage with a newspaper-inspired wedding program and a Date Lab recap. “It’s part of our story,” Bennett says. And it’s a good one. As Jane says, “It’s just been wonderful and amazing, like a dream come true.”
: Finding love in your 70s
After years of looking for love online, Linda Silversmith and Charles Blair turned to The Washington Post Magazine’s Date Lab. Ever since, they’ve been dance partners.
Seventy-somethings Linda Silversmith and Charles Blair (June 30 Date Lab) struck a chord with readers when they went on a date and, well, had a nice time. Maybe it was their practicality. He admired her blouse; she found him “alert, presentable.” Maybe readers just found it refreshing that they didn’t pepper their sentences with the word “like.” Whatever the case, Linda, a science writer, and Charles, a retired database administrator, were a hit — with readers and with each other.
By their post-date follow-up they’d already gotten together for a street fair and had plans to attend a pool party (they went; it was “very mellow,” Linda says). By fall they were enjoying a week together at her Ocean City timeshare, or as Charles put it, “having a very enjoyable vacation with my lady friend.”
They’ve had a steady stream of dates — fireworks on the Fourth of July, concerts at the Kennedy Center, square dancing — and although their travel schedules and Maryland-Virginia commute sometimes get in the way, “we’re obviously getting closer together,” Linda says. “We’re not rushing it, but we’re enjoying it and savoring it.”
Red-hot and then what?
You couldn’t read about Matt Gazda and Erin Young’s first date (Oct. 20 Date Lab) without feeling a little spark of hope (unless you’re really jaded, in which case: Stop being so jaded!). After all, the date ended with the highest of ratings and “a fun make-out session,” per Matt. So what happened next? Did their first-date chemistry flourish or fizzle?
“We hang out, like, a lot,” says Matt, a marketing data analyst. “Five nights a week, maybe.” As they discovered on Date 1, their similar senses of humor and outspoken and highly competitive natures mesh well. “We get along really, really well,” he says. “And I’m kind of difficult, so I appreciate that she is patient and puts up with me.” Erin, a health-care consultant, says she’s enjoying getting to know Matt. “I like that he’s a little weird and different,” she says. “I like people who are not afraid to be different.”
They might not have met at all had it not been for two other Date Labbers. Erin signed up after her longtime friend Bennett (yes, that Bennett) hit Date Lab gold. Matt, meanwhile, sportingly gave Date Lab a second chance after we sent him on an unorthodox setup (Sept. 29 Date Lab). He was one of two men presented to a female dater, Paige, who got to pick her date on sight (Hint: She didn’t pick Matt). Perhaps a toast to Paige and Bennett is in order?
Not our everyday
When you strip away the atypical elements — two bisexual women, one of whom is already in a relationship with a man — what you’re left with at the end of Kristin Richards and Megan Caine’ s date (Oct. 27 Date Lab) is two open-minded people who connected over similar outlooks and a shared attraction. Though we did get accused by some of being offensive, immoral, sordid and tawdry (and that was just one e-mail!), the majority of readers seemed to be rooting for these two.
Sadly, while their second date went well, by the time we went to press, there hadn’t been a third. One reason: Megan, an ER nurse, ramped up a relationship with a woman who lives out of state, cutting her local availability to nearly nil. “She was in the crush, smitten stage, and of course since I am dating someone and I’m studying for the GRE, I didn’t push,” says Kristin, who works for the Peace Corps.
The new relationship doesn’t preclude seeing someone else, Megan says, but “it’s also all-consuming in some ways.”
Still, both favor open relationships, so you can’t count this match out yet. “I am genuinely happy that Megan found someone that she’s excited about, but I’m also legitimately hopeful that I will get to spend some time with her,” Kristin says. Megan’s up for it at some point, too. “We definitely had a great time hanging out and some good chemistry,” she says. “I would like to hang out with both her and her boyfriend.”
As for any public fuss over their date, both women say the response they got was largely positive. “I thought it was a feel-good Date Lab,” Megan says. “I hope it made people smile.”
When David McGinty and Kris Goler met for their first date (Aug. 11 Date Lab), they talked dogs and nonprofits, and flirted gently (“Mild flirting, but in a gentlemanly way,” Kris, a nonprofit fundraiser, reported at the time). Then David, a nonprofit strategist, learned mid-date that his goddaughter was about to be born, helping him wrap up the night on “a magical high.” Good stuff. But the baby high didn’t last, at least not for these two. Though they made it out a second time, they couldn’t quite connect again. Blame busy schedules but maybe not entirely. “I think both of us were interested but not dying to make it happen,” Kris says. David concurs: “I think [scheduling is] a symptom, not the issue.”
So where are they now? Kris was in — and out — of a relationship and is now single. David found his own match (friend of a friend) and is happily in a relationship with someone “who just might be the perfect gal for me.”
(Jan. 20 Date Lab)
We let Tom choose his own match, and though his first pick wasn’t available, his second, Kaitlin, proved promising. “I don’t think I’ve had a better first date,” Tom said after his Date Lab dinner wrapped up. Great, right? Well, as happens all too often, the two soon landed in the friend zone. Kaitlin has since moved to Macedonia, but both said they might connect while she was home for the holidays.
(April 7Date Lab)
Robb took a beating from Date Lab’s online commenters — and even his own friends — when he failed to respond to Jackie’s post-date meet-up text. “Everybody I knew was like, ‘You [rhymes with “glass bowl”], why didn’t you text her back?’ I meant to, but just completely forgot,” he says. He did eventually get in touch and apologize, though, and he and Jackie are now social media friends. “He’s one of the more interesting people I’ve ever met,” Jackie says.
(June 2 Date Lab)
She rated their first date a 5; he rated it a 6 (yes, our scale goes only to 5). But while Dave and Alison continued to see each other for five months, they’re no longer dating. “I wasn’t expecting to meet someone who I connected with so well, so that was a nice surprise,” Alison said when we checked in with her. Says Dave, “Alison and I are at different places in our lives, and we just don’t want the same things right now.”
Kathleen and Justin’s date seemed to end on a high note, at least for Justin, who said it was “definitely one of the best, if not the best, first-date experience.” Maybe the “first-date experience” qualifier should have tipped us off: There was a second date but not a third, and the two aren’t in touch much. Kathleen has since headed off to grad school in Seattle, where she reports she is “still super single.” Justin, meanwhile, says he’d be up for another Date Lab, but only if it’s a perfect fit.