Editor's Note: The couple went out before the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic .

Six feet tall with wavy, shoulder-length hair, Tony Lyons describes himself as a "big dude" with an even bigger personality. To avoid coming across as "too extra," he sought counsel from friends. Regarding an '80s-style navy blue jacket with "an aggressive Members Only collar," he asked: "Is this jacket too much?" (Yes.) He called another friend "to kind of shake the sillies out" by test-driving some jokes: "I'm gonna say I work for Kellyanne Conway; it's gonna be a really strong opener." (Advice: Do not say that.) Ultimately, Tony — an engineer who moonlights for Prime Time Pro Wrestling — settled on a subdued quarter-zip sweater, jeans and boots.

Recently out of a long-distance relationship, Tony, 26, is plunging back into the D.C. dating scene after a three-year hiatus. Though he’s confident and extroverted, he’d never been on a blind date and was nervous. He arrived early at Rosa Mexicano in Penn Quarter and had a beer at the bar as he waited for his date.

Cassidy Downs, a 22-year-old graduate student working in environmental policy, is also generally confident and outgoing — but she, too, was fighting pre-date nerves. “Honestly, I drank a few glasses of wine because I wanted to be kind of chilled out before I got there,” she said. Then, she admitted: “I generally pregame first dates. It’s D.C., everyone’s so serious, you’re meeting strangers. There’s a lot that could go wrong.”

Cassidy said she has been stuck in what she calls “situationships” — “not dating, but not talking to anyone else. Together, but not really. Lots of confusing situations. ... I’m trying to get out of that streak I’ve been on,” she said. “I don’t think that I necessarily present that I want to be taken seriously, so then on this one I wanted to be taken seriously.”

She started with her appearance. “I dressed nicer than I normally dress on a first date,” Cassidy said, settling on a long-sleeved floral dress, black boots and a long, pink coat. Tony approved of her choice. “She had really nice hair, and I really liked the jacket she was wearing. She was very pretty,” he said. Referring to Tony’s long hair, Cassidy said: “I wouldn’t say he’s normally my type ... but, like, also no one that I date is the type that I would go for, so I don’t think it really matters.”

The two hit it off, diving into conversation without even looking at their menus. (Cassidy, who had studied the menu beforehand, knew what she wanted to eat: street tacos and a frozen margarita.) Tony ordered fried chicken and a margarita. They split guacamole and chips.

Both are engineers — a pleasant surprise. “That caught both of us off guard,” Tony said. “It’s not every day you can talk to someone in D.C. about your senior design project about emissions in factory farming.”

Both were active in Greek life in college, and they shared an appreciation for Southern food and SEC football. Cassidy noted that Tony has interesting hobbies, referring to his involvement in wrestling, “which I thought was kind of funny.”

“She made me laugh a lot. I made her laugh, I think,” Tony said. “She thinks she’s the funniest person she knows, which I thought was really cool.”

Before they knew it, three hours had gone by. “He was easy to talk to,” Cassidy said. They left the restaurant about 9 p.m. and walked to the Metro station. They exchanged numbers and waved goodbye as Cassidy’s train approached the platform.

Ultimately, Tony is hoping to meet “someone who can play off me and I can play off them, and someone who inspires me to do more.” Interested in exploring that possibility with Cassidy, he texted later that night to ask her for a second date, just two nights later.

But Cassidy felt conflicted. It turns out that she is still in a bit of a situationship. She confessed: “There’s this guy that I’m seeing that I actually really like, but he doesn’t want anything serious, so that’s why I decided to go on this date — just to see what else is out there.”

She didn’t mention any of this to Tony. (Once I filled him in, Tony said he didn’t mind that she was seeing someone else.) Instead, she struggled with the issue on her own: “I had a good time, but at the end of the night, I still was like, I wish I had been with the other guy. And then I feel bad, because then that’s not fair to Tony, because he’s a great date.”

Cassidy had told the man she was seeing about her blind date and felt “he would tell me to go on the second date,” she said. And what if that man wasn’t in the picture? “Yes,” she said, she would’ve seen Tony again.

Rate the date

Anthony: 4 [out of 5].

Cassidy: 4.


Cassidy texted Tony saying she had a great time but was not interested in pursuing anything further.

Prachi Gupta is a writer in New York.