How can you tell when you’re really clicking with a person? Is it when you uncover some mutual obsession? Is it when you accidentally-on-purpose brush against their shoulder and your insides go all glittery? I say that the truest sign of a connection is when you have a shared secret. Once you’re conspiring with someone, you know things are getting to another level.

By this important and objective metric, you’ll be delighted to find that this week’s match hit it off like few Date Labbers ever do. Because they tried — but ultimately failed — to keep a juicy little secret from me.

Henry Balas, 21, is a student with one semester left at George Washington University, and he’s a part-time yoga instructor. His mom is a regular Date Lab reader who recently hired a celebrity matchmaker for herself; Henry followed her lead and applied. He got out of his first relationship “semi-recently” and found he really enjoyed having a partner. He’s looking for a long-term relationship with “someone who doesn’t take life too seriously, is goofy, makes a lot of time for me ... who is also motivated.”

We set up Henry with Jack Cronin, 25, a GWU alum who is a consultant specializing in cyber risk. He was in a two-year relationship that ended in December. Then he got inspired when he saw that someone he follows on Instagram had gone on Date Lab. “I’ve always wanted to meet someone not through an app,” he said. But also, he’s enjoying being single. So, while he is looking for something serious, he doesn’t feel pressure to find it right now. He’s seeking a partner with “an excitement for life ... that is ready for that next big adventure [and] appreciates quirky jokes.”

When Jack learned he’d been picked for Date Lab, he was “buzzing.” Excitement turned to nerves, just a bit, as the day approached. He spent the night before picking an outfit — a short-sleeve, navy blue button-down “with a graphic design on it ... just like any other gay,” with shorts and white sneakers — and arrived at Calico in Shaw five minutes early.

Henry found out he’d been matched while he was in Minneapolis visiting his mom, who was “over the moon” about the news. (“This is all she wants for me,” he said.) Then he made an important sartorial decision: “I’m going to drop a bag and buy a nice shirt for this date.” He went to Jazzman, a menswear boutique, during a visit to Madison, Wis., and bought a shirt that, he was told, there are only 100 of in the world. “I saw another Date Lab article where both the guys were wearing Asos shirts, and I was like: I can’t let that happen to me.”

Henry’s Uber was 10 minutes late, so he in turn was 10 minutes late. “I was, rightfully, apologetic,” he said. His first impression of Jack: “He was taller than me, so that was sick. He was very cute.”

“He came up and he was already bouncing,” Jack said of Henry’s arrival. “He came in big. Big energy. ... He’s such a cutie! He looked really good. His outfit was all put-together. He smelled good.” They were already putting their arms around each other during our photo shoot at the start of the evening.

Over tater tots, beers and tequila shots, they got into “all these classic first-date questions,” Jack said: family, hometown, education. They found a surprising number of shared interests, from sports (swimming, tennis) to career paths (Henry is also interested in consulting) to deeper experiences. They both have parents who’ve had or currently live with chronic health issues.

“We talked about how that had to mature us a lot faster than normal,” said Henry. “That was something that instantly connected with us. ... It’s not every day, especially at GW, that you meet people who are grounded in the world and have experienced true loss and hardship. It felt really good to say that and have someone that was right there with me.”

Jack was initially apprehensive about their age gap. “When I found out he was young I was like, Oh, dear God,” he said. “But the more we talked, I was really impressed with his degree of maturity and how we were able to connect on certain things.” And, according to Henry, the chemistry was there. “It was sexy to talk to him,” he said. “It was romantic.”

“The conversation was nonstop,” Jack said. Henry’s recollection lines up: “It was super great that he was like, ‘I’m sorry I talk a million miles a minute,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I do!’ ” In fact, they closed down the bar and tried to get a drink at Dacha Beer Garden, but it was closed, so they swapped numbers and followed each other on Instagram, and then ...

I asked Henry: Did you kiss? “No,” he said. “Probably if this wasn’t being published, we would’ve kissed.”

I asked Jack: Okay, so, did you kiss? “Yes! We kissed! No complaints there.”

Then I called Henry back, because I am a serious journalist who checks her facts. He ’fessed up. Jack, Henry explained, “had made a deal with me that he was really nervous about publishing that we kissed, so he told me to tell you the date ended at the restaurant.” But now that Henry knew he had Jack’s blessing, he spilled: “We kissed in the street!”

Rate the date

Henry: 5 [out of 5].

Jack: 5.


They already went on a second date.

Jessica M. Goldstein is a regular contributor to the magazine and the Post’s Style section.

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