Jay Krasnow, 46, a strategic communications officer, and Annette Kwok, 41, a patent lawyer. (Daniele Seiss/Daniele Seiss)

When Jay Krasnow, 46, met Annette Kwok, 41, at the bar at Equinox in downtown Washington, he was a little puzzled. "I was aspiring to meet someone who self-identified as a nice Jewish girl," he said. "What I met was someone who ... self-identified as a nice girl." Annette later said she liked that Jay had come early — and she loved that he proclaimed a willingness to "try anything once." But when she introduced him to Scotch, it didn't go over so well. The evening followed a similar downward trajectory from there.

To be sure, Annette said that "there were a lot of similarities and things to talk about." Both Annette and Jay consider it important to be involved in their communities, they enjoy travel and documentaries, and they have an impressive knowledge of reality TV. (Annette once tried out for a reality show focused on the Chinese community.) Annette is a patent lawyer, while Jay, a recovering journalist, works in public relations but hails from a family of lawyers. "We both have progressive ideas — socially conscious ideas — and were interested in the same types of cultural things," Jay said.

Even more significant, both are big into storytelling: not gossiping-with-your-friends-at-happy-hour storytelling; but formal, stand-in-front-of-a-roomful-of-strangers-and-spin-a-compelling-yarn storytelling. Jay is a veteran of the circuit. (He has performed for Story District, Story League, Better Said Than Done and the Moth.) Annette is more of a novice. "I've been going to shows for eight years, but I just recently started telling stories," she said.

Having such an unusual shared hobby sounds oh-so-promising in theory, but in practice, turned out to have glaring downsides. Overall, the conversation flowed well, said Jay, well enough that they ordered dinner without paying close attention to the prices. But he started to feel that Annette's "style of interacting" was a shade too pointed for comfort. For instance, Jay prefers to steer clear of politics on a first date, but Annette wanted to drill down on his views, including which specific candidates he had supported in recent elections.

As she pressed him for more information, Jay thought Annette was trying to avoid sharing her views on the same topics. "One of the first things we talked about was, Why do this?" he said, "this" being Date Lab. Jay said he offered Annette the same basic explanation he had given me: The profusion of dating sites and apps can be overwhelming. "When you have 200 types of toothpaste to choose from, it's hard," he explained. But when he asked Annette why she'd applied, "she said, 'Oh, I tried two other times and didn't get in.' But that's not really what I was asking about," said Jay. "I'm not really sure I ever got an answer from her."

Annette asked Jay a bit about his being Jewish. But when he asked about her faith, she said she wasn't religious. "That response was something that really shut me down," he said. "The way she responded, she didn't want to talk about it." Throughout the night, said Jay, he "felt like she was sort of diverting or not equaling what she was trying to get from me. But to me, that's intimacy: the sharing."

Funnily enough, Annette thought that Jay was holding back as well. "He was very cagey about what he does now. That was a little weird," she said, though she admitted she was being reserved, too, because she couldn't shake the fear that she was going to wind up in one of Jay's stories. "I was hesitant to overshare," she said. "I don't want to be some stage material!" So much for shared interests bringing folks together. In this case, said Annette, "it kind of handcuffed you."

When the check arrived, she saw that her fettuccine "kind of kicked up the bill." They had spent more than their Date Lab allowance and decided to split the difference. Not the most romantic end to a first date. But then again, perhaps because of their overcautiousness, they had failed to generate even a tiny spark anyway. "I guess I wanted a better sense of her funness," said Jay. Explained Annette: "It was enjoyable, but there was no chemistry to kick it past that." The pair ended the evening with an "awkward hug" at the Metro entrance without exchanging numbers.

Both said they assume they'll bump into each other at some point on the storytelling circuit. "I'll see him tell a story on stage again," said Annette. "I just hope it's not about me."

Rate the date

Jay: 2.5 [out of 5].

Annette: 3.


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