Daters went out before the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.

For Emily Shepherd, all the world's a (concert) stage. The 26-year-old loves music so much that, by her own count, she went to 41 concerts last year — and that's not including larger festivals or the more intimate, house-party-style shows put on in the District by Sofar Sounds. Outside of work (she's a business analyst at a bank) she spends most of her free time at shows, and so it's important to her to find someone on a similar wavelength.

“I go for the really trendy hipsters that will go to shows with me and are really fun,” she said. “But I’m also very career-driven and take my job really seriously and work long hours. I go on dates with people who don’t have both. That’s always the disconnect — they’re always really career-focused, or really into music, but never at the same time. I want someone who can go to shows with me all the time and sit and listen to vinyl, but who understands if I work until 8 p.m.”

Michael Leitson, 30, wasn’t exactly giving us hipster vibes, but there were a few commonalities with Emily that seemed promising. He moved to Washington for a job as a data manager at a health-care nonprofit nine months ago from Atlanta — where Emily went to college. He’s open to new experiences. “I’m looking for someone to hang out with and do things with, and if anything long-term comes from that, great,” he said. “But if not, that’s fine too, since I just moved here and I’m still in the exploring mode.” In his profile, he noted that he runs; Emily is training for a marathon later this year. Also, Michael has red hair, which Emily has a thing for. “I just love redheads; I can’t tell you why,” she told me. “My dream is that I want ginger children one day. They are the cutest.”

When he met Emily at Cure Bar and Bistro in the Grand Hyatt Washington downtown in early February, Michael found something to like right away. “She had a cute smile and she seemed really friendly,” he said. Also, “I really liked that she was tall. I’m tall” — he’s 6-foot-5, to be exact — “and I’m always afraid of getting paired with a short woman.”

After taking some photos in the hotel lobby, the two sat down for dinner. Michael jumped into the conversation right away, asking lots of questions and making observations, which Emily appreciated. They talked about running and biking, about how they’re each the oldest of their siblings, and being from the South. As a new guy in D.C., Michael said, “I appreciate when I meet Southern women. Emily definitely has that Southern charm to her. I was really pleasantly surprised about that.”

And they talked about Emily’s love for music. Earlier that day, she’d accidentally flushed her AirPod case down the toilet, which was upsetting, because she uses the ear buds constantly. Michael also loves music. He told her that he was born with hearing loss and wears a hearing aid and has a cochlear implant, which he can connect to Bluetooth and stream music from. Sometimes, he takes them out at night to unplug. Emily, who is constantly listening to music, had never considered what that might be like, and she thought it was really cool. “The conversation flowed really smoothly,” Michael said. “Things felt really natural, like we had some chemistry there.”

Eventually, they had to order. “I had to tell him I was a picky eater. I think he was a little disappointed,” Emily said. (If he was, Michael didn’t mention it.) She pointed to the three appetizers that she’d be willing to share, and Michael picked two of them, hummus and shrimp, followed by chicken for her and salmon for him.

“I really did not want the night to end,” Michael said. Alas, it had to. They both had work the next day. They discussed getting together again, and both were down for it, but Emily warned Michael that she was pretty busy, between work and marathon training and all of those shows.

As they were leaving, they realized that Michael’s office is two blocks from where Emily lives, so they walked in the direction of the office, traded numbers and hugged goodbye. Michael debated whether to give her a kiss — on the cheek — but ultimately decided against it.

“I think looking back now I definitely should have,” he said. “I’m not sure if she was expecting that or not.”

But maybe it was better he didn’t. “I definitely think we’ll probably just be friends,” Emily said later. “I didn’t feel a strong connection, but I think he’s great — super kind, and we have a lot in common. I would definitely be open to seeing him again.”

Rate the date

Emily: 4 [out of 5].

Michael: 4.


They have been texting but haven’t made any solid plans yet.

Marin Cogan is a senior producer and co-host for Pop-Up Magazine.