Alex Meredith, left, is a 27-year-old writer. She describes her type as “someone who loves to travel, loves the arts and is an animal lover” and has “amazing cheekbones.” Kymberly Mattern is 25 and works as a grounds conservation manager. She is seeking “someone who is motivated, understands the importance of exercise, and appreciates history.” (Daniele Seiss/For The Washington Post)

Haters will say we contrived this for ratings, but there is a perfectly rational explanation as to how a gay woman and a straight woman ended up on a Date Lab date. The situation was the result of a series of misunderstandings (and one pileup on Interstate 395) so that just a slight turn of the dial would have shifted the folly into focus. A near-perfect storm, this one.

Kymberly Mattern, 25, who is straight, was matched with a woman because on her Date Lab application, in the field asking what type of person she dates, she answered, “Women.” The reason she made this mistake, Kymberly explained, was that when she had initially submitted the form, she received an error notification and so she hastily filled out the rather extensive profile a second time without reading it closely. Her application did mention recent dates with men, but it’s not uncommon for women who date women also to date men. And in sections on her type and no-gos, she used the gender-neutral “someone.”

Kymberly could have been alerted to the mistake when she received the name of her match were that name not gender-ambiguous. Alex Meredith, 27, meanwhile, wanted a woman and got one, though not exactly the type she had in mind.

On the night of their date at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Kymberly arrived on time, but Alex was caught in traffic resulting from a massive car accident. Washington Post Magazine photographer Daniele Seiss, who snaps the Date Lab photos at the start of the evening, waited with Kymberly for Alex. As they talked, Kymberly thought she was mishearing Daniele refer to Alex using “she” and “her,” but finally it came through loud and clear. “I told her right then and there, ‘So, I’m straight,’ ” Kymberly recalled. “And she was like, ‘Oh no.’ ”

Kymberly, who considers herself a “strong, proud” ally of the LGBTQ community, saw her allyship put to the test. She said Alex’s lateness actually worked in her date’s favor, as it gave her a few minutes to process whether she wanted to stick around. She ultimately reasoned that she was already there anyway and even though it wouldn’t be a date, she didn’t want to turn Alex away as soon as she got there after she spent so much time in traffic.

When Alex learned of the hetero surprise she thought, “This is amazing. This is perfect. I love it.” A screenwriter, Alex knows a good story in the making when she sees one.


Alex and Kymberly. (Daniele Seiss/For The Washington Post)

Soon after taking the plunge, Kymberly realized that The Post had done a good job matching her, as Alex had a lot of the qualities she was looking for, such as motivation and athleticism. (Alex joked that the headline of this piece should be, “She had a lot of great qualities, but one thing was missing.”)

They ended up laughing and having a great time over several courses of Mexican small bites, including quesadillas and plantains, plus grasshopper tacos for Kymberly. As they discussed Kymberly’s budding entomophagy, Alex revealed that she doesn’t eat meat. Kymberly responded, “I eat meat, but the only meat I really like is sausage.” And then they both cracked up.

They didn’t stray from the friend zone. “I tried really hard to not appear flirty in any way,” Alex said. “I didn’t want her to think me trying to make her feel comfortable was some kind of come-on. It really wasn’t.”

Its platonic nature aside, the date wasn’t that out of step with Alex’s experience as a gay woman — she’s dated self-identified straight women who were making forays into same-sex dating. “I’m kind of used to” sitting across from straight women, she said.

For Kymberly, knowing this pairing couldn’t result in anything beyond friendship took a lot of the first-date pressure off. “I felt like I could just be more me and more casual,” she explained.

They also commiserated about how tough dating is. Both told me that this was not at all their worst date. Alex is so disenchanted that she’s barely trying anymore and has no expectations. (Apologies from Date Lab for further facilitating her failure to date.)

They ended up spending about 2½ hours at the restaurant. When Kymberly realized it was almost 10, she left pretty abruptly, and Alex took care of the check. Well, it’s not like there were any chances of a good-night kiss, anyway.

Both women said they’d be interested in remaining friends. For being such good sports and to compensate for the inconvenience, Date Lab has offered to rematch them with dates of their requested genders and orientations. We’ll get it right next time, we promise.

Rate the date

Kymberly: 5 [out of 5]. We both jokingly agreed to rate it a 5. We thought it would be funny.

Alex: 5. If she doesn’t [rate this a 5], she’s a horrible person.

Update

We’re working on it.