Amy Lieberman, 24, applied to Date Lab in December. Remember December? It was a few thousand forevers ago. Jennifer Lopez (not unreasonably) thought she'd be an Oscar nominee. Pete Buttigieg (less reasonably) was still planning on being president. We were all much younger then.

Amy thought she’d be moving to Florida in June for graduate school. But in the meantime, she was single, “and in the spirit of having fun and dating,” she said, she gave us a try.

The guy I matched Amy with had also applied months ago. But by the time the date rolled around in April, the pandemic lockdown had begun and Amy, who does schizophrenia research at a federal agency, had abandoned her place in Chinatown for her mother’s apartment in Wisconsin. “So, I’m salty with you guys,” she said to me. “This could’ve happened months ago, before quarantine!”

Counterpoint: Maybe this is all part of the Date Lab magic! If you can get those sparks flying on Zoom — wearing your “nicest workout shirt,” as Amy described it, because you didn’t pack real clothes with you while fleeing the city mid-pandemic, with some decorative pillows propped up on your bed to make it look like a sofa since you have nowhere else to sit but you don’t want to “give off a hookup vibe” — well, in that case, you’re probably soul mates, and you’re welcome.

My pick for Amy was Andrew DeFrank, 24, who is “ready to find somebody I love.” He has wanted a relationship before, and the coronavirus pandemic has only intensified these feelings. As he put it in a follow-up text, “I don’t think I’ve ever been in love and it’s been bumming me out the past couple months! And so, I think I’m particularly attuned to that right now.”

Andrew ordered takeout from Anju — kimchi and bibimbap and a beer — to eat at his place in Shaw. He put on one of his favorite T-shirts and an open button-down, set up his computer (“I made sure there was nothing dumb in the background. I moved away the Cards Against Humanity set.”) and got to the Zoom just after 5 p.m. He didn’t want to be so punctual as to appear overeager, but she was there when he signed on.

Before Zooming in, Amy gave her quarantine roommate some marching orders: “I was like, ‘Mom, I’m going into my room. I’m about to have a blind date. Turn the TV on. I promise to debrief you after.” Amy had ordered delivery from California Pizza Kitchen, which she didn’t eat because it was only 4 p.m. Central time. She didn’t have a drink, “But, honestly, I should have,” Amy said upon reflection. “I felt so weird, like [my mom] was listening in.”

Once they got past the requisite “talk[ing] about just how bizarre the whole situation is,” Amy said, she and Andrew quickly moved on to all they had in common.

They each were glad to learn the other was Jewish, something they’d noted was important to them on their applications. They swiftly learned they had a bunch of mutual friends — maybe they’d met at a party and didn’t even realize it. Even over Zoom, Andrew said, “It honestly felt exactly like a normal first date.”

Also important to note: “I thought he was cute,” Amy said.

“I’m very talkative and outgoing ... [and] I’m looking for someone who can match that energy and enthusiasm about things,” Andrew said. “I’m a big personality.” So he was happy to find that, from the start, Amy was “very enthusiastic, very friendly, welcoming.” He liked that her enthusiasm extended to her work, too, and that she was so engaged in schizophrenia research.

“He’s a really good listener,” Amy said. “When he would ask me questions, it wasn’t just small talk. ... He’d ask a question about something that he actually wanted to know the answer, and he would listen to my answer, internalize it and respond.” (She added, with an obvious eye roll: “Wow, what a concept.”) Andrew also works for government — he handles community engagement for a transportation agency — which he “nerds out about,” Amy said. “It’s pretty charming. ... He’s ridiculously passionate about [it].”

After three hours, they said goodbye and made — halfhearted? jokey? — plans to do this again in person, assuming they’re ever in the same city at the same time. They followed each other on Instagram; DMs led to an exchange of numbers led to texting, which could ... lead to a second date?

Probably not. After Amy told Andrew about her grad school plans, he had a hard time investing in the date. “I’m looking for something a little more long-term.”

Amy says that even though she is moving, the date was worthwhile as an end unto itself, “a fun, lighthearted piece of positivity through all of this uncertainty.”

Rate the date

Andrew: 4 [out of 5].

Amy: 4.5, “considering the circumstances.”


Amy said she would be “down to get to know him,” but Andrew isn’t interested in pursuing dates that can’t lead to something more substantial. “A few months ago, 4 out of 5 on a first date would’ve been more than enough for me to be down to go on a second date,” he said. “But I’m trying to be more thoughtful and considerate of my own feelings.”

Jessica M. Goldstein is a writer in Washington.