The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Date Lab: ‘You’re a very lucky man,’ a stranger said

Alex Reading is a 28-year-old graduate student. He is looking for “someone [who] is more outgoing to push me out of my comfort zone.” Kate Bohan is a 32-year-old who handles billing for a study-abroad provider. She is happiest “after a few drinks listening to everyone’s fears and feels, hopes and dreams.” (Daniele Seiss/For The Washington Post)

Kate Bohan describes the men she has dated in the past as "good humans" who were just not right for her. The 32-year-old California native who handles billing for a study-abroad provider is seeking someone "genuine, handsome, curious and kind who believes that humanity is all connected." The Date Lab team set her up with Alex Reading, 28, a George Washington University graduate student studying philosophy and social policy.

Kate says she doesn’t embarrass easily. But she described the feeling of first meeting Alex at Ris in the West End and taking the required photos as “awkward prom.” To break the ice, Kate suggested they order a drink, then noticed an uncomfortable look on Alex’s face. “Oh, God, he doesn’t drink,” Kate immediately realized. She was right.

“I just never saw the appeal of drinking,” Alex told me. Yet he doesn’t mind if others drink. The restaurant specializes in gin and tonics, so Kate got help from the waiter to choose the perfect one using Ris’s housemade gin. Alex had water. According to his trainer at the gym, he needs to double his water intake, and this seemed like as good a time as any, he explained later. Kate said, however, that he wowed her with his in-depth knowledge about the history of tonic water and how it was once used (with gin and the addition of a lime) to curb scurvy.

Kate suggested getting an appetizer. “I don’t normally order one,” Alex replied. He told me he entertained the idea for a moment, but when Kate chose the salmon tartare he had to tap out because “the idea of raw food didn’t appeal to me.” By his own admission, Alex is a bit of a germaphobe, and he couldn’t stomach eating something raw. For a main course, he splurged on steak, while Kate ordered the chicken Milanese.

After hitting speed bumps over alcoholic beverages and apps, they embarked on a long stretch of pleasant conversation. Kate described Alex as “bright and observant.” She admitted that she can sometimes be a “chatty Cathy” when she’s nervous, so she tried to give him space to talk during pauses.

In those pauses, interesting details about Alex emerged. He grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and attended law school in Pittsburgh but doesn’t want to be a lawyer. Kate, while from the West Coast, has family from Pittsburgh and was able to place Alex’s slight accent immediately.

The two were so engrossed in conversation that an older gentleman, who was dining with his wife, leaned in to Alex as he passed by to say, “You’re a very lucky man” — assuming they had more than just a first-date connection.

Whatever the stranger thought he saw blossoming between Kate and Alex, though, was not what they were experiencing. Kate said her stories of living in Japan for three years usually inspire more questions about her travels, but this night, they fell flat. After work, she often goes to concerts and bars, while Alex seemed to be more of a homebody — in a house with four roommates. “He offered that he hadn’t ventured out in D.C. much past Foggy Bottom,” Kate said later.

The waiter came by to ask about dessert. As you have probably guessed by now, Alex doesn’t usually order dessert, so they passed. Kate didn’t quite know what to make of him. He didn’t play the “usual games” like
other guys she meets online. Alex admitted to me that he uses dating apps sparingly and that “blind dates are new to me.”

As they walked outside to say goodbye, Alex suggested they take a selfie. Kate said, “Will you send it to me?” So he asked for her number. I asked him if this was a sly way for him to get her digits, but that possibility hadn’t occurred to him.

Raindrops began to stream down the awning they were standing under, and Kate offered to hail him an Uber since he didn’t have the app on his phone. (He told me, “It feels weird getting into someone else’s car.”) Dinner had flown by, and they had lost track of time. It was late, and as they waited, the conversation turned to the topic of getting up for work the next day. That’s when they discovered they work in neighboring buildings.

Alex said afterward, “I might text her and chat.” Kate said: “If he texted me I would probably go out with him again. First dates are awkward, and everyone deserves a second chance.”

They did exchange some texts but didn’t go out again. Maybe one day fate will intervene and they’ll run into one another at the coffee shop by work? Or perhaps it’ll simply be, as Kate tells it, “a great night and a great story regardless.”

Rate the date

Alex: 4 [out of 5]. “It went really well for a first date.”

Kate: 2. “As a human person, he’s a 5, a gem, and I really hope he finds someone.”


No further contact.

Damona Hoffman is a dating coach and host of the “Dates & Mates” podcast.

More from Date Lab:

Forget happily ever after. They chose to live in the moment.

She wanted him to ask more questions

Four Date Lab writers dig deeper to find out how the dates really went

Apply now to Date Lab