Of all the days in 2018 for a man and a woman to meet on a blind date, few have been as fertile or even as potentially fraught as Sept. 27. That’s when psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It’s also when Bob Lynch and Kim Lehmkuhl met at Centrolina, an Italian market and restaurant in CityCenterDC. Imagine the Very Special Episode™ of Date Lab that could ensue. Imagine this cultural moment crystallizing here. Imagine how satisfying it could be if they really got into it, whether by vociferous arguing or emphatic agreement.
Well, you’ll have to keep imagining.
The hearing was clearly on Kim’s mind. A 38-year-old self-described “law-school dropout,” she is temping at a nonprofit, identifies as an anarcho-communist, and is a proud member of Democratic Socialists of America. She says dating often “feels like work,” and the hearing put her in a bad mood on a day when she’d already woken up hung over. As the date started, she was still feeling the previous night’s drinking, and she told Bob as much soon after they sat down.
“I liked how frank she was with that,” recalled Bob, a 32-year-old management consultant for the federal government. He entered the restaurant with his own baggage — the sopping wet variety. En route to Centrolina, he’d been caught in a downpour — a tonal complement to the day’s political tumult.
Bob may have appreciated Kim’s candor, but he wasn’t as willing to put himself out there. Soon after sitting down, Kim mentioned Kavanaugh so as to acknowledge the elephant in the room. But Bob was all, What elephant?
“Bob was very, very committed to keeping it very surface the whole time,” Kim said later.
“I avoided trying to talk about it, and I think she did, too,” said Bob, who believes that talking about politics on a first date is impolite. “I think I said, ‘Yeah, I watched that while I was at work today,’ and it was a kind of, let’s roll our eyes and talk about something else type of thing.”
Outside, it was rainy and wet. Inside, however, Bob described the first part of their date as “dry,” saying at one point the question-and-answer rhythm felt like that of a job interview. Their conversation about travel went on a little too long for Kim’s liking, and she even compared it to a “pissing contest” of all the cool destinations they’d been to. “It wasn’t said meanly, it was just to laugh off: Okay, let’s take a different tack,” said Kim.
They both enjoyed their shared apps of ratatouille, roasted cauliflower and artichoke salad (and then an additional beet salad with homemade pesto that the restaurant comped), and mains of ravioli (for her) and gnocchi with sweetbreads and pancetta (for him). There was also a round of mid-date Negronis (Kim rallied), and things became progressively comfortable in Bob’s view, particularly when they realized they had a mutual acquaintance (a neighbor of Bob’s, whose Advisory Neighborhood Commission campaign Kim was helping to organize).
“I was having a nice meal, it was nice to get inside from the rain, I looked cute and had my makeup on,” said Kim.
She described Bob as “nice-looking,” but even though they tacitly agreed to bypass the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings, politics ended up interfering with attraction. She found herself clearly to the left of Bob, and “I just don’t care to do that kind of emotional labor of pretending that your very cagey views are interesting.” For example, when she brought up Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans having afforded white nationalists a private Metro car for a rally this past August, “it seemed like he felt it didn’t impact him directly, and that’s where my politics come from,” she said.
Bob called Kim “attractive,” adding that her naturally gray hair was “unique” (it’s hard to see in the photos, but she has gray hair) and that she was very well dressed. “She’s clearly a smart person and could hold all sorts of conversations, and I found that refreshing,” he said.
After Centrolina, they walked to the Metro together and Bob asked for Kim’s number. And that’s when the awkwardness came to a head. “How long have I been alive that I [still] don’t have a response [to that question]?” wondered Kim, who forked over her number reluctantly. “I always feel like a jerk in that situation. But yeah, I’m not into it.”
“When I asked for her number it felt like, Okay, maybe she isn’t as interested in seeing each other as I thought,” said Bob. “That’s totally fine! It’s not going to break my heart, I promise!”
Bob: 4 [out of 5]. “It was a great meal, she was a great conversation, I had a great time.”
Kim: 3. “As dates go in D.C., this was squarely how most of them go. I’m neutral about it.”
No further contact.