Mickey Cox, 31, does public relations and marketing for an architecture and design studio in D.C. He's also finishing a PhD dissertation on tattooing. His most recent long-term relationship left a little bit of "lasting trauma." Shortly after he and his girlfriend signed a one-year lease, "she said, 'I don't see a future with you in it,' " he recalled. And she took the cat.
Jessica Doyle, 26, is a special-education teacher whose last relationship ended in 2016. “He wasn’t ready for something long-term,” she told me.
We sent Mickey and Jessica to the Bird, a trendy restaurant near Logan Circle that features a variety of poultry, cooked in styles from around the world. Mickey arrived first and was sipping a cocktail when Jessica strolled in, looking, he said, “super cute.” He added, “She seemed a little shy, a little nervous. But understandably so was I.” He also felt it was “a good sign” that they were both wearing gray cardigans. (“I’m just a fan of cardigans!” he gushed to me.)
“He made me laugh right away,” Jessica said. “I thought he was handsome and had a nice smile.”
They got to know each other over drinks — an Old-Fashioned for him, red wine for her. “Mickey was cool to talk to,” Jessica said, adding they were so engrossed in conversation that the waitress came by three times and they still hadn’t read the menu.
Mickey felt a kindred connection with her approach to teaching. “I really liked her focus on her students’ progress and helping kids out,” he told me. “Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.” She struck him as “a genuinely good person.”
Jessica was “very intrigued” with his dissertation on tattooing, and he showed her some of his. “I didn’t get to show much off,” he said. “I didn’t want to disrobe in a restaurant.”
“He showed me the one his mom hates the most — which I thought was funny,” Jessica said. The tattoo in question: a pinup girl with the head of Admiral Ackbar. Mickey explained: “Because beauty is a trap. My mom has threatened to cut it off several times.” Jessica thought his tattoos “showed that he is creative.”
They ordered a family-style dinner: a whole roasted chicken with sides of Brussels sprouts and grits, and a bottle of wine, topped off with a slice of ice cream cake. He apologized for being a slow eater, and “I told him I’m a very slow eater, too,” said Jessica.
They bonded over their mutual love of the TV shows “Friends” and “Parks and Recreation.” “She’s an Aubrey Plaza doppelganger and I am an Adam Scott doppelganger,” said Mickey. He was also pleased that they both loved “good — and as vulgar as humanly possible — hip-hop and rap.” He called “Back That Ass Up” one of his favorite songs. Jessica said she asked him to sing it, but he declined, saying, “that’s a third-date move.”
Mickey brought a gift and confessed later that he had been particularly nervous about giving it to her. “I wanted to bring something like flowers, but I thought that would be super weird. So what’s something you could bring someone that they might find useful?”
Jessica said she was delighted by the gesture. “He said he wanted to get me something practical or like candy, but he didn’t know my dietary restrictions and didn’t want to kill me.” So he gave her a pack of ponytail holders. “I always need new [ones],” she said.
Still, Mickey found her “very hard to read.” “She seemed like she was enjoying herself, but wasn’t really expressing it that much,” he explained. “I think you might be having a good time, but you also might want to kill me.”
But he needn’t have worried. Jessica said: “The flow of conversation was easy and fun. Whatever we were talking about really didn’t matter — time flew by.”
At 11 p.m., not long after leaving the restaurant, he asked her out for tapas, and she agreed. They exchanged numbers, and Mickey told me he gave her a hug and “went in for a weird noncommittal half peck on the cheek.”
Not weird. Jessica said: “It was sweet.”
Rate the date
Mickey: 4.25 [out of 5]. “I’d like to get to know her more.”
Jessica: 4.25. “He was handsome and very respectful.”
Mickey, now 32, and Jessica, now 28, went on a second date and a third, which “went well,” says Jessica, “but I just felt more of a friends vibe after spending more time together.” Mickey says, “We politely drifted apart.” Not long after their Date Lab experience, though, each of them met someone and embarked on a relationship. Jessica reports hers is still going strong. Mickey says his “ended in almost the exact same way as the traumatic breakup mentioned in the article. The only difference was that this time, instead of a cat, it was a dog.” He is taking a break from dating but is “still hopeful and optimistic that good things come to those who wait.”