She also said this thing about life in D.C. that may sound controversial to some, but I’ve heard it enough that it wasn’t surprising. “To be a young, single black woman,” she said, “it’s hard to date in this city. A lot of dudes date white women. A lot of white men — if they date me, it’s only to date me. They would never marry me.”
When I asked Ursula if she actually wanted to get married, she took a practical view. “I don’t want to die alone,” she responded. “I could be splitting the rent. I could be boo’ed up. That’s smart.”
We sent Ursula to meet Rob Morin, 32, at San Lorenzo, an Italian restaurant in Shaw. She got there first. Rob arrived decked out in nice charcoal-colored pants and his favorite red Nikes, but his denim shirt was a little damp by the time he walked in the door. He was embarrassed and lied about where he’d just come from. “I told her it was raining,” he said. “But I was sweating. It’s funny unless you’re me.”
Rob is a sommelier, originally from New Hampshire, who sounds remarkably like the actor Josh Gad … if Josh Gad had already had a couple of glasses of wine. Rob is affable and painfully self-deprecating and was immediately taken with Ursula, who showed up to the restaurant in wedges and a wrap dress from Urban Outfitters. “She’s gorgeous,” Rob told me when I asked him to describe seeing her for the first time. “I did not feel worthy.”
Ursula said she thought that Rob was cute but that he looked like an old manager of hers that she didn’t like.
At dinner, Rob, naturally, selected the wine — something easily drinkable he thought Ursula might like because she’s typically more of a tequila or whiskey consumer — and they happily talked about politics, other cities they have lived in, and Ursula’s Peace Corps stint. Ursula couldn’t tell me what they ate (“a bunch of noodles I can’t remember”), but she did recall that the “conversation was flowing.” She too had worked in the service industry for a time, so they found kinship over that.
Ursula, who wants to go back to school to study urban planning, said she also mentioned she was reading a book about the history of the subject. But for some reason, Rob did not mention his interest in design or, as he wrote in his application, that he likes to “geek out on Frank Lloyd Wright.” Instead, she said, “he kept mentioning it was awkward that we were on the Date Lab and how people kept looking.”
Rob told me he had signed up for Date Lab because a previous Washington Post-sponsored date had gone down where he worked, and his bartender had encouraged him to put his name in the hat. It didn’t take much pushing; Rob is a fan of this column.
“It’s the best,” he gushed to me. “Put two strangers together and then you learn about them. It’s like the mind’s eye into the human psyche. That’s a fun idea.”
I’ll spare you the suspense: Ursula and Rob did not end up boo’ed up, betrothed and barreling down a path toward splitting the rent on a one-bedroom in Columbia Heights. Their date went the way that so many of these do: mystifyingly nowhere. And no amount of peering into the human psyche can produce a suitable logic behind the fizzle.
“I think she hated me,” he told me. “I know when I have another hour with someone. I just didn’t feel like she was thinking about the next hour.”
That said, they ended the night with a hug and exchanged numbers. And at least Rob and Ursula’s date did not reaffirm Ursula’s disheartening feelings about the racial divide in the Washington dating scene, or reinforce the idea that white men don’t like black women. Rob is white but not a white supremacist and not a closet Republican. And he liked her. A lot.
“I could talk with Ursula over a cup of coffee every Sunday for the next 50 Sundays,” he said. “I liked talking to her.” He just wishes he had made a better impression at the outset. “If I was a little drier, it might have gone a different way.”
Rate the date
Ursula: 3.5 [out of 5]. “I think it was automatic friend zone.”
Rob: 4. “Maybe she didn’t super hate me.”
No further contact.