The last straw had come over Mother's Day weekend. Monique Laguerre had been seeing a guy for a few weeks, and they seemed to be on the same page. "I'm not the type of person who ghosts on people," he'd told her before she left to visit her mom in Boston. Shortly after that, she stopped hearing from him. And that's when Monique gave up on dating.
Despair had not come naturally to her. Monique, a 37-year-old children’s therapist, moved to Alexandria five years ago, ready for love and marriage. She knew she was a catch — “I’m smart, I’m beautiful, I have all my degrees, I’m independent, I don’t have a kid,” she told me. She figured finding a match would be easy.
It wasn’t. There’s a restlessness to men in the Washington area, Monique has noticed. They are always on the lookout for the next thing, whether it’s a job, a partner, a status symbol. “Everybody here is always trying to figure out who they are,” said Monique, “or be something they’re not.”
She broke her dating moratorium after some friends persuaded her to try Date Lab. We sent her to Kapnos, a now-closed Greek restaurant on 14th Street NW, to meet Adrian Ayers, a 45-year-old D.C. native who used to teach English language arts to junior-high and high-schoolers. Adrian now works a desk job for the federal government, but he thinks of himself as a free spirit; in his Date Lab application, he fondly recalled once running naked with a date across a baseball field at 3 a.m., then having her paint his toenails. At the same time, Adrian says he is shy with strangers — “Likely why I’m 45 and single,” he wrote.
Monique arrived to find a solidly built, bearded man in a gray blazer with a multicolored pocket square. She thought he looked sharp. He thought she looked like Michelle Obama.
Monique liked that Adrian seemed comfortable with himself. “I’m sorry, you’re going to have to read me this menu,” he said, admitting that his eyes weren’t so good in the dim light of the restaurant without his glasses. Monique read his admission of vulnerability as a sign of strength. As a younger man, Adrian says, he would send a “representative” on first dates — the public-relations version of himself. These days, he told me, “I try to be my more-authentic self early on.”
Monique gamely read him the menu, but it ended up being moot; their server offered to curate the meal for them, leaving the pair to get to know each other. They talked about music. (He makes beats, she used to play violin.) She asked about what he had been listening to lately, and Adrian grudgingly revealed that it was Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.” (“Please don’t print that,” he told me, noting that his authentic self was really more into stuff like Ozzy Osbourne, Al Green and hip-hop. I persuaded him not to play it coy — and “Rumours” is a great album!)
In any case, Adrian’s soft spot for soft rock didn’t bother Monique; she was tuned in to other attributes. “He was very present,” she said. “I was the only thing he was focused on.”
Monique struck Adrian as sophisticated, “a dab-the-corners-of-your-mouth-while-you-eat kind of person,” he told me. Adrian thinks of himself as more of a munch-loudly-on-popcorn kind of guy. But that, too, was trivial. As he and Monique ate dishes the Kapnos staff had chosen for them — Greek salad, pan-seared fish and Brussels sprouts — the two dating veterans began to talk about the sorts of things adults must choose for themselves.
Adrian told Monique he was ambivalent about having kids. He had put it off during his 30s, when he was working as a teacher, worried he wouldn’t have energy left to raise his own. Lately, he had warmed to the thought of spending his 40s and 50s unencumbered by anxieties about sitters and school districts.
Monique appreciated how clear-eyed Adrian seemed to be about fatherhood. Other men had talked to her about it like it was another rung on a ladder. That bothered Monique, who spends her days unpacking the psychological lives of other people’s kids. To raise kids, she said, you have to be present and focused for that, too.
But forget about the rest of their lives — how was the date? “Exactly what dating should be like,” Monique said. Adrian admired her self-awareness: “She was clear with herself about what she wants.”
It was raining when they left the restaurant. Adrian opened his umbrella, offered Monique his arm and walked her to her Uber. Could they fit comfortably into each other’s lives? Maybe, maybe not. Funny thing about dating at this stage of life: Neither of them was in such a big hurry. They had enjoyed the night, and that was enough for now.
Monique: 4 [out of 5].
Some texting, but no more dates.
Steve Kolowich is an editor for the Style section.