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Date Lab: When a first date becomes a non-date

Taylor Deacon is 23 and works for a Democratic congressperson. She is seeking someone who is “confident, charismatic and compassionate.” Griffin Barriss is 23 and works for a public health nonprofit. He is looking for someone who is “smart, confident and ambitious, but not self-absorbed.” (Daniele Seiss)
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Let’s allow Griffin Barriss, 23, to make the same first impression on readers that he made on his date: He was 20 minutes late.

Let’s permit him to explain. “I live in NoMa, so I biked from the [NoMa-]Gallaudet U Red Line stop to Georgetown, which is about three miles,” he said. “I knew it would take me about 20, 25 minutes. But then I overlooked the parking situation.”

Now a word from his date, Taylor Deacon, also 23, who arrived five minutes early: “The first thing I said was, ‘No wonder you’re single, if this is how late you show up to a first date.’ ” I can hear her smiling through the phone as she added, “He was mortified. It was so funny.”

Such candor! Such comfort! Probably because Griffin and Taylor are friends. Very good friends. They met at Model United Nations at Elon University in North Carolina when he was a freshman and she was a sophomore. They’d even hung out with friends the Friday before this date. “He’s like my brother,” she told me. So technically not a date.

Should we backtrack a bit? Griffin was living in D.C. for about a month when he saw a Date Lab promotion on Instagram and applied; we matched him a month later. Originally from outside Boston, he graduated from college in May and hoped to meet some new people through the column. “I don’t feel like I’m in a rush to get super-involved in a relationship,” he said.

But he’s hoping to find someone he can feel 100 percent natural around. He’s a runner and works for a public health nonprofit that promotes physical activity, so he’d like to date an active person. Also, “anti-vaxxers and anti-science, that’s an immediate no.”

Taylor grew up in Michigan and moved to D.C. in May 2020. She works for a Democratic congressperson. She applied to Date Lab partly because she’d been single for a while — “I’m the D.C. classic: career first” — and she thought, What’s the harm? She is “definitely looking for something serious and long-term” but has an easygoing attitude about the process: “It’s either a good date or a good story to bring back to my not-single friends.”

She knows that her type, confidence bordering on cockiness, has led her astray. “There’s no better way to phrase it than sometimes I date a--holes.” The self-awareness! Incredible. “I’ve gotten much better about it!” she insisted. “I’ve consciously tried to date people who align with my values and are compassionate.”

Griffin wore chinos and a dark green shirt with little flowers on it — “sort of a biz-cazh, leaning cazh,” he said — and she wore a long floral dress and heels. “I don’t care if a guy is shorter as long as he isn’t insecure when I wear heels,” she noted, a very on-brand attitude for a Taylor to have.

We sent Taylor and Griffin to Brasserie Liberté in Georgetown, where they caught up over mac and cheese, French onion soup, burgers and cocktails. They talked about Elon’s 2021 homecoming — he went, she didn’t, so he filled her in on all the good gossip — and her makeup graduation ceremony (the first being delayed by the pandemic). They discussed work, politics, their other (actual) dates. And though both had glowing things to say about the other, this was not one of those romantic-comedy, They’ve been right in front of me all along! scenarios.

“He’s a great guy, he’s great for someone, but that someone is not me,” Taylor said. “I think I could probably pick a girl out for him in a crowd.”

“I feel like we have good chemistry,” Griffin said. “In the most polite way, I don’t think [dating her] had really crossed my mind.”

One great thing about a non-date? Absolutely zero pressure. “Once I walked in, all [my nerves] dissipated,” Griffin said. “I was like: Oh, I can make mistakes, there’s nothing really at stake here. It’d be difficult to cataclysmically destroy a friendship in a 90-minute conversation.”

“I definitely was a lot more comfortable” than on a typical date, Taylor said. “I dropped my facade a little bit.” She continued, “I could serve to be a little bit more chill [on dates].”

After dinner, they swung by Taylor’s place to pick up her roommates and then headed to the Tombs, a hangout for Georgetown undergrads. What’s funny, too, is that Taylor had considered the possibility that she’d know her match. “I feel like I’ve dated a lot in this city,” she said. “I was like, What are the odds they set me up with someone I know?” She figures it could’ve been worse: “This is so much better than an ex.”

Rate the date

Griffin: 5 [out of 5]. “I mean, I guess I’d give it a 5?”

Taylor: 5. “For the best non-date I’ve been on. In terms of it being a date: zero.”

Update

They are still just friends.

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To our commenters

A reminder from the Date Lab team: Our daters volunteer to participate in the column. While we appreciate a lively discussion assessing our matchmaking skills, please follow our community rules and do not comment on someone’s appearance or write a personal attack.

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