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Date Lab: The night’s playlist didn’t match the vibe

Conner House, left, is 29 and is a project manager for a nonprofit. His ideal match is friendly and passionate about life, and has a sense of adventure. Diego Sanchez is 24 and works in technology sales. His dream date is a successful man who has a strong career, enjoys traveling and is a positive thinker. (Daniele Seiss)
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After gaining a bit of liquid courage from a White Claw, Conner House, 29, walked over to San Lorenzo Italian restaurant on Ninth Street NW and looked around for his date, Diego Sanchez, 24. His first impression was that Diego looked cute. Conner also picked up on an accent and was intrigued. He complimented Diego’s classic white Reeboks, and they went off to take pictures.

Diego, who works in technology sales, admits he is not camera shy, so he was happy to take photos, even though it was awkward to pose with a stranger. At least in Diego’s description, this stranger was “well dressed,” which he values in a match.

The restaurant seated them in a secluded area, and when it came time to order drinks, Conner suggested he pick a bottle for the two of them. Even though Diego’s the kind of person who “likes to be in control of things,” he was happy to let Conner show off his wine knowledge. His first wine selection of a montepulciano wasn’t available, so they got another bottle of red that they both enjoyed.

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The pair ordered grilled calamari to share, and from that point on there wasn’t a dull moment in the conversation. Conner discovered that Diego grew up in Colombia and after immigrating to the United States for school, he became a citizen in January 2020. They joked about the inopportune timing of that. He moved to D.C. from Atlanta last year.

Conner, a project manager for a global health nonprofit, is a new transplant too. A Seattle native, he requested a work transfer after realizing that many of his friends were in a different phase of life as they settled down and had families. In his Date Lab application he said he “hopes to have children someday when he meets the right person.” Conner also didn’t have many gay friends back home, and he shared with Diego that he was pleased to find community in D.C., especially after joining a popular gay kickball league.

“Is it competitive?” Diego inquired. Conner explained that it generally is, unless everyone is wasted from brunch. If drunken kickball qualifies as exercise, Conner fits the request on Diego’s application for “someone who enjoys working out and taking care of their body.” Conner told us that he appreciates “guys who take care of themselves … staying active.” Diego considered joining a kickball league last fall but held off because of his busy travel schedule.

After relocating for work, Diego expected to work in an office, but the coronavirus’s delta variant threw a wrench in his return-to-the-office plan and gave him the unexpected flexibility of working from anywhere. He took advantage and hit the road. So, much of the evening’s conversation was dedicated to travel talk. Conner shared that he had ill-fated plans to go to Europe in 2020. Diego told him that most of his discretionary income goes toward travel, and he also yearns for a trip to Europe, specifically Paris.

Diego’s company is headquartered in Seattle, and he is less enthusiastic about returning to the city after he was rained-in for an entire week during his last trip. Conner gave him the hot tip that he should book his next stay for July or August, as those months tend to be dry.

They ordered dinner, short rib ravioli for Conner and lobster risotto for Diego. Both are lovers of Italian food and were very enthusiastic about Date Lab’s restaurant selection. In fact, the risotto was so good, Diego snapped a photo and sent it to his mom. She said it looked delicious. According to him, it was!

Conner noticed the restaurant seemed to be stuck on a Bon Jovi station or playlist. When one Bon Jovi hit after the other came on he couldn’t keep a straight face. It felt like an awkward musical selection for such a romantic venue. Once he clued Diego into the theme, they laughed together. The talk of musical selections soon led to a conversation about upcoming concerts. Conner told Diego he had tickets to see Rufus Du Sol, an Australian electronic music group. Diego’s taste leans pop, and he shared that he was hoping to see Lady Gaga live this summer.

Conner capped off his meal with tiramisu for dessert. Diego immediately regretted choosing the panna cotta after taking a bite of both. They settled the bill and walked out together, exchanging Instagram handles along the way. Diego later told me that he prefers communicating with dates via Instagram over texting because he likes to see who they know in common, watch their stories and get a deeper sense of their lifestyle. “He was super cool, and I would be willing to go on a second date,” he said.

Both were walking home, so they said goodbye after a few minutes and went their separate ways. Though Conner reported that he got “more friend vibes” from their farewell, he said Diego “seemed like someone I’d enjoy getting to know more.”

Rate the date

Diego: 4.5 [out of 5].

Conner: 4.


They’ve been DM-ing on Instagram and might get together again.

Damona Hoffman is a certified dating coach and host of the “Dates & Mates” podcast.

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