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Date Lab: It started off well. Then it took a turn.

Marquita is 38 and is a data scientist. She also operates a luxury transportation service. She is looking for someone who is “handsome, tall, kind, ambitious” and a “great listener.” Jayson is 38 and an assistant school principal. He is seeking someone who’s “a business executive” or in “upper management” and “who loves sports, … the outdoors and beaches.” (Daniele Seiss)
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“I wanted to meet someone who I wouldn’t meet in my regular routine,” said Jayson, 38, about his decision to sign up for Date Lab. “I was married for seven years, and I’m not a slide-into-somebody’s-DMs kind of person.” The Annapolis resident, who works as an assistant school principal, hopes in future relationships he will be “unapologetically” himself.

As an African American man, he has tended to tone himself down in “professional and academic arenas.” “I wasn’t fully myself out of fear that I would scare people off,” he said. But he is not doing that anymore. “I like to laugh, talk trash and make inappropriate jokes.”

We matched Jayson with Marquita, 38, a D.C. resident who works as a data scientist during the day and operates a luxury transportation service in the evenings. When Marquita, who is ready to settle down and find a partner, submitted her online application she wasn’t familiar with Date Lab and didn’t realize that her date would be written about in The Washington Post. She decided to go ahead anyway but was still “definitely nervous,” she said. Plus, “it was my first blind date ever.”

She has been in a long-term relationship but has never been married. She recently took a break from dating apps because of a “bad run of incompatibilities.” The other way that she has met potential mates is when she’s driving and “men roll down their window and say ‘Hey beautiful!’ and we hold up traffic while we exchange numbers.”

We sent the duo to Dauphine’s, a restaurant specializing in New Orleans cuisine, in downtown Washington. Marquita arrived a few minutes past 7 p.m. and spotted a man at the bar. “I was like, ‘Oh my God! I’m not attracted to him!’ ” she said. Much to her relief, the host led her past the bar to the second floor to meet Jayson.

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Jayson, who saw Marquita entering the restaurant, recalled that “it was a good first impression. She’s an attractive woman.” Marquita said Jayson was “nice-looking.” She appreciated that Jayson broke the ice during the photo shoot and made her comfortable. “We were laughing and talking during the pictures, and things lightened up,” she said.

Over drinks — sparkling water for him, wine for her — they talked about their jobs and families. “At the root of who we are, we are both hard-working and independent people,” said Jayson. “She is an independent woman and I’m attracted to that.” Marquita, who went to college in Baltimore, told me she felt she “connected” to him when he talked about growing up in West Baltimore.

Around 8, things started to take a turn for Marquita. “I felt like he talked about himself a lot, a whole lot. He went from college all the way up to marriage in the first hour, and I didn’t get a word in. That was a red flag for me.” Part of the problem could have been that the restaurant was loud, Jayson said. “It was hard to hear across the table. I didn’t wanna be full-on awkward and move my chair right next to her.”

However, Marquita could hear him loud and clear. “He said he’s not looking for a relationship; he said he never wants to be married again. I’m really looking for someone to match with. He just wants to get back in the dating pool.”

“She asked me if I would like to get married again, and it’s a hard firm no,” said Jayson. “I saw that take her back a little bit.” About two hours into the evening, he showed her a picture of his three boys — ages 18, 7 and 5. “I think it shocked her a little that I was so open with being a father, but I’m going to be who I am — and who I am is a father.”

While Marquita respected his commitment to fatherhood, she “didn’t feel like it was a compatible match. I have no kids, never been married and live in D.C. He’s got three kids, just got divorced and lives near Annapolis. I can do one kid, but I don’t want an already made family.”

At the end of the date, Jayson said he made the move to exchange numbers. “I said, ‘Hey, take my number and hit me up anytime if you want to.’ And she said, ‘I am a traditionalist and you should ask for my number.’ And I thought, ‘She’s spicy, I kind of like that.’ ” So, he formally asked for her number.

Jayson told me he’d like to hang out with Marquita again but without “any romantic expectations.” I asked him if he had any red flags during the date and he said no, but “I feel that she’ll probably have red flags on me.”

Rate the date

Jayson: 3.5 [out of 5].

Marquita: 3.


They exchanged friendly texts but made no further plans.

Vijai Nathan is a writer and comedian in Washington.

Editor’s note: Because of privacy and safety concerns, Date Lab allows participants to be identified only by their first names.

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