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Date Lab: His Southern accent threw her off at first

Mariana is 23 and a paralegal. She is looking for a tall progressive who dresses well and participates in activist spheres. Bonus points if he speaks Spanish. Sam is 25 and works in public affairs. He is seeking an adventurous, artsy type of woman who could help him foment revolution abroad. (Daniele Seiss)

Mariana, 23, and Sam, 25, both arrived to their date a little sweaty. Sam, a recent transplant from Savannah, Ga., who rides his bike everywhere in D.C., came to the date on two wheels, while Mariana arrived on two feet to the Royal in Shaw. But it was Mariana who was the most self-conscious and kept apologizing for her perspiration when they awkwardly sidled up to one another to be photographed.

There was something familiar to Sam about Mariana, but as soon as he opened his mouth to speak, Mariana became skeptical of the match. “I wrote him off as a Southern boy,” she said. Sam recounted: “She straight up said she couldn’t date a Republican.” A proud Savannah native who has lived abroad, Sam saw this as an opportunity to tell Mariana, who is from Colombia, about the progressive past of his home city and his international experiences. He also shared that his politics lean left, which seemed to ease her concern.

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Sam, who works in public affairs, explained he has spent time in Cuba and Mexico and dreamed of one day going to Medellín, Colombia. This intrigued Mariana because when she moved to the United States at 5 years old many people “regarded Colombia as a dangerous place.” She lived in Maryland and Texas before moving to D.C. last year and started work as a paralegal at a civil rights firm. “I made an assumption but realized we are actually really similar,” Mariana told me.

The topic of dating in D.C. came up, and they both revealed they use Hinge. Sam immediately thought, “I bet we matched.” Mariana took out her phone to fact-check and, sure enough, there was a message thread between them that had gone cold a few weeks earlier. Once Mariana showed him her profile, he immediately remembered her. Sam playfully “called her out for ghosting him.” They had a good laugh about it, and she apologized.

The conversation shifted to travel, and they discovered they had studied in France at the same time, Sam in Paris and Mariana in Provence. Mariana shared her plans to travel to the City of Light with her mother after their 2020 trip was canceled.

Keeping in line with the international theme of the conversation, Mariana ordered an Under the Colombian Sun cocktail with vodka and lemon. Sam bravely ordered a Conejito — despite his rusty Spanish language skills — consisting of rum and lime. The attempt earned him a bit of ribbing from Mariana. A grilled avocado with a side of french fries was thrown into the mix. Mariana said she wasn’t very hungry, so she just ordered empanadas while Sam got the hanger steak. He offered Mariana a bite of his steak. He later reflected, “I don’t think she realized that she ate half of my steak.”

They discussed pop culture, and Sam shared that he’s a movie buff. “Are you a Scorsese fan?” Mariana cautiously questioned him. She’s had several boyfriends who forced her to watch classic films from Tarantino and Scorsese. She’s not excited to see “Kill Bill” again. She shared that the animated family hit “Zootopia” is more her style of film. “I love movies where animals do humanlike things,” Mariana explained. He excitedly shared that his favorite movie is “Ratatouille” (this preference was confirmed in his Date Lab application, so he wasn’t just trying to win points with her).

After four drinks each, they were still having a great time. As the Royal was approaching closing time, they settled the bill and walked Sam’s bike down the street to Maxwell Park, a wine bar. Mariana admitted she loves a walk and chat and she enjoyed part two of the evening. Sam eagerly pitched several ideas for second dates based on things they’d discussed previously: watching “Zootopia,” planning activities for Paris, going on a margarita tour of the city. “We’re up to like nine second-date ideas!” Mariana exclaimed to him. Once their bottle of rosé was finished, they figured it was time to call it a night.

Being the Southern gentleman he is, Sam offered to walk Mariana home and she obliged. They both were a little coy about how things ended. I have a feeling there is more to the story. For now, Sam simply stated he wants there to be a second date without the world watching.

Rate the date

Mariana: 4.75 [out of 5]. “I’ve never had a 5-out-of-5 date, but this was a great date.”

Sam: 5. “Perfect! I wish I could give it more points.”


They are still dating and are still on a quest to find D.C.’s perfect margarita.

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

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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