Erin, 30, was talking to her mom about how hard it is to meet someone now that she works from home — and doesn’t get out much. Her mom pointed her to Date Lab. “I thought it would be a different way to meet someone, and I’m open to that,” she explained. So, the software quality assurance engineer applied in April without ever having read the column.
Erin typically meets romantic interests through dating apps or being set up by friends, “but it hasn’t been too fruitful.” Her dating history is limited, and she hasn’t had a serious relationship that’s lasted more than six months. “I’ve just never met anyone worth being with. I’d rather be alone than settle for someone who is not for me.” Erin, who was born and raised in Maryland, owns her own townhouse and is interested in meeting someone to have a family with.
We set her up with Jacob, 31, a therapist who moved to D.C. from New York in August. The New Mexico native gave Date Lab a shot because it’s a “nice way to meet someone with a cool story.” He is looking for a meaningful relationship after several long-term ones that weren’t the right fit. “I’ve tried dating apps, but in my opinion the system of dating apps isn’t great for the human side of the people involved — it’s something I try to avoid,” he said. He prefers in-person ways to meet women such as at bars or restaurants and through his jujitsu community.
Jacob is comfortable meeting new people because he’s traveled the world on his own. “When you are a solo traveler it makes it easier to meet people just because you are doing so much exploring and out so much.” He is looking for “someone who has their own life that they’re excited for.” He’s open to marriage and family, but “it’s not something I’m trying to force.”
We sent the pair to Ristorante Piccolo in Georgetown. Erin said she was pretty calm until “about five minutes before the date and my heart started pounding.” Meanwhile, Jacob “was more excited than nervous.” His first impression: “She was very pretty, put together and well dressed. I was pleasantly surprised.” Hers: “He was a good-looking guy for sure. He was very friendly and welcoming.”
Over cocktails, they got to know each other. “I thought it was cool how we didn’t know anything about each other. I was surprised that I didn’t feel awkward. Even if there were silences, there was no pressure to fill the silence with noise,” said Jacob. He continued: “I really appreciate that she has a great sense of humor. I like dry humor. I’m really attracted to women who are smart and value themselves and what they do.” Erin agreed that “there were no awkward moments” and was intrigued by Jacob’s argument that dating apps are, as she summarized it, “unnatural in a psychological sense.”
They learned more about each other’s friends and families over a dinner of Caprese salad, tortellini carbonara, short rib ravioli and steak with truffles, all of which they split. “I like people who are willing to share at dinner so that you get a little bit of everything,” he said.
Erin was fascinated with Jacob’s tales of his jobs and travels, including living in the South of France for a summer and multiple trips to Italy with dreams of buying a house there to fix over the years. “I was asking a lot of questions about his life. I kept saying, ‘Oh my God you’ve lived such a life!’ ” she said. “Meanwhile, I’ve just been here in Maryland.” Jacob enjoyed learning about her community and appreciated her values. “She has had a core group of friends since she was in college. Someone who values friendship over time is the kind of person I am interested in,” he said.
They found common ground on their love of animals, belief in social equity, and preference for television shows over movies, particularly their guilty pleasure: “Love Island U.K.” “We were able to laugh, get to know each other while being comfortable around each other,” Jacob said.
Jacob asked at the beginning of the date if Erin wanted to go to Chez Billy Sud for cheesecake and espresso after dinner. “I said yes, of course, because I love cheesecake,” she told me. They finished dessert around 10 p.m., made their way outside and Jacob asked for her number. They hugged goodbye. Erin appreciated that Jacob was very polite and insisted she order her Uber first and waited for it to arrive before calling his own. “We enjoyed each other’s conversation, and I certainly felt there was a romantic feeling. It was a really good feeling for sure,” Jacob said.
While Erin liked his company, she wasn’t feeling a love connection with Jacob. “I don’t know that our lives align. He’s done so much and I’m just questioning whether or not he’s done exploring. … I’m just not sure that would align with my future.”
Rate the date
Jacob: 5 [out of 5].
Jacob texted Erin a few days after the date to see if she’d like to get together. Erin said she had fun but didn’t feel a romantic connection, and they wished each other well.
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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