Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sent to Gene

As Gene Weingarten mentioned Datelab...

Hello Gene-

For most of Datelab's young life, I had been in a relationship with a young lady, and we read the feature together, laughing at those poor souls going through the dates and the tell-all interviews afterwards. We always found it hilarious that nearly all of the men would inevitably rate the evening a "4 out of 5" and never call the woman again. Another routine outcome is the man saying "it was one of the best dates of my life" but..."there's no chemistry." I could never fathom this outcome - how can a date be so amazing, yet, so fruitless at the same time?

Or, there would be sudden, amazing meeting of two souls, as the column has produced at least two engagements. No couple matched by the Post ever seemed to just "date." It's all or nothing for Datelab.

This year, my relationship ended and I found myself reading Datelab in a new light. I decided to enter, and was surprised to be picked for a date. The Style editor Jennifer Hudson Neal arranged the time and place, but wouldn't give me any hints about the victim...I mean, date. I was curious, seeing as how some Datelabs have been nearly science experiments in incompatibility - "She's a 35 year old thrice-divorced mother of three from Kinhump, Kentucky; he's a 24 year old Hill staffer from Highbrow, Connecticut" - I wondered what my date's fatal flaw would be?

So, when we met at the appointed time and place, I was surprised to find the date witty, bold, intelligent. Pretty in a very natural, easy way. I liked her. My initial wave of relief that she wasn't my Worst Nightmare Incarnate was quite powerful. She confided that she'd had similar fears about me before our meeting, and was relieved as well that I was socially presentable. We weren't 100% matches, but I'm not one who's interested in dating a female carbon copy of myself. I like some differences; makes life interesting. Our conversation flowed easily, and once the wonderful dinner was over, we continued the date at a nearby bar. At the end of the evening, we agreed to go out again soon.

The next day, I did my post-date interview with the Post writer, and exclaimed about what a good time I'd had. I rated it a fantastic date. The writer confided that my date had expressed similar thoughts. Datelab had scored a victory.

Over the next few days, I spoke to the writer a few times. Basic follow-up questions mostly, but there were a few things about me that had bothered my date. As the writer and I spoke about these issues, I suddenly was struck by some of the things my date had said that night that would have usually waved a big fat WARNING! GET OUT! RUN! HIDE! flag in my face. Sparing details for the article, I'll say that they are issues that are part of a much-larger national debate that should never be mentioned on a first date, but somehow became part of the conversation. I wondered why I had ignored my usually-flawless warning system.

After a couple of days, I finally figured it out - Datelab really is an experiment, not a custom match-making system as some would believe. The goal of the column isn't to make every single Washingtonian happy on a soma-induced date, but to take a more accurate look the dating scene; to gain insight on the elusive beast of compatibility. Why do some folks seem to hit it off instantly? Why do others who look like perfect matches fail to spark?

Therefore, I ignored the huge, 800-pound gorilla flaws in our worldview and activities simply because I *wanted* to. I wanted us to be compatible, though our differing views on The Big Issues of the Day would be hard, if not impossible, to mesh. Still, that initial wave of relief, that thought of "hey, this person's not NEARLY as bad as you feared!" is a powerful narcotic. It affects us all on those semi-successful blind dates, either set up by friends, coworkers, the Internet, or even major international newspapers.

Maybe I just wanted the Post to have a happy story to report. Maybe I just wanted somebody to go out with again. Maybe I was just so grateful she wasn't Medusa.

In any event, I can now understand how a date can be wonderful...and lead nowhere.

I'm told my Datelab will run on May 27.


Jan Louis said...

You and Gene sitting on a tree.... you think hell post it?? WOW they gave you the Memorial day weekend spot! They liked you!

Cheetah Kittens said...

Honestly, I'd be going out on a lot more first dates if people were feeding me soma... I feel enlightened and tingly all over, ah wait, its the meds.