Date Lab

Date Lab: Searching for a Spark

Two seniors like sports. Will they like each other?

By Andrew Kragie, Emily Cohen, and Susanna Booth

He’s “a true gentleman” from the South looking for “someone who is fun to talk to and likes to have a good time.”  She loves Duke athletics, plans to work in nonprofits, and seeks a good conversationalist who’s “passionate about something in life.” We sent them to Pizzeria Toro for dinner and interviewed them separately afterwards.

Zach: I signed up for Date Lab because I’m open to meeting new people—at Duke you can get trapped in the same circles. And there’s the off chance that it works out really well and turns into something more.

Mary: [I signed up because] I thought it would be fun. I figured, “Why not, what’s the worst that can happen?”

Zach: I was more nervous than I thought I’d be, which is weird because I don’t normally ever get nervous when I’m meeting people.

Mary: I told a couple friends about the date. The concept of a completely blind date was exciting because, with all the media we have, the tendency is to completely Facebook stalk someone [before you meet them].

Zach: I’m not a very stylish guy, so I don’t have some go-to outfit. It’s either gym shorts or khakis. So I wore khakis and a button-down, tucked in, with Sperrys—the typical Duke preppy outfit.

Mary: I had kind of picked out an outfit in my head, but I’m not someone who freaks out about that kind of stuff.

Zach: I wanted to be there first. I left my house early but it took forever to find a parking spot. I parked in a kind of sketchy spot—I thought I was going to get towed—just so I could make it into the restaurant on time. I got there, went up to the hostess, and said, “I’m here for Duke Date Lab.” She smiled and laughed, and went and got her manager.

Mary: I was a couple minutes late because I forgot that it’s a mess when you park downtown. He wasn’t seated anyway—that made me feel a lot better.

Zach: While they were getting the table ready I saw Mary walk in. She was dressed nicely. She stood by the hostess desk and I was like, “That’s gotta be her.”

Mary: He was a nice-looking guy, well dressed. I liked the button-down. He was a decent height; he had nice eyes.

Zach: I wasn’t swept off my feet, but since I wasn’t really expecting a certain kind of person it was just like, “Hey, okay, here she is. Now we’re gonna start this.”

Mary: It took us a while [to order] because we were talking. I picked drinks, he picked an appetizer, I picked a pizza. He was really into trying something new.

Zach: She picked the beer—a local beer called Ponysaurus—and we had okra for the appetizer. We had a strange but delicious pizza with sweet potato and mixed greens.

Mary: We talked a lot about Duke, I guess because that’s an easy common factor. We talked about basic life things—what he does, what I do, home, future plans.

Zach: For the most part it was pretty light conversation. We talked about plans for after Duke and the stress of figuring out the next step. She [worked this summer] with a nonprofit legal group that helps human trafficking victims.

Mary: He mentioned that he’s interested in the State Department, but that has to be a ways off. I told him I want to be a public defender and he was like, “That’s really awesome. We need people to do that job.”

Zach: She’s a bit of a world-traveler, which was cool. She’s been to Africa and India, and I think she said her dad’s side of the family is from India.

Mary: He’s in a fraternity, which is something I don’t have many friends in; we talked about how that’s influenced him. I think I put on my [Date Lab questionnaire] that I like sports, and he’s a sports writer for The Chronicle—we talked about that.

Zach: It’s hard to talk to anybody for an hour-and-a-half unless you’re the best of friends. So we got to know each other a lot, but there were also times where it was like, “Oh, I just asked about your dog, your house, your major… Man, isn’t this great pizza?”

Mary: He ordered coffee for dessert, and I ordered something else for us to split.

Zach: The check came and I paid for [what we spent beyond the Date Lab allocation]. We walked out, gave each other a hug, and said, “It was really great getting to know you.” And she was parked one way and I was parked the other way.

Mary: It was just kinda like, “It was really nice to get to know you. Really nice to have dinner with you.” And a hug and goodbye.

Zach: It went as well as a blind date could, except for the fact that I don’t think we clicked on a romantic level. It was a 4 because it was great to get to know her, and we had a good time. A 5 would have meant a second date.

Mary: 3.5. I had a great time talking to him, but I just didn’t feel like it was a romantic thing.

The two didn’t exchange numbers or follow up on social media. Mary said she would be up to hang out again, “but I don’t think of a second date or anything like that.”

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