Date Lab

Meet Megan & James

She’s a Tom Brady-loving Biomedical Engineer from Boston who considers herself to be a bit sassy, not preppy, and a good listener. He’s an athletic Mechanical Engineer from Pennsylvania, with a piano in his room, and has been told he’s got beautiful eyes.

The Lead-Up

Megan: I was really excited. When I got the email saying that I got selected, I told all my friends. As it was becoming apparent that my date was probably one of my friends as well, I was like “Oh no, I’m pretty sure we’re both on the ski team.” This is going to be interesting…

…so I said, “You know what? Let’s just take this free dinner, hang out, and see what goes. It’ll be fun!”

James: I get the bio of my date in the email, and I had no idea who this person was. I was nervous, obviously. You don’t really know what to expect going into this kind of thing. I found out the day before the date that the girl I was with was actually one of my really good friends.. I heard Toast was a great restaurant, so I said, “You know what? Let’s just take this free dinner, hang out, and see what goes. It’ll be fun!”

Megan:  I guess I would’ve been more nervous if it was a real blind date. Knowing that it was James kind of made me relax and act more normal. If I had no idea who the guy was, I’d be more worried about their opinion of me than me trying to really impress them. I would almost be unwilling to go on an actual blind date with someone completely random.

The Connection

James: We have a GroupMe for our sophomore class in the ski team. She told some of the people there, I told some of the people there, and they realized “Wait, your dates are on the same night….with the same person?” So they made the connection for us.

Megan:  It was funny because he said “Clearly we’re a good match. They matched us; we must be good.” It is funny that we were picked, someone that I’ve known for so long. I mean, out of all people?

The History

James: It’s not like a real history. I guess I was kind of into her for a little bit. But we realized there wasn’t that kind of compatibility at all. We’re both the kind of friends that can be pretty contentious sometimes.

Megan: We met freshman year in September when ski team started and have had a rocky friendship since then.

Old Friend, New Light?

James:  I was actually very surprised by how well we got along. I tend to be pretty sarcastic, which doesn’t always bode well with her since we have different styles of humor. But this was a really low-key conversation. Nobody got upset with anything, and it was actually much nicer than I had expected.

Megan: We’ve had times when it’s been great together and times when it’s been frustrating. We have such contrasting personalities because we’re both dominant people. I think he was more relaxed this time. In this personal setting, when it’s just us two, he really wanted to please me. He seemed interested in my life.

“In this personal setting, when it’s just us two, he really wanted to please me. He seemed interested in my life.”


The Food

James: The restaurant was great. We started with the goat cheese crostini, which was fantastic. I had a grilled chicken panini, and she had a chicken salad.

Megan: Have you ever been to Toast? No? I hadn’t either, but it was SO good. We got those little crackers. I think they’re called crostini. We got that with goat cheese on it, and it was delicious. We wanted to buy like twenty of them. So we got that, and he got a soup, and then we each got sandwiches – because it’s a panini place. Then we got some cake because I really wanted the cake. He gave me the last bite. He was going to eat it, but then he said “I want you to have it”.

He was going to eat it, but then he said “I want you to have it”.

The Outfit

“She dressed fairly casually but still looked good… she’s a very pretty girl.”

James: I wore a quarter-zip sweater and jeans. She dressed fairly casually but still looked good, which was what you would expect. I mean, she’s a very pretty girl. It was basically just us old friends getting dinner together. We were both just excited to hang out like this.

Megan: He wore a collared shirt with a zipper thing. A sweater. I would have worn a dress if I didn’t know who I was going with. I would have tried harder, but I still wore a nice outfit. I wore little booties, skinny jeans, and a blouse with a blazer. And I curled my hair.

The Conversation

James: We haven’t seen each other in a while, but we’re pretty good friends, and we had a lot to catch up on. She was just coming out of a relationship – we talked about that. I also had a relationship that ended just before hers. We dug a little into why our relationships had ended, and that was good. It’s good to talk about that kind of stuff.

Megan: I haven’t talked to a lot of people about my relationship, which I just broke off for personal reasons, but I felt comfortable enough to tell him. He supported my decision, which was nice. There was humor, and there was also seriousness, which was a good balance. I enjoy these types of conversations, you know, real conversations.

“I enjoy these types of conversations, you know, real conversations.”

The Chemistry

Megan: He’s really easy to talk to. He’s a big character, you know, one of those guys that can walk into a room and draw all the attention.

James: I enjoy her company because she’s one of those people who’s very spontaneous. She’s very outgoing and lighthearted about things. At the same time, I think that is a part of why she does not always get my humor, because she expects things to be more lighthearted and less cynical, less dark – which is kind of the way my humor tends to go.

To Flirt or Not to Flirt?

Megan: He likes to crack jokes I would say. He has the kind of humor that pokes fun at himself and others. Do you know what I mean?

James: Normally, I’d try to crack some jokes, see if she’d be into that humor, and gauge things based on that. I’ll needle her a bit, be a little irritating, and if she reacts well to that then there’ll probably be some level of compatibility between us, and I’d probably pursue more. Megan, on the other hand, is just very innocently in-your-face flirty. That’s just her personality. She always sounds teasing when she’s talking – constantly saying things that other people may perceive as being flirty, but, to her, it doesn’t really mean much. That’s part of why she’s so fun to be around, but it’s a different kind of approach.

“I do try to get people to laugh, to get them interested.”

Megan: People think I’m a flirtatious person because I’m sociable and I love conversation. I do try to get people to laugh, to get them interested. But I was not flirting with him. At least, I didn’t think I was.

Rate the Date

Megan: There wasn’t romantic chemistry, but it was a great and very enjoyable evening. I would say that the date itself – the conversation, the food and everything – would be a 5. But there wasn’t really any attraction between us, so I guess that would make the date a 4. He’s going to say 4. I know him.

James: I can’t really judge it as a blind date because that wasn’t what it really was, but as far as it being a dinner with somebody I’ve been friends for a long time with, it was really nice. I’d give it a 4 out of 5. No, a 4 and a half. This dinner was actually great because we realized we could still be good friends again.

This dinner was actually great because we realized we could still be good friends again.

*The contents of these articles are from interviews with actual Duke Date Lab participants. Pseudonyms were created to protect their identities.

Duke Date Lab is modeled after the feature at the Washington Post Magazine. Our team selects promising pairs from our pool of single applicants and sends them out on a blind date. We interview each dater separately the next day. These are the results.

Want to participate? You can apply to Date Lab here. If we find you a match we’ll pay for your evening out!

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