Date Lab: They had plenty to talk about

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Every week, Piper reads the Date Lab column with her 12-year-old daughter. “We would dissect the dates, and then she said, ‘Mom, why don’t you do it?’ ” explained Piper, 56. “The first time she said it, I went, ‘No way,’ and then I said, ‘Why not?’ ”

Piper, who has never been married, hasn’t dated recently — she was traveling and being a mom — and avoids dating apps and websites. For her, Date Lab was jumping into the deep end. She and her daughter sat down together and filled out the application, with Piper using it as a teachable moment.

“I thought it was a fun activity as to what do you look for in someone you might want to date and how do you describe yourself,” said Piper, who hails from Buffalo, but moved in and out of D.C. often for her former career as a diplomat. “I would like to meet somebody who adds to my already full and enjoyable life. For me, I think it’s kind of a high bar, but not impossible.”

Her date, Chris, spent his 60th birthday this year at a Paul McCartney concert with his two adult children. Though he grew up in Lancaster, Pa., and lived in D.C. and New York for a little bit during the early days of his law career, the bulk of Chris’s life has been spent in the Midwest. The divorcée moved back to the area in late 2019.

“I was divorced in 2016, and I’ve had a couple of sort-of semi-longer-term relationships since then,” he told me. Chris also shared that he’d been on and off online dating sites with mixed results. He’s a regular reader of The Apsny News, but only stumbled onto Date Lab in January.

On a whim he decided to apply, but when we initially reached out to match him, Chris had just started dating someone so declined. “Then my circumstances changed, and I reached back out,” he said. His ideal partner is someone who is intelligent, attractive, empathetic, physically fit, has a sense of humor and can laugh at themselves.

On the day of the date, Piper put on a dress she had recently bought (not specifically for this date) and hammed it up for her daughter, who took pre-date photos. Piper took an Uber, but traffic made her realize she would be late so she hopped out and walked the last bit to Ala restaurant near Dupont Circle.

This left her flustered, she said, but not so much that she didn’t notice Chris’s smile when she first saw him. “He had a nice smile. … He had a really nice smile,” she said. While they took photos for the column, Piper broke the ice by mentioning her daughter had taken some pictures of her before she left. “I showed him some of the silly photos and when we sat down at the table he said, ‘So, you have a daughter?’ and that was the start of the conversation.”

Before the evening started, Chris put on a button-down shirt and set out open to all possibilities. “If you meet someone [online] and you correspond with them and you meet them in person, I always try to make sure I remember some of the things they told me,” he said. “There really wasn’t any way to prepare for this. You are meeting someone you literally know nothing about.”

His first impression of Piper? “I thought she was lovely, but we were sort of taking pictures very quickly,” he explained. “I think for me the first impression was more when we sat down and got to know each other. We covered a lot of ground, and it was very easy.”

Their conversation spanned from their dogs — Piper has three, Chris has two — to their families of origin to their careers to expanding NATO into Eastern Europe. “We talked for a really long time before even looking at the menus, so the waitress very kindly suggested an appetizer, then we probably talked for another 20 to 30 minutes before looking at the menu,” Piper said.

They continued talking while sharing spicy eggplant with flatbread, red snapper, roasted cauliflower and wine. Nearly four hours after meeting, the date came to a natural end because they both needed to get home to care for their dogs. Chris gave Piper a hug and they exchanged numbers.

“He was very approachable,” said Piper. “I think what stood out to me was that after the awkwardness of the photographs I felt very comfortable with him.” Chris said we did “a remarkable job” matching him: “It was just a lovely dinner. I just thought we connected really well.”

They have been on two more dates and continue getting to know each other.

Tanya Ballard Brown is executive editor for Government Executive and a comedian.

Editor’s note: Because of privacy and safety concerns, Date Lab allows participants to be identified only by their first names.

A reminder from the Date Lab team: Our daters volunteer to participate in the column. While we appreciate a lively discussion assessing our matchmaking skills, please follow our community rules and do not comment on someone’s appearance or write a personal attack.



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