Date Lab's Fifth Anniversary

Jul 28, 2011

The Washington Post Magazine's Date Lab is celebrating five years of matchmaking adventures" this week. Join editors Amanda McGrath and Christina Breda Antoniades as well as 2009 Date Labbers Megan McKnight and Grant Schafer -- who were recently married -- as they discuss all aspects of Date Lab: How couples are selected, how editors (and participants) define a successful date, where some memorable Date Labbers are now and more.

Today's chat will also feature posts from other Date Lab participants. Submit your question now ...

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Hey gang, thanks for joining us today to talk Date Lab highs and lows. Our experiment in matchmaking launched in 2006; in five years we've had 4,000+ applications, more than 250 dates -- and a whole lot of fun.

Our results, unsurprisingly, are a mixed bag -- we've had complete disasters where the daters never want to speak to their match (or to us) ever again, and we've had wild successes, like Grant and Megan, who got married earlier this month. As we explained in the story, determining what makes a date a "success" is entirely subjective, but we tend to think that if the couple expresses mutual interest in seeing each other again, it's a victory. With that definition, you could say our success rate is about 41 percent. Far from perfect, but not too shabby.

Our story catches up with a lot of our past participants, but certainly not everyone. We e-mailed as many of them as we could yesterday and asked them to share comments on their Date Lab memories and (just for fun) their dating philosophy. We'll be sharing some of the responses throughout the chat -- and to all of you out there who've braved one of our dates, feel free to write in along the way. Plus, early in the reporting process, we sent around a survey (to which about 35 percent of past participants responded); in tallying up the answers to some of the questions, we found that 72 percent would do Date Lab again, 89 percent would recommend Date Lab to a friend, and 31 percent felt chemistry or a "spark" with their date.

It's that mysterious spark that keeps us interested -- it's impossible to properly define, predict or create, but somehow we all still know what it is and that we want it. With that in mind, let's get started.

It's Megan and Grant Schafer here - the newest Date Lab newlyweds. We obviously have good things to say about the Date Lab process, seeing as how it resulted in our marriage, but the most important thing we can say to fans and prospective Date Labbers is keep an open mind. If your type is tall dark and handsome, don't write him off immediately if he's tall, blond, and handsome. It's a fun, crazy experience, so be open and be able to laugh at yourself.

Dear Grant and Megan, This is Elizabeth, the writer who interviewed you after your date. Congratulations! I need to know, though -- when I talked to you after your date Grant said he wanted to kiss you but was too shy, but in this article I hear that Megan initiated a kiss at date's end! Was Grant just being modest with a white lie? Don't worry, I'm not mad -- I'm thrilled for you and wish you all the best. And to everyone else, yes it is very fun to get to ask nosy questions of the daters. Thanks, Amanda and Christina, for all your hard work keeping Date Lab going!

Hi Elizabeth! The kiss didn't happen on the first date - it happened on the 2nd. Grant was right about being shy, so I took the initiative and planted one on him outside the Chinatown Metro.

From Anne Law

Lasting Memory: I am a bit more reserved when meeting someone for the first time, especially if your initial meeting is going to be published in a newspaper! I am still a sucker for chivalry. It's nice to for someone to ask whether they can walk you back to your house. I just remember I was pretty shocked that he just kind of hopped in a cab and took off. Granted I was fine and I didn't need him to walk me home but it would have been nice.

Dating Philosophy: I usually try to keep an open mind and give people a chance. I like to see whether I enjoy talking to someone and whether that conversation is nice and natural. I try to accept people as who they present themselves to be and will go out with them again if I genuinely enjoyed their company and liked being around them. I tend to gravitate towards people who like doing things and are curious about the world so we can go do things together and learn from each other.

Here's the first of the responses from Date Lab alums ...

Any idea if you're going to try to have more same-sex couples?

Yes! We definitely want to. We could use more applicants though. It just greatly increases our chances of making a good match. 

From Anne TeBeest

Lasting Memory: That my broken leg was killing me and that I wished I had taken Vicodin before the date...maybe for multiple reasons.

Dating Philosophy: If I am not super excited to introduce a guy to my friends, I know he isn't the one for me...regardless of how good-looking he may be."

Note to readers: Anne gets the Date Lab trouper award. She went on her Date Lab date despite having very recently had surgery to fix a broken leg. That's dedication.

From Holley Simmons

Lasting Memory: I was contacted via Facebook by a man who saw the article and claimed to have an innocent question about the Date Lab experience. In reality, he thought I was cute and just wanted a reason to talk to me. We struck up a relationship online (I've never checked my email so many times in my life!), and finally met in person. Things didn't quite work out, but it was a very, very exciting point of my dating life. It's amazing how two people can completely hit it off online, and just fizzle when meeting face-to-face.

Dating Philosophy: I believe in spreading the crazy. When I'm seeing one person, I have the tendency to obsess, over analyze, and smother the relationship to death. When there's more than one person in the picture, I tend to look at things in a more balanced sense. Also, never enter a relationship with long-term expectations. Let those develop organically, otherwise things will feel forced or you'll move too fast.

Yup, there seem to be a number of cases where Date Lab led to a relationship ... just not between the two people we matched. Another reason you single readers should apply.

From Mark Shields

Lasting Memory: So, readers at home may not know this, but there's some serious lag time in between the actual date, and the story that runs in the paper. The week after i did my Date Lab date, I accepted a new job, and the story probably didn't actually run until a month or so later -- which mean that I was just in my second week at the new job when the Date Lab story ran. It's sort of an awkward moment to sit down with a new boss and casually mention that you'll be in the Washington Post's weekend mag (I did assure her that my dating life typically does not make headlines).

Dating Philosophy: Meet good people, have fun, let the connection go where it will, don't be a [jerk] and try not to hurt anyone.

Ha! But yes, that's true -- because of The Washington Post Magazine's publishing schedule, there's some lagtime between when the date happens and when it reaches readers.

I get so annoyed when couples seem to be compatible, have a good time together, and each rate the date a 4-4.5, yet, because there's "no chemistry," they don't make contact again. Why does there have to be immediate chemistry? What's wrong with trying to see if friendship blooms into love? Why must there be instant gratification? I think you do a good job with a lot of your matches, but the couples drop the ball.

Yep, those ones break our hearts too. Especially when they go like this. Annie/Andy, if you're out there: Explain.

But in all fairness, you have to take into account that these dates are completely blind -- these people have no reason to be at that dinner table other than Date Lab matching them up.  So I think the obligation to "make it work" is more limited than it is when a date happens more organically. You can probably also factor in that some daters are trying not to hurt the other person's feelings and so they end up giving our reporter a rosier picture of how the night went. But we do our best to break through that to get as honest an account as possible.

We put serious effort into the matches, though. I do wish more people were willing to dig a little deeper to see what it was we liked about them. But that's the reality of dating, no?


I used to work with Matt Duffy, one of the daters profiled here. He was a really nice guy. Matt - if you're reading this - congratulations and good luck for your marriage next month!

From Saranah Holmes

Lasting Memory: I was SO nervous that I got an upset stomach....seriously, it was all I could focus on....that and my fear that the Washington Post was going to pair me up with someone shorter, not funny and just plain so not my type that the whole ordeal would be one long painful evening. Anyway, the stomach ache was there the whole time while I forced myself to eat so that I wouldn't come across as a "woman who doesn't eat" and we didn't order any wine or anything (I'm not a big wine person). That coupled with the fact that The Post sent us to a restaurant normally reserved for the retired set, made for a really uncomfortable night. BUT the guy was tall and nice and it wasn't the worst date ever :)

Dating Philosophy: You have to kiss a LOT of frogs to appreciate when you find the Prince.

Saranah, you're definitely not the first, or last, Date Labber to say, "it wasn't the worst date ever." We will take that as a compliment.

From Ginger Ammon

Lasting Memory: It came across - Matt helping me with the expired decal on my car. Parking tickets will be the death of me.Also - he was such a good-hearted person. Really, just deep-down a good soul.

Dating Philosophy: Getting married is not a priority of mine so I date for a connection in the moment, not with my eyes on tying the knot. That's not to say that commitment and love aren't important to me, I just don't have a plan or timeframe for anything.

Ginger and Matt were the couple set up by Armani the monkey.

A comment ... at some point I realized that all couples are asked the same questions in the post-date interview and I don't think they work for all people. In my opinion, the "initial reaction/was the person your type" beginning focuses too much on a person's supposed "Type". The question that bothers me the most is when you ask them if there was "flirting" or "chemistry". I think that's a bit loaded and makes it look as if no clear flirting = no future, which I don't think is necessarily true whether because of personality or just time to get to know someone better. I'm sure the standard format makes it easier to do the write-up, but I'd like to see something a bit different than people debating whether there was flirting and whether you'd call it flirting. Your thoughts?

You bring up a valid concern. We definitely try to steer clear of formula in the interviews, although there are a few things we just can't get around. Some are a matter of logistics: when did you order food; what did you order; did you get dessert. Some have more to do with the moments in a date that we know to be key: that first impression; about halfway through when you've gotten a feel for the person's personality; the moment you say goodbye. And yeah, we have to ask about chemistry because it's a bit of an uncomfortable topic for some people so they tend to gloss over it (especially if it's not there). But people do have a natural tendency to put a lot of emphasis on chemistry, so we need to know!

From Ron Denson Jr

Lasting Memory: I think one thing that happened that didn't seem evident in the article was the fact that we were actually able to have a good long conversation and enjoy each others' company. I think it was just the "It-Factor" or chemistry that was missing...

Dating Philosophy: I don't really have a concrete dating philosophy. Every person is different, so every date and relationship are going to be different as well; you'll have to deal with that accordingly...I guess you could say my philosophy is "We're all just kind of wandering around in the dark - Just roll with it and have fun."

Thanks Ron!

Hahaha - I see my date with Lauren is winning for best date in the polls! Awesome!

That's right -- don't forget to vote for the "Best of the best" and the "Best of the worst". We kept the dates that led to engagements out of the running for best-best, though ... really, they're their own story.

From Alana Hurley

Lasting Memory: Hmmm...I remember being pleased with how sweet the restaurant staff was, and not feeling like people were staring because we were a same-sex couple (although it may have been because we were in DC). I was also really pleased to see that there were a lot of kind responses in the comments of the Date Lab article - I was expecting to see some flak and I don't remember there being any.

Dating Philosophy: Hah! Uh, my dating philosophy is that I should develop a dating philosophy? Seriously, and this may annoy some people, I'd recommend avoiding Internet dating (the irony) and things that are super-geared towards singles. I feel like it's just way too much pressure. I like the idea of matchmaking services, though, like Date Lab, which went way beyond Internet dating sites and had some pretty in-depth questions. Maybe we need to go back to matchmaking, since I don't have a prying grandmother around to set me up with anybody?

And speaking of alana ...

I do scan the date lab articles, and it seems to me that a vast majority of the people don't see each other again. Or if they are feeling very optimistic, they are "trying to schedule" another date. Seems like the lab experiment needs to quietly disappear...what IS the purpose? People getting a meal and then going home?

But isn't that a reflection of the pitfalls of modern dating? Date Lab isn't a soulmate-machine, it's an experiment in how people interact with one another.

People do seem to have a great interest in watching these interactions unfold. There is no denying it...Date Lab is popular. I think it's because we can all relate. Most people have been on a first date where they felt nervous and excited and hopeful and unsure. And most people have experienced a date where what you expected wasn't what you got -- for better and for worse.  But of course, there are some people who just don't enjoy reading about it. I think that's just the nature of writing for a broad audience. You're not going to interest everyone. 

Why is it that in your column, it is only men asking and risking rejection (which happens most of time)? Why are not women asking men for their number and initiating a follow-up call?

We have certainly had quite a few cases of women asking men for their contact information or initiating a second date. But, you know, there's a loooong social history of putting the burden on men (and judging women who flout that convention). We still have a long way to go though!

No question. Congrats to Megan and Grant!

grant and megan - what were your favorite moments from the wedding?

Good question! My (this is Megan) favorite memories are seeing Grant as I walked down the aisle, listening to the speeches and toasts in our honor, and seeing Grant bound up to me at the end of the night, shirt sleeves rolled up, huge smile on his face, taking me on to the dance floor and saying it was the most amazing night of his life.

Grant:  I would say-reading our vows that we both wrote respectively,  our first dance, the amazing band,  dancing to Al Green's "Let's stay together", and finally looking around at the end of the night and seeing everyone dancing!

From Anna T. Priscilla

Lasting Memory: The article captured my thoughts and experience during the date so very well. A lot more dates don't lead to another than do.

Dating Philosophy: Don't threaten me with love, baby. Let's just go walking in the rain.

I LOVE Date Lab, but have a couple suggestions/comments. Can the Post put an easier to find link to it like the homepage? I know I can "search" for it, but I prefer the old WaPo site with the homepage link. Also, have you given any thought to setting up people who are at a marrying age and more serious about finding a potential mate, rather than fresh out of college early 20-somethings?

I hear ya. For now, if you need to find date lab in a hurry, go straight to -- the fastest shortcut.

We have a much higher number of twentysomethings who apply, for all the obvious reasons. But more than a third of our dates have been with 30-or-olders. And I don't know that older daters are necessarily looking for something more serious than our younger daters, either.

Former Date Labber here. Mark, the same thing happened to me! Even worse, I was starting a job at another magazine! No one mentioned having seen the article and I wasn't about to bring it up, but I was always curious whether someone had... :) Which reminds me of another great Date Lab memory. I was planning to tell my parents about the article since it would be the first time they were learning that I preferred Asian guys to Jewish ones, but my hometown (within shooting distance of DC) beat me to it. A handful of my parents' friends called them to tell them about the story since my parents moved to New Jersey in 2007. On the bright side, it re-connected some old friends! Plus my parents are great, so when I spoke to my dad that day, his response was, "Mazel Tov!" (And later advised that I join a conversion class to meet Asian guys. My question: "Dad, what am I doing in a conversion class?" His answer: "Picking up men, [duh]." xo Dena

Ha! I like your dad's approach, Dena.

From Lauren Bosk

Lasting Memory: I think the article [portrayed us] fairly well. The biggest memory was of my date feeling sick and acting fairly normal in the scheme of things!

Dating Philosophy: I try to give everyone a fair chance. The truth about dating is that you never know when it will work out or not. Especially as I've gotten older, I've tried to be more open about dating and just have fun with it and never give up hope that the right guy for me is out there.

We hear that from a lot of our daters!

From Amy Schultz 

Lasting Memory: I look back fondly on my Date Lab experience because I think it captured me as I see myself: smart, a little sassy, funny, friendly, and open to new experiences. I have friends who are married or in serious relationships who tell me they wish they could have participated in Date Lab. With regard to how the date itself was reported in the magazine, I especially loved the way the reporter described our exchange about sailing; it was perfect and so funny. While I didn't date Jason for much longer after our Date Lab date, I enjoyed the experience and it reminded me what a good first date feels like (even if it doesn't manifest into a relationship.)

Glad you enjoyed it, Amy.

...Alana here our case, I would have loved to continue seeing her, but our schedules were exact opposites (I was working evenings and go to grad school at night, so I pretty much had no nights free for weeks at a time - NOT conducive to dating anybody unless they're a bartender!) Then I went to Europe for a month for a course, and sadly we lost touch....

Thanks for joining us, Alana.

Why don't you ask DLers if they've moved out of the area or if they've begun dating someone else before you send them out on dates?

Well we aren't flying people in for Date Lab. I can only think of two cases where one of the daters wasn't a full-time D.C. resident  -- one who was about to move back to the area anyway, and one who was still here occasionally for work. There have also been a few where a date was going to move away in the near future ... but then, that's D.C.

As for dating someone else ... I don't think I'd send someone out if they told us they were already in a serious relationship, but if they're seeing other people, well, that's part of the dating process. We don't expect them to clear their social schedule just for us :)

I once read a DL where the date was cordial, but they clearly weren't into each other, and did not continue to see each other. However, I thought the girl was 100 percent my type and cute and funny. I've never done online dating, but I would put this akin to reading someone's online dating profile and messaging them. would it be inappropriate to seek contact with her? Maybe via comments section on the article online or some other manner? This is the only time something like this even came close to entering my mind.

Hi Washington, we actually get emails from people hoping to meet particular Date Labbers. We don't give out contact information but we're happy to pass along an email. It's up to them if they want to get in touch. 

Although your date lead to a lifetime of love and happiness, if you were to change something about the date what would it be?

Grant here.  I would have made my flirting more obvious!  Ha! 

Megan here: honestly, and not to sound mushy, I wish the date could've gone longer. I was having such a good time that I didn't want it to end when it did.

Congrats on your marriage. Not to jump on the when are you having kids band wagon or anything, but lets say you were to have children in the future. Will you consider naming them after the Washington Post in some way? Perhaps WaPo as a middle name.

The when are you having kids question starts already! We're still on our honeymoon! Kids are definitely in the future, but who knows when we'll have a little Washington and a little Post

Hi. I really enjoy reading Date Lab, even when things go awry. How much weight do you give to people's physical preferences? It seems like so many DLers dismiss their dates because they're not tall and/or thin enough. Also, do DLers get to specify which ethnic background(s) they'd prefer? Some seem to have strong preferences in that regard, too.

That's always a challenge! It really depends on how great a match they are in other ways. And how far off their preference a person is. We wouldn't ignore height or weight preferences unless there was a pretty strong indicator that they might like the person anyhow. Regarding ethnic background, we don't specifically ask their preferences. Some people include that information; most do not.

Heck, even when we give them exactly what they asked for -- a petite brunette, a lanky guy with a beard, whatever -- they're still not satisfied sometimes.  We pay close attention to people's stated preferences, but we don't immediately exclude potential matches who are missing one or two of those characteristics.

From Jeffrey Staugler

Lasting Memory: The restaurant let us take photos in the back of the restaurant including the kitchen, employees dressing room, and on top of the bar. Oh, and later in the date when we went to the club, we had an awesome time dancing since the club played mostly Madonna and also we were the only two on the dance floor. I was a bit uneasy with the article. I felt they used every quote I had about being gay and not enough content from the actual events of the date. I'm a rambler, so I should have been more mindful as to what I was saying. "Gay it up" was a horrible phrase. The photo in Date Lab's End of the Year summary was awesome though!

Dating Philosophy: Be yourself and don't be crazy. Unless actually being yourself means being crazy. If that's true, then just go with it!

Thanks Jeffrey. We thought that line showed that you guys had a sense of humor about the date.

From Marc Dadigan

Lasting Memory: The date was pretty bad. She was a nice person, but pretty self-absorbed and without much substance despite the fact she was an aeronautical engineer of some sort. I tried to be nice, but I still looked bad. If I had to do it again, I'd maybe just accept I'd be portrayed as [a jerk] and do a more accurate description of boring the Date Lab was.

Dating Philosophy: Unfortunately, at the time of my Date Lab, I had a pretty narrow idea of who I should be with. I have dated a lot of different women since then of all races, backgrounds, sizes and shapes, and I've learned that once you get de-brainwash yourself of society's artificial conceptions of beauty, it's really a person's soul, heart and intellect that's the source of love. So I don't do a lot of casual dating any more. I spend more time building friendships and positive relationships, and just wait for the love bug to hit me.

Thanks ...

From Molly Bohmer

Lasting Memory: The Post Hunt was a ton of fun, and I was kind of bummed to see that Date Lab decided not to do a Post Hunt date this year; I felt the activity really mitigated the nervousness I had going in and I felt lucky that I got to do something fun and different from the typical conversation over dinner. But to be fair, it IS a lot of time to spend with someone you've just met, and if I were paired with someone who was less than awesome, it could've been a rough day. And for the record, I do not think cornhole is an athletic endeavor.

Dating Philosophy: I go into first dates with the attitude that it's an opportunity to get to know someone new, not some test to see if there's instant romance. If the guy can carry an enjoyable conversation and he doesn't look like Nosferatu, I'll gladly go for a second date.

Molly, yeah, we felt after giving it a go (twice) that Post Hunt was just too long for that first date. But we're glad you had fun!


More from Date Labbers ...

From Lauren Beryl Bland

Lasting Memory: My date argued with the waiter over the check, and refused to pay. It was beyond embarrassing.

Dating Philosophy: Be cautiously optimistic.

More ...

I am a middle-aged Date Lab participant who was very conservative in my comments about my date, and was relieved that my date was equally restrained. I have been surprised by how honest many of the Date Labbers have been--do you think it's a generational thing? After all, if someone isn't my cup of tea, I would just as soon pass, rather than dish what exactly is my list of problems with the person. (For example, my date spent some amount of time complaining about others' improper grammar-snooze-and then was reluctant to tip our wonderful server a little bit extra, even though the meal was free. I chose not to share any of this sort of thing.) Along these lines, how much do you edit the comments, and could you share something that might have been considered unprintable before, but now that it's anonymous....DIRT!

Ha, nothing is unprintable! Well, not really,but honestly  everything we're told by daters in our interviews is considered fair game. There were definitely a few times where we suspected more happened than we were being told, but when pressed. Sometimes the daters fessed up; sometimes they clammed up. As for your question about sharing details being a generational thing, I don't think it is. We've had daters of all ages offer pretty frank assessments. It seems like the majority of people who sign up really take it seriously and feel pretty committed to providing an accurate report of the evening. Not that they tell us every complaint, but often I get the sense that even when they'd rather not say they find another person unattractive, they're not interested in lying about it either. So we get an assessment that's at least suggestive of the truth, if not outright brutally honest.

Hi - This question is for all the Date Lab editors. Are any of you single? And if so, have you ever seen a profile and thought you'd like to get to know him/her? It's got to be similar to sifting through hundreds of profiles on an online dating site, except you aren't looking for yourself! As an add-on, I think it would be fun to send the editors out on blind dates for Date Lab. You could each pick dates for each other (assuming any of you are single!). Thanks for 5 fun years - I love reading the articles every week!

Ha! Christina is married, but I'm single. Honestly, I've never opened an application and thought This is the guy for me! Mostly because we're usually going through the questionnaires looking for a match for a specific person, so I've got parameters in mind that aren't my own. Even if I did, I'd never pursue it -- it's a journalistic no-no, plus I'd feel totally creepy and stalkerish.


From Jason Harris

Lasting Memory: Definitely the pushy waiter who made no secret of his desire to be prominently mentioned in our Date Lab article. Thanks for the great service, Lorenzo! I think the whole thing was kind of a "lasting memory" because I had never done something like it before. Blind dates, yes. Blind dates for the world to critique, no! Really, I'm just grateful that I didn't choke. It was definitely a unique experience and very worthwhile. A blind date to remember! And I probably shouldn't share this, but both of us being congressional staffers means that we are pretty sensitive to what gets said about us in the press. So there were a few times where we each had to say "..but this story I'm telling you is off the record." Unfortunately, by the time I talked to the reporter I couldn't quite remember what was on or off. When my date and I talked afterwards she said, "I was careful with what I said about you and only talked to the reporter for about 15 minutes. How about you?" And I said, "Uh-oh, I talked to the reporter for probably an hour and I think I told her everything!"

Dating Philosophy: I need a philosophy?! Aha, okay, I knew I've been doing something wrong all these years. Well, being on the shy side my approach is usually to wait until I know a girl for awhile before asking her out -- like we are friendly through work contact or through mutual friends, etc. Allows time for an attraction to develop, allows time to get to feel like I can trust this person, etc. One time I did try to pick up a girl in a bar but let's not talk about it. I also think a good approach is to go into any given date with low expectations. That is, assume this is just a low-key date with nothing riding on it: could be great, could be bad, but either way don't worry about it. I wish I could always practice what I preach -- I tend to get crushes and then am too nervous! 

Personally, I really appreciated the lobster pics.

From Jennifer Elizabeth Jones

Lasting Memory: Can't remember what I said in the article, but truthfully, from the moment I saw him across the empty dining room of Asia 9, I wasn't attracted to him and 30 minutes later, I was certain of it.

Dating Philosophy: Yeesh, do I need one? I don't know. Be nice. Be adventurous. But most of all, be honest... with yourself and anyone else involved.

More ...

My dad and I have a bit of a datelab "tradition." We make a point of catching up with each other over dinner on Mondays, and one of the first questions is always "Did you read datelab?!" It's a funny little diversion we love to share with each other every week.


Just wanted to say I love reading your (on-line) articles. After all of the [terrible] news going on each day, it's nice to read stories that deal with real human emotions -- things we all go through. Even if matches don't make it, well, to me that's part of the fun of reading. Keep up the good work!

We're the first to admit that Date Lab probably isn't going to be the most important thing you read on a given day. But we hope it's among the most fun.

Maybe you should! Don't think it's a bad thing to make sure the two Labbers you're sending out are still uncommitted to anyone else.

Well, my point is that having been on a date with someone else recently or planning to go on one at some point after Date Lab doesn't mean they're "committed" to anyone.  I think that's just how dating works.

These are the Date Labs I enjoy most; the older people are, the more interesting they are likely to be. I'd love to see more 50-somethings as well as more same-sex couples.

We would too! We do get the greatest number of applications from our 20-something set but we really strive to send out daters of all ages. And, definitely, we're aiming for more diversity. It's always a challenge just given the nature of who applies.

What have people done to stand out in their questionnaires?

It's tricky because any of the questionnaire answers can be used in the article. So people generally try to be funny and fun without embarrasing themselves. We've had a lot of daters who answer super power question (if you could have any superpower, which would you chose) with "The United States" or another country. But we've only had one that I know of who did that without intending to be funny. That's really just how she interpreted the question.

That would be Becky. I loved that answer so much.

From Amy Betor

Lasting Memory: I recall not being initially smitten, but that after a pitcher of sangria, I found my dining companion to be a whole lot more charming. Sangria will do that to ya. I also recall him admitting to being a fan of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants fan, and while I can't recall quite how our conversation wound itself to that point, it's remained with me since. Lastly, I remember we parted with a promise not to throw each other under the bus in terms of rating our date, this included my not mentioning the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants thing, and a mutual agreement to rate well. Needless to say I was a bit shocked to see he'd give our date a 3.25. Though I let his chick flick confession slip, so I guess we both failed at honoring that promise.

Dating Philosophy: I don't know that I have a solid philosophy when it comes to dating, in the past I've been a bit closed-off in terms of approaching people or meeting new folks. In the years since Date Lab, I have tried to shed that and realize that the more opportunities I take to meet new people, the better my odds become for finding a someone special somewhere along the way. Needless to say, despite those efforts, I am still on the journey ... solo. Also -- still don't have that 5- or 10-year plan my date referenced in the feedback, and I think that's just fine.

sangria: the key to all good dates.

Date Lab is always an entertaining read, even if the matches don't ultimately work out. And it is so true that, just because on paper (or in an online profile) two people seem to match, the "it" factor is frequently missing when they meet. Happened to me often during the nine (!) years I dated on and off (via after exiting my long marriage. There were no second dates in many instances. There is hope, however. I finally met a wonderful guy and we have been together for six years. Don't give up on love, even in DC!

Right! And you're also right about paper-versus-real-life not always matching up. I've always wanted to do ... something ... that would involve us actually meeting or interviewing people before making the match. I suspect our impressions would be different that way.

From Tadina Ross

Lasting Memory: I remember thinking about what I was going to wear several days ahead of time. I went out and bought a new dress. When I showed up and my date was in jeans, I was a little disappointed, not in him but in myself for over-thinking the whole thing.

Dating Philosophy: Learn to be happy with yourself before you start looking for someone to make you happy.

More ...

From Mike Kirwan

Lasting Memory: Overall, I just remember having a great time. I was nervous going into it, but as soon as we sat down and started talking, the conversation flowed. We did a lot of laughing, and even though we didn't end up seeing each other again, it was still a very fun and memorable night.

Dating Philosophy: Good things happen to good people. It's more of a life philosophy, but I think it's applicable here too.

From Michael Hutshneker

Lasting Memory: Knowing that everything you say and do can be written in the paper definitely put me on edge a little bit. I was not as comfortable with the whole situation as I may have seemed. Had this just been a blind date with no "big brother" I think it could have possibly worked out.

Dating Philosophy: If you go through all the "standard" first date topics on the first date something isn't going right.

Megan and Grant, As someone who doesn't know you at all and didn't attend your wedding, can you tell us what you've been up to on your honeymoon?

Hey John Cain! We've had a great time on our honeymoon. We started off with a week in Greece (which is safe right now, btw, and not very crowded at all due to the protests), and then two weeks in Turkey. The Mediterranean has been beautiful and amazing and we have great tans to show for it, and now we're in Paris, and head to London for five days on Saturday.

I'm curious what about megan and grant's profile matched them up? Were they other contenders for the same date, if yes, how was the choice for Megan and Grant for Datelab finally made?

Actually, we did not have a great match for Grant until Megan's application came in. Fate?

I for one am not surprised that DLers who don't feel the sparks flew during their dates don't want to hang out with the people they were matched up with after their dates. It's such an artificial way to meet someone. I'm surprised that so many DL commenters seem to think the DLers should try to become friends and see if a relationship develops. Maybe these commenters are incurable romantics, or maybe they haven't been on blind dates themselves.

Perhaps ...

From Christopher Dum

Lasting Memory: The one thing that sticks with me is the backlash that we got from readers, accusing us of being racially biased in our dating. It sparked a bunch of conversation on blogs and in future articles about Date Lab. I think what was lost on the readers was the second part of the sentence when I said, "I've really only dated white girls. But I don't exclude based on race." I went to a mostly Jewish high school that had about 10 Asians in it and it just so happened that I didn't hang out with many Asians in college. So it seemed to me like Date Lab was doing a little experiment of its own and readers just sort of jumped at the bait. One other reader commented on the fact that I should've told Date Lab I was moving (and I do see that there is now a place to indicate that) but I almost forgot that I had submitted because Date Lab contacted me months and months after I filled everything out. Maybe I should have said something when I was contacted, but I'll be honest that a night out with someone new on the Post's dime seemed like an exciting way to close out my time in DC. So when everything came together, I decided I would go enjoy myself, meet a new person, and give the readers something to satisfy their appetites for gossip and judgement of strangers. I guess it worked.

Thanks, Chris ...

Why would you go on Date Lab if you weren't willing to speak candidly about your experience? Seems pretty counter-intuitive to the transaction taking place: you get a free date, WaPo gets the details.

I think it's a fair trade!

Curious if now you get other friends, etc. who want you to set them up, seeing as your experience turned out so well? And, I think your story is great--just wait until your 50th anniversary, what a story you can tell!

Thanks for your kind note! We don't get friends who want us to be matchmakers, actually, but I think we'd be good at it. I think what our friends get from this experience is that they should be open to opportunities. You never know when you're going to meet the person who will be your husband/wife. We certaintly didn't think we'd meet our future spouses when we went out on the date lab date.

I think I've read almost all the Date Lab articles and I really enjoy reading them (I married my high school sweetheart so have never really dated--it's fun to read about everyone's experiences). The only bad date I remember was the one with K. Bryan Johnson and Theresa Mack. He was such a jerk and she was such a sweetheart. If you give anyone a do-over, it should be her. BTW, how do you pick the restaurants? I'm always amused that the restaurant staff is so into the whole experience. Looking forward to the next article!

Theresa has moved out of the area, although she said maybe be up for Date Lab again. We have someone who on staff who chooses the restaurants (and does an awesome job making sure our dates go off without a hitch!). We always pay for the meal and drinks but aside from that we've had varying degrees of restaurant staff involvement in our dates.  For one date, I believe the staff sprinkled rose petals on the table (creeped the daters out a bit, honestly). In other cases the staff just tries to make the night a hit by helping out with photos or just being extra friendly. Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, the restaurant staff is a little confused about the whole thing. Usually our couples roll with it and everything works out in the end. 

I have followed Date Lab for the past 5 years from Seattle. (I was dating someone from DC) What did you find the toughest thing about matching people? Also, with race how did you ensure that mixing particular races was OK?

The toughest thing is knowing which of a person's stated preferences is most important. So, someone says their type is "a tall, dark and handsome guy liberal who volunteers on the weekend." If he's handsome but not tall and a Liberal who volunteers, is that enough? That's the lab! With race: we won't usually ignore someone's stated preference. But often people do not state a preference and in that case we really try to match them without race being a factor.   

My youngest daughter met the wonderful young man she married on eHarmony. I think people who were looking for serious relationships, as both of them were, would go to that, or, or rather than DateLab. I didn't get the impression most of the DateLabbers were looking for The One.

I think you may be right about that. We do tend to get a lot of applicants in their 20s and many of them say they are just dating for fun or for a relationship but not necessarily THE relationship. 

From Douglas Farrar

Lasting Memory: I remember thinking, "Why in the world did you guys set me up with this woman?"

Dating Philosophy: The heart wants what it wants. No use fighting it.

Sorry Douglas! Sometimes, obviously, we are a bit off. Sometimes way off. 

How soon after the date are they done?

The articles are usually published three to four weeks after the date, although that can vary. 

Thanks for joining us, everyone. Don't forget to apply to Date Lab, and hope you're following us on Twitter and Facebook. And always feel free to reach us by e-mail, too:

In This Chat
Megan and Grant Schafer
In 2009, Megan McKnight told Date Lab she liked "adorkable guys, think Zach Braff ... who are also chatty and affectionate." Grant Schafer, meanwhile, was looking for someone "confident, liberal socially and politically and willing to be a little goofy." We hit the jackpot with this match -- McKnight, 30, and Schafer, 28, got married in July. The couple joins the chat from Paris, where they're enjoying their honeymoon.
Amanda McGrath
Amanda McGrath is the editor of Date Lab, The Washington Post Magazine's weekly experiment in matchmaking. And yes, her job is just as much fun as you think it is. She really, really thinks you should apply at
Christina Breda Antoniades
Christina Breda Antoniades is a freelance journalist who helps make matches for Date Lab and has been reporting the Date Labbers' stories since its start in 2006.
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