Date Lab: Sharing The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Blind Dating (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Date Lab: Sharing The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Blind Dating

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
So now that Gina Chersevani has taught us how to get ourselves in the mood, let's talk about another crucial step of romance, dating. Each week for the past six years the Washington Post has been sending strangers out on dinner dates and then writing it up in a popular magazine feature called Date Lab. The results range from delightful to disastrous. So what exactly is it that sparks chemistry between two people? Jacob Fenston brings us this look at the science of matchmaking.

MR. JACOB FENSTON

00:00:30
Turns out it's actually not a science. In fact, a few years ago, the matchmakers at Date Lab decided to let a monkey pick that week's couple.

MR. JACOB FENSTON

00:00:43
That's from a video on the Washington Post website. The date turned out really well, actually. Better than a lot of dates arranged by humans.

MS. CHRISTINA ANTONIADES

00:00:53
I think I'm better than a monkey. The monkey did a good job though.

FENSTON

00:00:56
Christina Antoniades is Date Lab's head matchmaker. She pairs up couples based on their responses to a quirky online questionnaire.

ANTONIADES

00:01:03
We ask them for a lot of their likes and dislikes. We ask them who they think their type is.

MS. SHELLY SMITH

00:01:09
The one thing I knew was going to catch was when I had submitted my application it asked for your type.

FENSTON

00:01:14
Date Lab sent Shelly Smith on a blind date a few months ago.

SMITH

00:01:17
I had put the Brawny paper towel man as my dream man. So sure enough, this tall red-headed guy walks in, I'm like, oh, I don't even have to guess, he's totally for me.

FENSTON

00:01:29
The tall red-headed guy was Brian Fitzgerald.

MR. BRIAN FITZGERALD

00:01:31
We had a great time, probably talked for 90 percent, ate for 10 percent.

FENSTON

00:01:35
The morning after the date, Christina Antoniades or another Date Lab reporter interviews the daters over the phone to see how it went. And they always ask about chemistry.

ANTONIADES

00:01:44
We do always ask that.

FITZGERALD

00:01:46
Was there chemistry? Yes.

SMITH

00:01:47
I absolutely think that there was chemistry there.

FITZGERALD

00:01:49
Chemistry, you know, from an academic standpoint, you could have one explanation, but in terms of a romantic explanation, it almost is the same thing. It's watching two agents interact.

SMITH

00:01:59
Each person's got to have certain components and either those components click, and poof, there's your love potion number nine or those components don't click.

FENSTON

00:02:08
For Smith and Fitzgerald, things clicked on that first date. Eventually though, the chemistry fizzled. But occasionally, when Date Lab puts two people together, there is an intense chemical reaction, intensely bad. Years ago, on one date the daters hated each other so much they both rated the night a zero, on a scale of one to five. But in the annals of bad dates, that one may have been topped by the date Jack Gray went on last October.

MR. JACK GRAY

00:02:33
You know, I didn't have high expectations, but I figured it would be fun and, you know, the Washington Post was generous enough to pay for our meal.

FENSTON

00:02:42
On paper, Gray and his date had some things in common. They both mentioned they liked horses.

FITZGERALD

00:02:47
Yeah, I think she connects better with a horse. Her communication skills were zero.

FENSTON

00:02:53
The woman in question declined an interview, but told the Washington Post, "He was just completely and totally and 100 percent not anything I would be interested in." So after a few minutes of tense conversation…

GRAY

00:03:05
Maybe 25 minutes, 30 minutes maybe.

FENSTON

00:03:08
…she got up to go to the bathroom and he waited at the table. And waited.

GRAY

00:03:12
I figured when she didn't come back in ten minutes I was pulling the plug. You know, I sent a waitress in there to look for her and she said, no, didn't find anyone.

FENSTON

00:03:21
The woman had slipped out of the restaurant, without saying anything. The people behind Date Lab say there's about a 40 percent success rate, if success is wanting to go on another date with a person. But there are some really successful dates that maybe make the whole experiment worthwhile.

MS. ANNA ZIELASKI

00:03:37
We both kind of sometimes forget, though, we met on Date Lab.

FENSTON

00:03:39
In 2010, Date Lab set up Anna Russell on a blind date with Daniel Zielaski.

MR. DANIEL ZIELASKI

00:03:44
We just had a blast. I didn't want that night to end. It was like we were in Vegas. You know, time was just flying by.

FENSTON

00:03:50
They stayed out so late on that first date, they both had to call in sick to work the next day. A few days later, they went on date number two.

ZIELASKI

00:03:56
We were together like 13 hours, like I didn't go home until like midnight again. I think, like, after the third date we were like together.

ZIELASKI

00:04:03
I don't know if there was one moment when I said to myself, like, this is the person, you know, that early, that I want to be with forever, but I certainly said to myself, this is the person I want to be with. I mean, if every day could be like this, why wouldn't you want to be in that situation every day?

FENSTON

00:04:19
Anna Russell is now Anna Zielaski. The two got married in June in Missoula, where they're both now studying at the University of Montana. So far, Date Lab has engineered more than 300 dates. That's led to a total of three weddings, minus one divorce. Christina Antoniades, who's been working for Date Lab since the beginning, says one thing she's learned is that people don't always know what they want in a partner.

ANTONIADES

00:04:41
We do, we have a lot of people who say I want tall, dark and handsome, (laugh) a lot of women. And, you know, I always am thinking, that maybe that shouldn't be a criteria.

FENSTON

00:04:50
Because if Date Lab sticks you with a short bald guy, you might just hit it off and end up getting married. It's happened before. I'm Jacob Fenston.

SHEIR

00:05:01
Do you have a dating horror story or the opposite, did you find lasting chemistry from a chance encounter? We want to hear all about it. Send an email to metro@wamu.org.

SHEIR

00:05:24
Time for a break, but when we get back, using chemistry to keep soldiers safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1

00:05:29
Does that look like it has an explosive in it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2

00:05:30
No, it's empty.

SHEIR

00:05:31
Plus, investigating the agency overseeing the Silver Line project in Virginia.

MR. MARTIN DI CARO

00:05:36
But then she was hired to a special job created just for her at MWAA for $180,000 a year. And this situation has never been fully explained.

SHEIR

00:05:45
That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.

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00:05:49
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