MS. REBECCA SHEIR
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
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
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
I think I'm better than a monkey. The monkey did a good job though.
Christina Antoniades is Date Lab's head matchmaker. She pairs up couples based on their responses to a quirky online questionnaire.
We ask them for a lot of their likes and dislikes. We ask them who they think their type is.
MS. SHELLY SMITH
The one thing I knew was going to catch was when I had submitted my application it asked for your type.
Date Lab sent Shelly Smith on a blind date a few months ago.
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.
The tall red-headed guy was Brian Fitzgerald.
MR. BRIAN FITZGERALD
We had a great time, probably talked for 90 percent, ate for 10 percent.
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.
We do always ask that.
Was there chemistry? Yes.
I absolutely think that there was chemistry there.
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.
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.
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
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.
On paper, Gray and his date had some things in common. They both mentioned they liked horses.
Yeah, I think she connects better with a horse. Her communication skills were zero.
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…
Maybe 25 minutes, 30 minutes maybe.
…she got up to go to the bathroom and he waited at the table. And waited.
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.
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
We both kind of sometimes forget, though, we met on Date Lab.
In 2010, Date Lab set up Anna Russell on a blind date with Daniel Zielaski.
MR. DANIEL ZIELASKI
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time for a break, but when we get back, using chemistry to keep soldiers safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1
Does that look like it has an explosive in it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2
No, it's empty.
Plus, investigating the agency overseeing the Silver Line project in Virginia.
MR. MARTIN DI CARO
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.
That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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