He likes “indie girls,” he told me, and “intellectual girls” and women who like the site Man Repeller — which means, apparently, women with strong opinions and quirky taste.
Leading up to the date, he was a little nervous “about the quasi-public nature” of it. His friends had told him Date Lab was a big deal. Those same friends, once they heard his date would be at Succotash, an upscale Southern eatery in Penn Quarter, also “forced me to be more dressy than I would normally present myself,” Jack said. (He wore pants with a pattern and a white button-up shirt.)
Then he set out to meet Annika Bergstrom, a 27-year-old medical student who is gravitating toward specializing in infectious diseases and who, besides traveling, has not had a lot of leisure time. Annika had “met a friend of a friend who had done Date Lab,” she said, and it seemed “like something fun. And a way to put myself out there.” She added: “In the past, I’ve looked for just getting to know people, fun and dating around. I’d say now I’m looking more for a relationship.”
Annika spent the afternoon before the date multitasking as only a med student can: preparing for a test, visiting the dentist and trying on outfits with friends. She headed to the restaurant in jeans, a black-and-white polka-dot top and a jacket.
Jack was late due to Metro delays. When he arrived Annika had already ordered herself a glass of pinot noir. Jack ordered an Old-Fashioned.
“He looked really nice. I thought he was attractive and dressed nicely,” said Annika. “I gravitated towards his glasses” because they “made him look polished and intelligent but a little quirky.” They hugged hello.
The doctor and the data scientist. The pairing seemed ripe for a Netflix series on science and love. Except, in this case, for the love part.
Both quickly saw a big difference in the way they approach life. Jack is all about hobbies. He bakes (every week a sourdough from scratch — one was proofing on his counter that very night), DJs, gardens and loves live music (Big Thief is his favorite band). Annika mostly studies. When she gets downtime she goes to performances at places like the Kennedy Center. Jack loves the 9:30 Club, Songbyrd and Black Cat. Their only overlap was liberal politics. For Annika that’s a family tradition; for Jack it’s a departure.
Initially, they also had different reactions to their age gap, which Jack found “a little jarring.” He said, “I don’t have a whole lot of experience dating much older women than me.” Annika wasn’t much bothered by it.
The pair ordered cornbread with honey, then steak entrees and dived into a discussion of his job and her school. “He was really easy to talk to,” said Annika, who called herself extroverted. Her impression was that he was really smart. “He did a really cool way of explaining” his job, she said. “He investigates what kind of mechanical failures [Navy ships] could have, and he has done a lot of coding and data in the past. It’s not something I’m familiar with, but it sounded pretty cool.”
Jack noted, “Not a lot of my friends are in med school, and I studied math. … I wanted to really know about that and then see what her hobbies were — but I guess with med school you don’t have as many.”
“Med school consumes so much,” Annika told me. For example, she used to sing in choirs but recently took a break. She also does volunteer work for opioid harm reduction. She wondered if Jack was disappointed that she didn’t have other hobbies.
Before they knew it, three hours had gone by. “She was so pleasant to talk to it didn’t feel it was dragging on,” Jack said. But neither had felt a romantic spark, and after they shared some hummingbird cake, it was time to go. Annika had a test in the morning. Both were tired. They went a little over budget, and Jack picked up the difference.
In the end, he said, “we weren’t a great match, not because of the age but who we are as individuals.”
They walked together to the Metro. As the trains pulled in, they exchanged numbers. Then they jumped onto trains going, as in life, in opposite directions.
Rate the date
Jack: 3 [out of 5]. I had never been on a blind date before. It was fun.
They exchanged a round of texts but nothing further.
Sarah Wildman is a writer in Washington.