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Date Lab: The evening started with a handshake and ended with a hug

She applied about a year ago; in the interim, she had one eight-month relationship. But timing is everything: When we reached out, Rylee had been single for a few months and was ready to date again. “My goal is to meet new people and see where things go,” she said. “I’m not looking for a one-night stand, but I’m not trying to get married tomorrow.” She added, “I’m dating with purpose.”

We matched her with Emma Klein, a 27-year-old journalist. When Emma applied not too long ago, she had been seeing someone “in a sort of casual, non-defined way,” but it “fell apart.” She found herself reevaluating dating, and Date Lab seemed like an exciting alternative to apps. “I’m tired of having these three-month-long relationships,” said Emma, who also grew up in the area. “I would like to find something stable and more long-term.”

What’s Emma looking for? “In the past, I’ve put a little bit too much emphasis or importance on sharing certain hobbies or interests,” she explained. “But I think the bottom line is that I’m looking for somebody who is kind and caring and dependable.” She also needs her partner to share her “left-leaning values.”

Rylee is seeking an intelligent, ambitious woman. “For me it’s a lot of, once I meet the person, do we vibe?” She generally prefers women who “are more on the feminine side” and also wants to find someone “more liberal-leaning.” Given the time lapse between her application and selection, Rylee had to ask herself: Do I still really want to do this? She eventually came around to looking forward to her “first truly blind date.”

When Emma heard from us, she was more excited than nervous. Her roommate was even more amped, helping her pick out an outfit. Emma chose a black turtleneck, jeans and boots, which is basically the same outfit that Rylee wore. Rylee, though, had a gold chain that her style-savvy sister said reminded her of that ’90s picture of the Rock.

Rylee arrived at Ossobuco in Northwest Washington on time at 6:30 p.m., and Emma was already there. “My first impression was [that] I thought she had very pretty hair,” Rylee said. When Rylee sat down and took off her mask, Emma recalled, “I thought she was really beautiful.” At some point, Rylee told Emma about her sister comparing her ensemble to the Rock’s, and Emma assured her, “Honestly, I love that photo and that outfit. It’s a classic look.”

They started with cocktails at the bar. “I think we were both kind of nervous,” Emma said, but they quickly started trying to suss out what made them compatible enough to match. When they sat down to dinner, they talked about the movies they enjoy (Disney classics, hits from the ’90s), and Emma shared her pop culture recommendations. “I was impressed by her knowledge of film and TV,” Rylee said. “She seemed very creative and well spoken.”

When Rylee realized they both were college athletes — she played lacrosse, Emma was a rugby player — she attempted a joke: “Do you have all your teeth?” As it turned out, “Her two bottom teeth were chipped, and mine are too!” Rylee said with a laugh. “Very niche similarities there.”

“She seemed very sweet and kind, and funny, too,” Emma said. “She was just an easy person to talk to. I felt a little bit at the end like maybe I had talked a little too much.” Emma confessed she has been feeling self-conscious about the effect of the pandemic on her social skills. Still, “I had a great time. We didn’t run out of stuff to talk about.”

“I think that we’re both introverted people, and when you put two introverts together, it’s a toss-up,” Rylee said. “I was a little bit worried at the beginning because it didn’t seem like we had a lot of things in common. But as we started talking I realized: We like the same movies, we’ve had similar experiences in D.C.”

For Rylee, it felt more like friend chemistry, though she acknowledged that she can be reserved on a first date. “I definitely want to get to know her better,” Rylee said. Emma thought there was a little flirtation, but “it’s hard on a first date.” “I was attracted to her, and I could definitely see us hanging out again,” Emma said.

As the evening wrapped up around 9:30 p.m., Emma asked if Rylee wanted to exchange numbers; they did, called their respective Ubers and hugged goodbye. “We started the night with a handshake and ended it with a hug, so that was nice,” Rylee said.

They already went on a second date.

Jessica M. Goldstein is a regular contributor to the magazine and the Post’s Style section.

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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