Straight Lab: The Washington Post’s Date Lab Struggles to Make Gay Dates
The lack of applicants can’t be helping to draw more in. Especially when the dates that do make it to print are so awkward. A complete recap of the brief history of Date Lab’s same-sex efforts:
• In the Dec. 10, 2006, issue, Dan Kaufman and Robert Falk, the couple’s first same-sex match, failed to connect at Poste. “I went in expecting somebody with more similar interests,” Falk said. He rated the date a “5” anyway. “I had a great time, and that’s all you can expect, right?”
Right. After he won a “re-date” contest for the magazine’s Feb. 11, 2007, issue, the Post was forced to set Kaufman up with another of the pool’s slim pickings. Kaufman immediately recognized the guy. “I’d actually seen his profile on Gay.com, so I knew a little about him,” Kaufman said of his match, Michael David Panzera. “He seemed like the kind of person I go for.” Panzera’s first impression was less impressed: “All of a sudden I’m thinking, ‘There’s this human being that I have to talk to for the next hour and a half,’” Panzera said. At date’s end, “We did talk about sharing some e-mails,” Kaufman said.
• Matched for the Nov. 11, 2007, issue, bisexual Alana Hurley and lesbian Lauren Martella managed to hit it off at Locanda, despite working from one of the magazine’s smallest dating pools. Perhaps that’s because D.C.’s lesbian scene is a small dating pool to begin with: “I hadn’t been on a date in two years,” Martella said. “It’s hard to meet other women in D.C.”
• In the Jan. 20, 2008, Date Lab, Bob Baden and Michael Upright met at Logan Circle’s Rice for the air-hug date. They recognized each other, too. “In the gay world, everybody knows everybody,” Baden said. “He looked familiar. I’ve seen him around.” Being gay ended up being the pair’s only common ground: By the end of the date, they had resorted to chatting up the “four really hot young women sitting next to us.” If Baden and Upright were to run into each other again, “I’d recognize him and say, ‘Hey,’” Upright told Date Lab.
And that, at least until Aug. 1, is that.
Periodically, McGrath makes efforts to boost the applicant stream. On April 22, Date Lab placed a call for lesbians on its Facebook page. “She’s smart and adventurous and looking for a woman who’s girly and outdoorsy,” the note read. “Know someone who fits the bill? Tell her to apply at datelab.washpost.com.” McGrath admits, though, that this hardly ever works. The smart-and-adventurous type will stay filed away in the dating pool until a suitable woman submits an application. “I suspect it’s a chicken/egg situation,” says McGrath. “We can’t make a same-sex match because we don’t have enough gay/lesbian applicants, but gays/lesbians aren’t applying because they haven’t seen a same-sex couple in Date Lab and think it’s just for straight people.”
But McGrath says she desperately wants gay and lesbian couples to apply, even if the magazine may not give them much of a shot at love: “I can emphatically say it is not just for straight people.”
Illustration by Brooke Hatfield