The story behind Courtney Laughlin's epic 7-hour 'Date Lab' Zoom

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Nina Mandell
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Courtney Laughlin on her epic 7-hour 'Date Lab' date originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

For loyal readers of the popular Washington Post column “Date Lab” – where two singles agree to be set up on a blind date and then dish about how it went – the headline “They Talked For Seven Hours On Zoom. Really” was a sure sign that wedding bells must be in the future for last week’s participants.

But for Courtney Laughlin, a hockey analyst who also co-hosts a podcast with NBC Sports Washington Capitals analyst (and her dad) Craig Laughlin, it wasn’t that simple.

Laughlin went through a tough breakup in December of 2019 and was just getting ready to get back in the dating world when the pandemic hit. She had heard about Date Lab from a friend who had had a great time participating in it earlier, so when the column sent out requests for nominations earlier this year (specifically, on her birthday) she asked a group of friends to nominate her.

Within a week or two they found her a date.

“Everyone was so supportive because it’s been so hard to get back out there and date even in a pandemic,” she said.  “So it was one way to meet somebody. We’re all craving that human connection and interaction so yeah it was just a way to see if I could find that with somebody.”

(Her dad, for the record, she’s not sure still understands what’s going on with this whole thing.)

She spoke to NBC Sports Washington about what happened next. This interview has been condensed.

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NBCSW: So (you had) one of the most epic dates in Date Lab history – seven hours on FaceTime?

CL: It was Zoom. It was crazy. I’ve read some of the (article’s) comments - it’s so hard not to read them and I’m so used to reading the comments and just laughing at them. I’m reading the comments and it’s like how did you spend seven hours on Zoom?

Honestly, I think part of it was – and again this is what the Date Lab article didn’t really explain – Andrew was the second guy besides my dad and my brother and friends that I had talked to that wasn’t my ex-boyfriend. Because I was with (my ex) for three years, it took me a year to date, so by the time this (happened), I had gone on one date before this in real life, maybe in January and this date was in February. 

So I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to guys or even figure out how to date again or what I even want when it comes to dating. So for me there was a comfort, there was an ease, we had so much to talk about. I remember looking at the clock (and seeing) oh my god it’s midnight. And we had breaks and we ate and we were like 'let’s take a 10-minute break and circle back.' I think because it was so nice to talk to somebody. We had so much in common, there was an ease to it.

NBCSW: So then you guys, according to the Date Lab article, went on a socially distanced date when he came to D.C. What did you guys do?

CL: We went to the Other Half brewery in Ivy City and we were there for a couple of hours. It was great conversation, there were a lot of laughs. I think there’s just an ease with both of us in terms of talking to one another and again, I don’t know if (it’s because of) the pandemic, but I think there’s a lot of people out there – we’re humans and we like that type of connection with somebody. We’re not meant to be isolated.

There was definitely a connection in the types of things we could talk about and be vulnerable about pasts and talk about likes and dislikes. But the one big caveat is that he does not live here. He lives in Ohio. 

NBCSW. Yeah. So what's happening now?

CL: I mean, look. It’s hard because he lives in Ohio. And I’m very cautious at this point in my life, being 33, to not jump into something and not move across the country for someone. Maybe if you had asked me when I was 25 I would have said ‘sure yeah everything’s great’. And he’s in a similar position. We still chat, we still text. I know he has some time off in the summer because he’s a teacher, to come back here but I think it would be crazy for me, especially given my past – and not that my past has to dictate everything – to just like jump in with two feet. I basically had a rip current break me apart in my past relationship – again this is the second guy I’ve dated in four years – so for me I think I’m a little bit more cautious and I’m not quite ready to just dump my heart on a sleeve and say ‘here, let’s go run off into the sunset.'

I don’t think it’s as romantic as everybody would like it to seem. I know that’s so sad to hear. But there are realities and things that make it more complicated.

NBCSW: But you guys are still talking.

CL: Yeah. We’ll text. Call here and there. But it’s kind of like living separate lives and it’s so hard to say what will happen. 

NBCSW: Yeah. Well that’s a bummer. I think you know from reading the comments from Date Lab commentators that they’re all going to be super bummed that you guys aren’t married now. What’s your advice for the next person on Date Lab or just on a first date?

CL: I think it’s just no matter where you are in your life, just be you. I think that’s one of the things that was most refreshing for me. I was myself. I was a hot mess. We had some wine. I was drinking. I told him about my ex, I told him about my mom who’s in cancer remission. I even mentioned – and I think they wrote it in the article – this is me, this is all of me, I think I’m kind of at a point in my life where I think this is it. I think that was refreshing for me. I had that confidence that I hadn’t had in the last year to say this is me this is Courtney and not hide that. I know that’s so hard to do sometimes – a lot of the comments on the Date Lab were 'How do you even talk for seven hours, run for the hills' – but I’m like I like to talk.

That’s me. I enjoy talking to people and getting to know people.

You’ve got to be you and you’ve got to be open and truthful to who you are and the right person will be open and accept that. I feel positive for the direction we’re going for all the single people out there, people want to date again. I think that was another eye-opening experience for me. Yeah people are ready to get back out there again whether its through Date Lab or online dating I think people are eager to start getting that part of their life back.