News & Politics

Dating Diaries: Mark Drapeau

Want to know what dating in Washington is really like? We do. We convinced several local singles to share their dating adventures with us over the next few months. Stay tuned for their tales and opinions, and weigh in with your own thoughts. Today we intr

Editor's note: What follows below are excerpts of an interview with the participant, and not a piece written by him. 

Mark Drapeau, 33.

Lives in: DC.

Makes a living: Scientist, writer, consultant.

Background: Originally from western Massachusetts, I used to run track and cross-country. I was always very smart and really wanted to become a scientist, so I picked a small university that had good lab access for students. For graduate school, I went to University of California at Irvine, where I did research on animal sexual behavior. I looked at how fruit flies perform courtship rituals and found that females like a certain type. I spent a lot of time thinking about how that relates to other animals, and it influenced my ideas about men and women. There are a lot of analogies.

Later, I got a National Institutes of Health grant to fund some research at New York University, but a year in, I was completely bored in the lab. I got a grant and came to DC to work on global-health and biotechnology issues for an internal think tank with the government. About six months after I arrived, my boss and mentor got cancer and had to spend a year or so in the hospital. I ended up taking over after not too long, which was hard and a lot of work. He passed away in April.

Around the same time, I got interested in new media and social-software tools. After my fellowship ended, I signed on full-time to study social-media tools and how the government can incorporate them into things that it does. I tell really important people in the government what that space is. I go to social-media events as the face of government.

Dating history: I was a little bit of a late bloomer and didn’t date too much in high school—I was busy with track and being the student-body president. I was popular in every circle but didn’t really belong because I’m too eclectic. By the end of high school, I just wanted to go to college.

College was different—I explored, experimented, and learned a lot. My first girlfriend in California was Vietnamese—our relationship lasted about a year. Then there was a Persian girl, but we had a different set of priorities and I met her at the wrong time. I think both of them were not mature enough to have what I wanted in a relationship.

I dated a lot in New York—it’s not hard to meet people in Manhattan, but it can be very hard to bond with someone there. Since I moved to DC, I haven’t been out on the dating scene with everything that was going on with work. When I get distracted by big life things, I peter out of the dating scene. I don’t go from three dates to one—I go from four to zero, and sometimes I leave the scene entirely for months.

I’m making an effort, and it’s not hard for me to get dates. I got back on, and I have four dates lined up. That’s too much, but I wanted to make a mental shift as a way of getting back into it. I don’t necessarily want to do it all through Match, but it’s a good way to supplement meeting people.

Your type: I have a type, but I don’t want to say it because I think it’s limiting. The looks thing to me is about how you carry yourself, it’s about your overall appearance. I like people who are put together and sexy, but not too suggestive. I think that you can be very confident as a woman without putting it in someone else’s face. A lot of women I know who are confident and pretty have trouble balancing those two things. They can’t be confident in their intelligence without telling you about it.

I dislike people who are overbearing or snobbish or have an overly optimistic sense of their self-worth. Unless you’re on the cover of the New York Times or Time magazine, we’re all pretty much the same. I don’t like people who have a heightened sense of self. I certainly don’t. I’m not one of those people trying to impress you with everything I say. I find those things a turnoff.

Celebrity crush: Sarah Michelle Gellar. I talked to her briefly right before she got with Freddie Prinze Jr. She’s not only very nice and very classically pretty, but she’s also very intelligent, from what I can tell.

Things that sweep you off your feet: Simple gestures. I’m very cerebral. So when someone surprises me in even the smallest way, that sweeps me off my feet. If I showed up for a date and they had a flower for me, that’d be killer.

Finish these sentences:
My high school prom was . . .
. . . nonexistent. I went to my junior prom but not my senior prom. I was over high school. My junior prom was fine.

Happily ever after is . . .
. . . professional writer on Catalina Island.

Romeo and Juliet is . . .
. . . a tale of romance from times well behind us, meaning I think chivalry is dead.

A deal breaker is . . .
. . . body odor.

Sarah Palin is . . .
. . . an interesting woman.

Hillary Clinton is . . .
. . . another interesting woman. They’re both fascinating to watch. I don’t love either one of them, but I don’t hate either of them.

Tunes: Hard-rock music

TV: I like any show about someplace I previously I lived. I love Gossip Girl, Nip/Tuck, and House.

Movies: Action/adventure-type stuff—anything by Tom Clancy, anything Harrison Ford has ever done. On the lighter side, I like humor such as Kevin Smith.

Books: The last great book I read was Chasing Harry Winston by the woman who wrote The Devil Wears Prada. I like reading things from a woman’s perspective. I read a lot of scientific books, such as ones by Michael Crichton. He’s one of my writing idols.

Restaurant: Proof. It’s just outstanding.

Bar: Rosa Mexicano.

Drink: If I’m sipping, I’ll have a bourbon. If I’m out having fun, I like fruity martinis—lemon drops and apple martinis. With the new influx of wine bars, I’ve been going to those places a lot. I like a spicy, heavy red wine.

Sport: To watch, NFL football—I’m a Patriots fan—or indoor men’s volleyball. To compete, traditionally I’ve been a runner, but more recently I’ve gotten into playing squash.

Due to the response received in comments on this post, Mark Drapeau asked if he could write in and respond. Here are his words:

Washingtonian was nice enough to allow me some space to write about myself after my profile generated lots of comments and controversy.

After a very stressful year that saw me adjust to a career shift, then to running an office and acting as hospital liaison while my boss suffered with cancer and eventually died, to working seven days a week creating a new niche for myself in the aftermath, I thought that Dating Diaries would be an intriguing experience to have with my personal life as things started to get back to normal.  Given my scientific research background on sexual behavior, I also thought it would be an interesting experiment to conduct on myself – to analyze my own dating habits.

Intellectual, precise, and combative are all words used to describe me.  But so are shy, modest, and thoughtful.  I'm complex, and as people living in this political city should know, complexity doesn't come across well in sound bites.  Combining interesting and misunderstood yields someone you should follow over the long term to get a true sense of their essence.

Yes, it's true that sometimes I mix plaid and stripes (not always wrong), drink martinis (loosen up!), watch Gossip Girl (great date convo), and analogize animal courtship to dating (yuppies are apes in cashmere).  But so what?  Like Jerry Seinfeld said, most people seem "undatable!" from your vantage point.  Even if you don't like me, those quirks make me eclectic, unique and remarkable, and I like that about me. 

Throwing myself out in public in an authentic and transparent way normally wouldn't appeal to me, but as my life and career have changed, I have been more open to trying different things.  So here I am.  Come get me.

Previous daters: Kate Searby

Check back tomorrow at to meet more of our daters.