A few years ago, a college friend described to me his experience on Tinder. The service was already popular by then, but it hadn't yet become synonymous with sleazy come-ons and predatory male speech patterns. This friend—a plucky yuppie with a positive outlook and the face of an old baby—was finishing a graduate degree, and told me Tinder was "a blast." And more than that, a way to meet people! But what am I—what are any of us—supposed to say to these strangers, I asked him, without seeming needy or corny or the other ten thousand ways a straight guy can come across to the rest of his species? He told me he opened, every time, with the exact same line:
"There she is."
There she is? Where she is? Who is she? Me? We? What a dumb, weird thing to say to someone, to a stranger. It makes me feel as weird saying it as it feels for someone to read it. Weirder, maybe. Is it even friendly? The line isn't exactly menacing, it's not overt in any way, and it's completely devoid of innuendo. But it's almost incoherent, the sort of thing a distant species might say while trying to approximate human flirtation. I laughed off his ridiculous advice, assuming this was just Scott being Scott, the sort of thing a guy named Scott would do on Tinder. I pushed There She Is out of mind; I didn't think I'd ever be the kind of person to use a "line" on Tinder or anywhere in life. We make fun of people who do this, right?
But then in December, after being plunged back into the muck of single adulthood, I rejoined Tinder and very quickly realized that, at 28 years old, I still don't know how to talk to other people. So I tried The Line.
And it worked.
Well "worked," within the narrow confines of "got someone to respond."
I spammed dozens of Tinder matches. There's no shame in this, I don't think. Tinder is a factory and you shouldn't pretend it's even vaguely romantic. Turn the wheels; copy and paste. In a thoroughly scientific study of "there she is" (you could swap in any pronoun, I believe) efficacy, I found superior results compared to stock messages of "hey," "oh I see from your pictures that you've also been to Texas," and "do you like baseball because I like baseball."
And trust me—I know what a strike looks like:
I don't blame Devon for never replying to me. Tinder chatting is terrible. The disconnect between "this person looks fine? At least, clean?" and, "I want to speak with this person" is vast, and filled with a huge gulf of blank stares and aborted dialogues. As much as I might complain, it's much worse for women, for whom the conversation problem is so terrible that some founding ex-employees have created an alternative that provides rules for post-match interaction: Women have to speak first, or the match vanishes.
On Tinder, where I am still able to approach women brave enough to face an army of unfiltered straight men, my options are limited: "Hey" is awful, "hi" is pathetic, "heyyy" is juvenile, "yo" is lazy. Even good old "hello" has a distinctly psychopathic character in black-on-grey. You run out of word options after a couple days, but the procession of vaguely attractive faces is built to last for months. Matches stack up like dishes, and what's supposed to be my flirty, lighthearted new beginning becomes a chore I made for myself. You have to undo its seriousness.
"There she is" does that perfectly. It's just cheesy enough to break the ice without scaring the object of your affection away. It gives her a wide range choices in response. And best of all, The Line is a goofy wink at the absurdity of swiping through Tinder's vast library of human beings. It's perfect enough—short, to the point, not too boring, not too gross, does not feature the word "pussy"—that I bet it would work not just for straight men but for people of all genders and sexualities. As long as you're okay with feeling just a little bit gross.
But remember: you're already using an app that automates human interaction based on swiping your finger, so we're dealing with degrees of interpersonal alienation here. If I've resigned myself to using software as a means of possibly having sex, I'm pretty far gone—so why not say something strange, unsexy, and unique?
"There She Is" is odd without being creepy, charming and altogether sexless. You can't put your finger on it, but it will shock you both into the remote possibility of an organic conversation simply because no one else is dumb enough to say something like that. People like singular dumbness, I think. I hope. Maybe I'll still die in the dark and by myself, but I can leave this rock knowing I resolved to stop saying "hey," and feel briefly more alive through a shared sense of smartphone discomfort. Here we are.
Just—don't try using it yourself. I'm pretty sure I ruined it for everyone:
Image by Jim Cooke, photo via Shutterstock