In the creative wasteland of Tinder flirting, the great opening line is a lost art.
Tinder launched in 2014, and with 50 million monthly active users and an average of 12 million daily matches, the competition for someone’s attention is steep. Still, friends and colleagues say, guys won’t make an effort to reach out with more than a casual “hi,” “hey” or “hey, what’s up,” or even just an emoji.
One MEL writer describes her intros as “astonishingly the same that give you nothing to go on.” Another notes how guys tend to confuse visual comprehension for genuine perceptiveness: “I have a pic of me drinking a PBR, and nine out of 10 [guys] are like, ‘Nice PBR, I like PBR.’”
Who, they cry, who will meet the challenge and soar high above the ludicrously low bar these lazy horndogs set long ago? Who will provide—as one colleague puts it—literally “anything funny and smart”?
Out of the ashes, a hero rises.
This is Drew, who goes by drewhead118 on Reddit. He writes poems on Tinder. But not just any weak-ass amateur “roses-are-red” bullshit: He writes Shakespearean sonnets and Seussian verse, catered to his match’s specific requests—kind of like a Whose Line Is It Anyway? sketch. Give him a topic and a poetic style and he’ll create something completely unique.
The latest entry in his Tinder-poetry oeuvre was an absolute monster — a Reddit behemoth that earned nearly 100,000 karma points. He posted it on r/Tinder on Tuesday, and … you just need to see it. “That’s it. I’m done,” he wrote. “I’ve actually peaked this time and I’ll never reach these heights again.”
Cheesy, but impressive! He nails the rhyme scheme and the iambic pentameter, which is hard to do—believe me—if identifying stressed and unstressed syllables isn’t your thing.
But it gets wilder and wilder. He’s hidden some surprises in there:
The sonnet is an acrostic that spells out S E N D N U D E S.
But goddamn, wait, there’s even more:
The first letter of each word in his response spells out “wanna smash,” and the first letter of the second word in each line of the poem spells out “phone number pls.” Okay, okay, we get it—clever as hell.
And he got her number. How d’you like them apples?
The feat instantly landed him in Reddit history. With 99,500 points—a wildly impressive figure—his post landed in an upper echelon of upvotes usually reserved for things like President Obama’s AMA — basically, the greatest original content in Reddit history. It’s also the top r/Tinder post of all time.
So who is this guy? And what happens after the DMs?
I reached out to Drew to get the backstory. He’s in his early 20s, an educator in Florida with, amazingly, no formal education in poetry. He’s a genial guy, too, and he was more than happy to talk about modern love, the internet and the nuances of triple meter.
Crucially, he implied it’s not the poems that land him date after date. It’s something more intangible.
Drew says Dr. Seuss got him into poetry, and he’s got a knack for picking up on the meter without needing to diagram out stresses and memorize the difference between iambs and trochees, anapests and dactyls — the technical stuff you learn in a liberal-arts English program. The lines “just kind of tick back and forth in your head like a grandfather clock,” he explains. “Seuss is just one of those rhythms I can kinda slide into. I’m not even sure if all my Seuss poems have the same meter. I just choose a bouncy sounding rhythm and keep it flowing.” Seuss led to Shakespeare; the rest is history.
Are the poems all original? Drew swears it’s so: They’re “baked totally from scratch.” If he’s feeling impatient, “I’ll start right with the end or whatever part I see as the funniest and then write backwards to all the beginning stuff that leads there.”
And does it actually work, you know, date-wise? Totally, although he says his success rate is about the same for convos that don’t end up inspiring sonnets—because they’re busy talking about other stuff. “To be fair, if I haven’t written a poem for a match it’s usually because there was something really interesting about their profile that I’m talking about instead. And conversations on an interesting topic usually go pretty well.”
One poem actually led to a long-term thing. “I had a six-month relationship start from anonymous poetry shenanigans on Yik Yak as well as more than my fair share of Tinder dates from spontaneous sonnets written to order.”
But Drew suggests the best overall tactic for making a legit connection is just … being warm, open and genuine.
It seems easier said than done, though. On Tinder, is it even worth it to extend yourself and open yourself up to one stranger after another? And to work as hard as Drew does to show off his personality: It’s challenging—strike that, it’s virtually impossible — to come up with something clever and original for every new match. So why even try?
Maybe because guys read a lot of conflicting messages about how to perform masculinity online, especially on platforms like Tinder. The whole promise of the modern pick-up artist subculture is that if guys put on the right act and learn the codes and techniques for manipulating women, they too can navigate the dating world with ease, knowing sex is possible via the right chain of psychological tricks.
This philosophy of hacking human connection has seeped its way into the mainstream, where we now learn strategies for gaming an algorithm to increase our sheer chances on Tinder, or faking a personality to look more interesting than we are. But once the act is up, who are we really? Are we actually worth talking to?
“Anything that’s not genuine is bound to show itself as not genuine,” Drew says. “If you’re trying to neg, manipulate or push women into acting as you want, you’re usually not as subtle about it as you think (and other people aren’t as oblivious as you hope). All (and I do mean all) of my romantic success has been rooted in dropping all pretense and showing myself off as sincerely as I possibly can. Finding someone who enjoys being with the real you, despite (or especially because of) your wacky habits and idiosyncrasies? Now that right there is something stable, something worth keeping.”
What’s more, is Tinder causing us to skip that vital step where we gauge compatibility in a partner? If we’re all performing, how do we know if the person on the other side is right for us?
Drew suggests he’s trying to counter-program the superficiality of online dating by making personality a prerequisite as well as hotness. “Every left swipe is basically a pass/fail on one single criterion for a job that takes a hell of a lot of different qualities to do right,” he says.
To that end, it’s not about the poems at all. “Make sure you’re finding the best personality by showing off your best personality. The rest is just gravy.” Of course, a little literary skill doesn’t hurt either.