Opening Gambit

What is an opening gambit I hear you say?  Well, it’s the perfect remark used at the outset of a situation, hopefully with a view to getting you noticed.

Picture the scene, it’s raining, you walk out the doors of a skyscraper in London, and are instantly drenched.  A man, rushes up to you with an umbrella and just holds it over your head, your eyes meet. You smile, say thanks and suggest drinks so you can both dry out (as he’s now drenched).  The perfect opening gambit.

Now picture this scene, you see a cute guy and his first picture has you a lot ‘wow’ so you swipe right (without checking his other photos or his profile) and surprise of surprise… you match! (it’s surprising as I’m rarely attracted to men who are attracted to me). 

Then you wait, because it could be a mistake and you’d like to give the poor guy an opportunity to un-match (this happens more than you might think, even more so if you explicitly say you don’t want a hookup). Then when you’ve waited some more, if they haven’t messaged you, or if you’re the only person who can message first… what do you say?

Sometimes, rarely, I find, it’s really easy to think of something to say.  It’s even rarer that it gets a response, but at least you tried.

I suck at it.

I know, I know, hard to imagine, but I genuinely do.  Not so much in person, but definitely on internet dating, especially if the helpful gent has not put anything in his damn profile.

If you were to meet someone you’d never met before in person, you’d probably start with ‘hello, nice to meet you, I’m…’ followed by a thoroughly British ‘how are you?’.  And you would think the same thing would work online.

And that’s where you’d be wrong.

How it works in reality

If we break down the different apps and how you can communicate with potential matches you can get a sense of the challenge that’s faced:

  • Tinder – both parties have to match for a conversation to be started, either man or woman can start the conversation.  I’ve had 1 guy I matched with start the conversation.  No idea why.
  • Bumble – both parties have to match for a conversation to be started and only the woman can initiate the conversation.
  • Match – Runaway… seriously.  If you’re over a certain age (35), there is a higher number of men who have never been in a relationship on there and seem to think that because you’re on there, you’re on there for them and you MUST want to talk to them.
  • Match Affinity – go get an overproof dish, some petrol, oven gloves & a box of matches.  Place said site into the ovenproof dish, douse with petrol, light and stand well back. I got 50+ men conversing with me like they knew me or had never spoken to a women in their lives. nope.
  • OK Cupid – technically you have to match to have a two way conversation, but you can like someone and send them a message.  This can lead to an awkward messages from guys who are overfamiliar and over confident, a little like the below.  This was an actual message ‘C’ from ‘R’ sent me, under the strangely deluded belief that I would want to talk to him (I really won’t get into how stunningly cringeworthy his profile photo was, but that’s a story for another post).
  • The League – well, if their ‘algorithm’ (a hat with some bits of paper in it), sent me men who were in the UK, or even Europe, and I stood a chance with matching with any of them, I’d tell you.  You get ‘points’ if you go first for the intro.  In essence you need to match with someone to talk to them, but there’s a way around that.
  • Trueview – Zero clues what’s going on with this app, it matches you with people you haven’t chosen to match with so you get all manner of weird messages.
  • Happn – both parties need to match to start a conversation and either man or woman can start the conversation, but they’ve got a nasty dark pattern that means you don’t always ‘match’ (I’ll share more on that one at a later date).

IF you get a guy message you first, you’ve got a higher than likely chance that they are going to go straight in with something inappropriate or likely to cause you to un-match without even responding.  It’s relatively rare to find ‘normal’ on there.  I had one, but I’ll refer you back to ‘Ghost’ parts 1 & 2 for what happened there.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

So, we’re back to the opening gambit, and what DO you say to these guys that will get a response.  I’ve yet to work it out if you’re asking me for actual advice here.   Bumble actually posted a relatively good article on what to open with, which I’ve tried with very little success.

The thing that bothers me is this – you should always be yourself, and if yourself is confident enough to walk up to someone and say ‘Hi, I’m Emma, nice to meet you… how are you?’ then that’s what you should do, BUT it won’t get you noticed.  Or you’ll get the boring guys & gals (not that you wouldn’t anyway).

I’ve started to find that if I can’t find something in their profile, be it photos or bio, that makes me want to start a conversation with them, then I’m going to struggle, so why swipe right on them in the first place?  I need to swipe even more left than I currently do (which is a LOT).


I wrote this post a long time ago, well relatively.  I wrote this when I had the energy to bother using online dating apps.  I’ve since reviewed my position on this and I’ll be posting more about that soon.

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