The Psychology Behind the 'Lemon Meringue Pie' Dating Theory
POV: You're aimlessly scrolling on TikTok, trying to seem busy as you anxiously wait for last week's Hinge date to text you back. You had a magical first date, complete with sparks, butterflies and banter, which flowed back and forth like a fiery ping-pong game.
You bonded over your love for osso buco. You have the best recipe for this braised, fall-off-the-bone-tender veal shank, and it'll take you more than two hours in a hot kitchen to make it just right.
Now feeling bold and ready to flex your culinary skills and your flirting know-how, you text them an invitation to come over to try some for what you hope will be date number two.
What exactly is the 'lemon meringue pie theory'?
As you scroll on TikTok, a fresh-faced woman with a long, blonde ponytail and wide Disney princess eyes pops up on your page. As she slathers various serums, creams and foundations onto her filtered face, you feel like she's talking only to you.
"If you want a man to be attracted to you, there are some really specific psychological things that you can do right now that can actually make a world of difference," the woman says.
OK, now you're listening.
This woman, who goes by @ask_kimberly, also known as Kimberly Moffit, explains she's a relationship expert with a doctoral degree in psychology who has "literally" spent her life studying the art of attraction and human psychology, so she knows these things are true.
Moffit then dives into her "lemon meringue pie theory," which she urges her viewers to take advantage of because it's an essential part of attraction. While contouring her face with concealer, she explains the theory can be described as this: If your date won't stop talking about how their mom makes the most amazing lemon meringue pie, then how do you take that information?
Some people will try to make or buy this pie for their date, but Moffit advises against it.
"By not molding yourself to fit his criteria, you are immediately establishing yourself as someone who's attractive and confident," she says. "If it's between you and a woman who went to great lengths to get every single ingredient just to make the same pie his mom made, he's going to find you more attractive."
But does this theory actually work?
This TikTok post has a growing 9.5 million views, 1.2 million likes and thousands of mostly perplexed comments, such as, "So am I baking a pie or nah?" and "Not going to lie, that was one of the most confusing, unhelpful advice I've ever heard."
According to Moffit's theory, the osso buco date you just proposed is sounding like an osso buc-NO.
It's not about the lemon meringue pie, it's about doing any above-and-beyond gesture for someone you've just started dating. Then again, should you really be getting dating advice from a relationship expert you found on TikTok?
"I will guarantee the lemon pie theory and all its variants will foster no meaningful relationships," stressed Lincoln Stoller, Ph.D., a certified clinical counselor based in Victoria, British Columbia. "Confidence is essential, but it's confidence based on truth. If it's not, then it's falsity."
Moffit declined to comment.
Things could get unhealthy
You could say Moffit's dating theory is giving off vibes reminiscent of "The Pickup Artist," the 2007 VH1 show.
"To say the best way to attract someone is by never making their favorite food seems highly manipulative and damaging to a healthy relationship," explained Bill Gladwell, a self-help expert based in Las Vegas. "This advice hearkens back to the early 2000s when the 'Pickup Artists' was teaching men to 'neg' women: giving women backhanded compliments or slight criticism, usually in an attempt to undermine their confidence or self-esteem."
There is some truth to Moffit's theory, as yes, being confident and not overaccommodating can be attractive, but intentionally not making someone you're dating their favorite food or, in Moffit's words, doing some "really specific psychological things" could actually come across as needlessly withholding or stubborn instead of confident, Gladwell pointed out.
"Compromising and being willing to do things for your partner can be essential to a healthy and loving relationship," he added. "It's important to consider your own wants and needs while considering your partner's preferences. Finding ways to show them love and appreciation through small acts of kindness is normal. For example, making someone their favorite food can be a simple way to do this."
Rejection can open up space for the right match
Phew, so you didn't totally mess this up. And look, your Hinge date texted you back…with a noncommittal "maybe next week." Ugh! Maybe you should've listened to Moffit or finally used that TikTok sound promising you luck and eternal happiness.
Or maybe putting yourself out there, being authentic to who you are and getting seemingly rejected is a good way to find out this person isn't right for you.
"I know it can be hard to deal with rejection, but it's better to be rejected or end things that aren't right for you to free up space for what is, instead of trying to be someone you aren't," said Alexandra Mollon, a somatic sex and relationship coach based in Denver. "I always believe that being 100 percent yourself, open, honest, communicative and authentic is the best way to go."
Dating shouldn't be mental gymnastics
Aside from stating her credentials, Moffit provided no evidence, research, study or even personal anecdote to prove her theory works.
"It is never mental gymnastics about how to 'win' affection, as [Moffit] advocates," explained L.E. Wilson, a life coach in San Francisco and creator of Moviewise: Life Lessons From Movies. "What the movies tell us about ourselves is that we value authenticity, vulnerability, compassion, kindness and honesty."
Wilson cited the example of Wayne Campbell's authenticity compared to Benjamin Kane's phoniness as they both fight to win over Cassandra in the 1992 movie "Wayne's World."
"Everything Wayne does comes from affection, while everything Benjamin does comes from competitiveness. We are shown the difference between having respect for Cassandra and valuing her as an individual, as Wayne does, versus Benjamin trying to win her over like a prize in a competition and not really caring for or understanding her as a person," Wilson said.
"Feeling confident should never come at the expense of others or by withholding affection from others," he added. "That's cruelty masquerading as a power play, but it's not confidence."
But then again, it could work
The flaw with dating advice in general—either from TikTok, a book or texts from your mother—is every relationship is different and what might work for someone else might not work for you. Perhaps there is a couple out there happily married who credits their relationship success to not making their partner's favorite dish until they were serious.
"It's important to remember that every relationship is different and what works for [one person] may not work for another," Gladwell said. "But you should always strive for open and honest communication with your partner from the beginning."