A Lulu user can then check out the ratings of the guys’ profiles in which she is associated. However, even more interesting, is that the lady can choose to “rate” the guy…anonymously. In order to let your opinion be known, you have to indicate how you know this dude: “Friends”, “Crush”, “Hooked Up”, “Ex-boyfriend”, “Together”, or perhaps the weirdest, “Relative.” (You know, in case you want to weigh in on your brother’s love life.) Then you get to answer a series of multiple choice questions, mostly about his manners, looks, physical chemistry, and commitment level. Lastly, you get to “hashtag” each dude you rate with both positive and negative hashtags (you must choose at least one of each). The hashtags try to be both cheeky and descriptive. Think “#EpicSmile”, “#BedroomEyes”, “#QuestionableSearchHistory”, and perhaps the most uncomfortable, “#ProcreatedAndThenEvaporated” — which I sadly saw a family member had received. (Yes, really.) You enter your honest (and remember, totally unidentifiable) review, and then the guy is given a score for any other Lulu user to view.
Though the app isn’t supposed to maintain a dishing-on-guys purpose — its founders want it to grow into work, beauty, careers, and so on — both Alexandra and Alison knew that women would react most strongly to relationships. “We know that endorsements from our girlfriends are incredibly powerful, but there's no place for women to do this at scale online or on mobile,” explains Alison. “That’s what we set out to build.” Of course, app-friendly Millennials have scooped the service up quickly, with the initial user group belonging to colleges. But, Alison explains that isn’t always going to be the case. “We're seeing our fastest growth in cities like New York, which Lulu has grown 600% in the last six months,” she says. Which doubly proves something any woman might easily guess: Women want to know what other women think, and when given the chance to have free dirt on a potential partner, the average person won’t pass at the opportunity.
Fortunately, Lulu has taken major steps to ensure that this isn’t going to be used as a revenge mechanism. As I browsed, I noticed that no one got too harsh — which was never the intention of the founders. “We created Lulu as a safe and positive space for girls to come and recommend the great guys in their life — friends, brothers, ex-boyfriends,” Alison says. “Women tell us every day that they want Lulu to be positive and not mean or negative.” It’s true: The lowest score is a 4.0, and you have to be pretty darn mean to rate a guy that poorly. Alison adds, “You can see that in the average score, which is 7.5, and in the most popular hashtags, which are #EpicSmile and #WillActSilly.” In fact, it is impossible to add demeaning hashtags, meaning you can only work with the Lulu-approved descriptors.
Yet, it wasn’t just feeling like I was too old for the app that put me off; it was the idea that women want the same 20 things out of their partner. For instance, lifestyle choices like “#420” and “#PlaysTheDidgeridoo” are both ranked in the negative, which might make my Burning Man-loving friends irritated. Nowhere are choices like, “#KillerGuitarist” (or, conversely, “#OverlyAttachedToHisGuitar”), “#BookWorm,” or “#CoolestJob.” Similarly, it assumes we all want the same thing: a committed relationship with a super-devoted traditional guy. (Note: There is no option to review girls, but Schwartz says they are working on options.) For a service that touts itself as the “First-Ever App For Girls,” it is sad to have it feel so one-dimensional.
When we spoke to cofounder Schwartz, she was very clear that this is not supposed to be the only purpose of Lulu, and that growth, expansion, and nuance is imminent. (Remember, Facebook started out as a similar service when it first hit the ground at Harvard.) “We started with relationships because we know its an incredibly important area, but our vision is to expand into all areas that women care about, including careers, health, and beauty,” she told us. Of course, there are plenty of services out there that allow women to rate beauty products or doctors, and having someone be a Facebook friend as a requisite to “review” them is difficult to replicate in the career sector. Yet, Schwartz’s idea for a women-only community for feedback and discussion makes a tremendous amount of sense — as the rapidly increasing popularity of Lulu proves. Yet, as both my friend and I both discovered, nothing is quite as exciting as morbid curiosity.