When do you start calling the person you are dating “babe”? Psychologist and philosopher William James called this the single greatest question about human relationships. Thinkers and scientists have studied the issue relentlessly, and here are their findings.

On the first date: Either you are a delusional and scary person, or you are shockingly good at turning first get-togethers into magical adventures with hot-air balloon sex. Saying “babe” on date one is the ultimate “going all in” strategy, and it will ensure either your absolute victory in becoming lovers or, more likely, that your number is promptly blocked, deleted, and reported to the authorities.

On the second or third date: This is where we leave psycho territory and enter the land of the merely desperate and pathetic. A three-date babe index carries a clear subtext: I want to be in a relationship, and I want it now. Perhaps your date is just as sad and needy as you, and your fast-track “babe” ploy will work. If so, congrats. Enjoy your codependency.

After two months of solid dating: Respectable. Predictable. And utterly boring. A two-month babe index is a sound strategy if your idea of a romance is quoting The Office at each other like a couple of knuckleheads, then having eight minutes of missionary sex to Coldplay.

Remember to throw in a “sweetie” or a “honey bunny” as well, while you hold hands at an ice-skating rink and drink Starbucks hot cocoa, just to make 100 percent sure your partner feels like a character in a made-for-TV rom-com written by ChatGPT.

Exactly ten weeks and four days into dating, while laughing over nachos: As long as it happens organically, this is healthy and perfect.

At six months: Sheesh, a little slow to cozy up to the relationship, are we? This big of a babe index is deeply suspicious. While you might rationalize your laggardly six-month waiting period as “being cautious and deliberate in relationships,” you actually come across as withholding and calculated. You have some serious commitment issues to work though. Are you in therapy? If you said “yes” or “no,” that makes sense.

After a year of dating: Whoa there, Ice Queen. A one-year babe index is a frigid game plan, and you are absolutely one of the most twisted and depraved souls to ever date.

Some questions to ask yourself: Why are you like this? What made you incapable of showing affection? Why didn’t your parents love you? Why did they make you sleep on a pile of straw in the basement while they cavorted in dance halls?

With this diabolical babe index, any partner who is not mentally broken will recognize themselves as a rock-bottom priority in your life, much below sharpening your daggers, playing head games, prank calling hospices, and whatever else you do in your free time, you sick, sick puppy.

Of course, when you finally say “babe,” the word will ring hollow, more like a funeral bell than a term of affection. Your “lover” won’t even hear “babe.” They will hear: “I couldn’t find anyone I like, so I guess you’ll do, uh—what was your name again?”

Forever: Detached. Clinical. You’re the Terminator of Love. This is the babe index that crosses over from morally dubious to something that morality cannot recognize.

An infinite babe index is the final strategy and the ultimate nihilism. It lets your partner know you two will never be cutesy and cuddly. There will be no heart-shaped chocolates. No stuffed animals from the claw machine. And definitely no cringey alt names like “pumpkin” or “boo bear.” This relationship is a transaction, and you’re on a first-name basis until death do you part.

Make no mistake—you sound like this in bed: “I enjoy when you do that, Tiffany. Keep going, Tiffany. Yes, Tiffany. Excellent, Tiffany. I have achieved orgasm, Tiffany. Goodnight, Tiffany.” Then your eyes shut, and you fall into the dreamless sleep of an amoral human-shaped cyborg.

With an infinite babe index, your partner will fear and respect you. Your friends will fear and respect you. Every boring sap who mindlessly says “babe” will fear and respect you. You will walk to hell and back unscathed, and the babes of the world will bow and weep before your monstrous form.