June 8th, 2010:

PERSONAL ADS

Creative writing serves all sorts of purposes: love letters, poetry, personal ads. Call it personal advertising. Personal ads have been around for perhaps hundreds of years. Roman graffiti might have attracted some young swain to a woman looking for love or money. I enjoyed Jimmy Stewart in the 1940 classic movie The Shop Around the Corner, which centered on a personal ad and anonymous mail.

In the 80s there was a widely distributed Southern California paper that focused on personal ads, aptly called the Singles Register. Local newspapers and the L.A. Times also carried personal ads. Compared to Match.com, eHarmony and countless others, this was the Dark Ages.

I felt like a pioneer in the single’s revolution of personal ads; none of my divorced friends had tried it. I did persuade a few to go a local bar and dance spot that featured a live band and lots of available men (or guys who didn’t wear their wedding bands). One friend met her future husband there. I found some great dance partners.

Newly divorced, I was ready to explore the single life. The Singles Register was readily available and had hundreds of ads from all over LA. The ads had some things in common with the more modern ads of today, but lacked the bells and whistles of graphics, photos, tapes, etc. A man or woman with an imagination and willingness to create an enticing ad could have a field day exploring Love or Lust. Things weren’t as threatening in those days before AIDS sprang into full life.

In my ads I mentioned I enjoyed walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, great conversations, good movies, and the like when those descriptions were a bit fresher. This type of ad is totally passé at this point, but then so are newspapers. The method of contact was also old-fashioned. The respondent was required to send a letter, and those letters could be flowery and clever or very simple. Just analyzing the handwriting gave a clue about personality.

I’ve always appreciated creativity and good writing, but I soon learned that the “buyer” must beware; not everything or every person was as advertised. And photos weren’t necessarily current or very representative of the person. Oddly heartening, however, was the fact that advertisers often believed what they wrote about themselves. They actually did see themselves as looking younger, having all their hair and a great body. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

One of my early experiences was meeting a man in his twenties, much too young for my taste but I admired his enthusiastic and creative letters, and his persistence. When we graduated to long telephone conversations, I was impressed. New at the game, I was curious and had always enjoyed interviewing people for my newspaper column. He knew I was almost 20 years older and kept claiming he wasn’t after a “mother” type; he truly liked older women. I decided to meet him at the Boardwalk restaurant at Venice Beach, a fun place to people watch at least. I coaxed my daughter to come; at 19, she was closer to his age.

Some “relationships” are better served at a distance. Letters (those missives that come through snail mail) and even phone calls leave more room for fantasy. My earnest knight wasn’t unattractive but our age difference was awkward. Besides, I didn’t feel he had the self-confidence to take me out and I wasn’t attracted to him. We had an awkward lunch and I never heard from him again. My daughter handled it well and we had some giggles as we drove home.

My most amazing date was the man who loved costume parties. And then there was the older man who said he coined the word “parenting.”

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