Author’s program note. As far as I can tell, everyone in the world has either run a personal ad (mostly online), is running one at this moment… or will run one before you can say “Jack Robinson.” This means you. The question is not whether you will use personal ads… but whether they’ll deliver the exact person you are seeking. Sadly, the vast majority of personal ads cannot deliver the bacon (or the cheese cake or the beef cake). They just don’t provide enough detail and so are quite capable of delivering the Wrong Prospects. Witness the personal ad celebrated by Jimmy Buffet in the tune that made Pina Coladas mandatory Happy Hour fare as you bar hopped in pursuit of nirvana.
Start by going to any search engine and listen to Buffet’s anthem. It
was written by Rupert Holmes and recorded in 1979. It’s official title
is “Escape” but hardly anyone knows that except Buffet who became with
each insouciant word the recognized master of la dolce far niente… or,
since most of you know no Eye-talian, the art of doing absolutely
nothing… and doing it with the utmost style and grace, but without ever
breaking a sweat.
Buffet’s tune makes it clear why personals as currently structured
are silly, pointless, absolutely certain to deliver people you wouldn’t
be seen dead with. I mean, who doesn’t like getting caught in the rain
(given the right person on your arm)… who doesn’t hate yoga…. and is
hardly into health foods… but insists on champagne? Add long walks on a
beach, making love at midnight in the dunes of the cape, and holding
hands at the cinema… and you’ve got the personal ad in all its banal
The wonder is not that they don’t work for most people investing
hope, time and money in them; the wonder is that they work for anyone at
all… but then there are people (one hopes not you) who can be fully
described with a few generic phrases. Avoid them like the plague.
Time for rethinking the personal ad.
In the olden days when personals appeared solely in newspapers and a
few progressive publications like the alumni magazine for Harvard and
such finicky folk as insisted on making known their preference for
classical composers, stock brokers, and obscure holiday destinations; in
those days one paid by the word and through the nose. Publishers
counted on your desperation and longing to fill their coffers. Even the
august Times of London cleaned up with such ads, universally called the
agony column and always run on Page 1: “Should the fine lady in the blue
mantle with yellow sleeves exiting the horse cars at Grosvenor Square
Thursday last at 10:59 a.m. desire the acquaintance of a gentleman of
means…”, but you get the picture.
When writing such ads, where each word raised the cost, it was
necessary to cultivate the virtues of laconic language, short, sweet,
clipped. The objective was always to meet the person ardently desired
but spend pennies, not pounds. As a result, it was understandable, even
excusable when advertisers slashed words; robust clarity at all times
was desirable… but unaffordable.
Enter the Internet.
The very first thing I learned about the ‘net was that it’s
boundless, inexhaustible, absolutely unlimited. Thus, it can hold,
maintain and preserve infinity. The implications of this fact are
fathomless, too… not least on the matter of creating personal ads that
get you the long-awaited apple of your eye. For now, since we have an
infinity of space, there can be absolutely no excuse for writing and
posting ads which are at once jejune, inadequate, and platitudinous in
the extreme. They don’t work, can never work, and must be abandoned,
jettisoned, abjured, forsaken and, in case you miss the point, tossed
into the dustbin of history at once.
Now you can write this all-important ad without being hobbled and
restricted. You are at last permitted, nay empowered and directed to
write what must be written, the ad, the whole ad, and nothing but the
… but this will take careful thought and planning, for it is doubtful
ere now that even one personal advertiser has written the magnificent
advertisement you are about to write, edit, post, and benefit from for a
lifetime. As such the most scrupulous planning is de rigueur and cannot
Two people, two parts.
A good personal ad, which is to say an ad that accomplishes the
desired objective, must be divided into two parts: half about who you
are; half about what you desire in the person you wish to present the
key to your (probably much bruised) heart.
Brainstorming, musing, total honesty.
Now, we all know that everyone, absolutely everyone lies in their
personal ads. Excess pounds disappear as if by magic; years are thrust
in the dresser drawer; educational degrees are now cited from
institutions which scorned the pleasure of your company; financial net
worth up, all manner of imperfections down; spouses of decades
unmentioned, and the eight darling children, too. This is the nature of
the beast… until now. Now you have the space to tell everything… and
complete details on the extenuating circumstances. Yes, you were flunked
out of Alma Mater, but it was most assuredly not your fault… and you
insist upon making the full dossier available right here and now. You
have the space; honesty is desirable; and your bringing up the subject
at all proves what a gem you are.
Thus instead of lying about the pounds you haven’t lost, cite the
reasons why. Honestly own up to the fact that your dietary habits are
lax; list all your favorite foods… and the rate you consume them. List
your last month’s worth of dinner menus… and be scrupulous, entirely
above board with everything you consumed, the kind of dishes on which
you served the repast, and exactly what you did with the left-overs. You
want your soon-to-be beloved to know you, fully, completely and so
ardently; for after all, honesty is the bedrock of every meaningful
relationship, don’t you agree?
The desired one.
Once you have gathered all the critical intelligence about yourself,
proceed at once to Part 2 of your ad, the absolutely crucial verbiage
about the person to whom you wish to extend the glorious honor of
sharing bed and board. Your complete and total focus is required. Again,
brainstorm every desirable point, giving equal attention to what you do
not want and cannot abide, and what you must have, a deal killer if not
readily available, and in the desired quantity, too.
Starting this list is easy, almost effortless. You either want a
smoker… or you don’t. You either can accept pets (even the most exotic)…
or you can’t. But make it a point to move beyond these obvious points.
Consider such matters as the odor you desire in a mate; how many showers
per day; the kind, frequency and intensity of bodily hygiene. Honesty
is required, and so honesty there must be. And if the length of your ad
grows long and weighty, what of it? What you are doing here impacts the
curvature of two lives, so no apology is necessary.
Post at once, reap your reward.
First, you are to be congratulated. You are a pioneer, a model of
integrity and rectitude. Now it’s time to reap the inevitable rewards
which must come with posting. Mind, it may take a little time to get the
single response this ad is meant to generate, for so thorough have you
been that there can only be one response… from that extraordinary person
daft enough to put up with you…and love you anyway.
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