2005-02-04

Intolerance: Cupid in The Classifieds

Paul Reizin's 'Date Expectations' It was the dinner with Sally that finally pushed me over the edge. I was single; she was single. A mutual friend thought we might be ideally matched. 'You'll love Sally', she assured me. 'Sally's an absolute riot'. Was a distant alarm bell ringing in my head? If it wasn't, it should have been. Sally smoked like a train, drank like a fish and laughed like a hyena. She was the sort of riot you want to suppress brutally with water cannons. The next day I decided I would advertise in the lonely hearts. 'Isn't it a bit... desperate?' said my friend (the genius who had set me up with Sally). There. Someone had uttered it. The d-word. I'll tell you what's desperate, I replied. Desperate is leaving it to chance; desperate is continuing to drift through one's forties, hoping somehow to find a mate when one doesn't meet anyone new -- never mind suitable -- for months on end. Patiently, I explained how exploring the lonely hearts was a form of positive action; taking control of one's destiny; improving the odds. Statistically, it was a way of dramatically increasing one's exposure to potential partners -- I very much hoped. So what to say in my ad? Essentially, there were two ways of putting it. The truth: 'Ageing (44), balding, loveless bloke seeks someone special, someone intelligent, beautiful and funny. To be happy with for month, a year, a lifetime -- who knows?'. And then there was the version I finally came up with. Conveying, I hoped, an attractive package of plain-speaking, serious intent and romance (and containing a small factual inaccuracy in my favour): 'Tall professional man, 42. Slim, intelligent and amusing. Seeks the woman missing from his life'. Now came the tricky part. Recording the short but telling personal message. I knew from phoning numbers in the Women Seeking Men columns that the tiniest details could be terminal:
  • Caring. If she said she was caring, I saw someone who said 'aah' a lot and drew smileys in her descending loops. I pictured teddies on the bedroom pillow. I imagined being suffocated in a great heaving bosom. I hung up.
  • Thea-etter. If she pronounced it 'thea-etter' and not theatre, I hung up. Sorry, but I did.
  • Bubbly. Crazy hair; very probably overweight; tells bad jokes. Oddly, there is no male equivalent of bubbly. The nearest would be tiresome.
  • Friends say I'm attractive. Whenever I heard this formulation I thought, fine. Date one of them. Leave me out of this.
The first date was a disaster. On the phone she sounded like the love-child of Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe. Unfortunately, she got Einstein's looks. We met at a swanky cocktail bar where I drank an insane number of vodka Martinis to dull the embarrassment. Did she say goodnight before departing? I simply cannot recall. But gradually, painfully, I managed to get the hang of the lonely hearts business. I became able to weed out the obvious nutters and duds on the basis of their phone replies -- 'I have eight cats' could be considered a dead giveaway; neither was 'I attend anger management classes' an especially encouraging detail. By careful -- you might say forensic -- listening I was able, night after night, to meet attractive, intelligent, desirable women. Whether or not we sparked in the flesh, it seemed to me, was in the lap of the Gods. I even began to enjoy it. The initial toe-curling aspect turned to excitement. Each new encounter held its own mystique (what will she be like?). There were delightful surprises (what is she doing reading the personal ads?); inevitable disappointments (she's not interested); singular lows (get me out of here. Now). But unlike other attempts to find love in the naked city -- the dinner parties, the set-ups, the painful chat-ups at parties and bars -- the blind date has no ambiguity. You both know why you are there -- to see if you like one another. And whether it lasts 45 minutes or a lifetime, every relationship has to begin somewhere. There has to be a moment when two people see each other for the first time and have the same thought: I can't believe I'm missing Frasier for... this. Who stood out? There was Paula, the data analyst with the sexy voice. I'd pictured glasses, creamy white blouse, layers of shiny chestnut hair falling against one another. I was right about the glasses. There was Fiona, the TV producer (if she was 36, I'm Macaulay Culkin). Daisy, the actress who drank pints of snakebite and said she'd love to meet up again, but never returned my calls. Rita, the personal fitness trainer: the only woman I've ever met who actually told jokes like a bloke. And Julia. Distant, beautiful, maddening Julia. But here's how the story ended. An evening in March. A branch of Caf´┐Ż Rouge . On the stroke of eight, as we had arranged, in she walked. My heart sank as she approached. Sorry, call me superficial, but she wasn't for me. I could just tell. 'Are you Malcolm?' she asked. I have never been so delighted to confirm that I was not -- nor had I ever been -- Malcolm. Ten minutes later, the 'real' Ruth arrived. My diary recorded the rest of the evening in just two words: 'Ruth -- wow!' Fast forward to the present: we are now married and our daughter will be three in May. One day, when she asks how we met, I'm looking forward to seeing the look on her face when I tell her: 'Mummy found daddy advertised in the newspaper'. 'Date Expectations', Paul Reizin's memoir of life in the lonely hearts, is available at Amazon on-line. Reading between the lines of the personal ads
  1. They won't look like they sound on the phone. Encounters in the lonely hearts are never how you imagined them. This is why they are exciting: who is going to walk through that door, a goddess or a haddock?
  2. Develop your antennae. Listen extra hard. Examine their choice of words. If her advert says she's home-loving, it could mean she's been electronically tagged.
  3. Yes, it is embarrassing. But so are the first day at school and the first time the doctor slips on the glove and says: 'Just relax'.
  4. If you're going to lie, be professional about it. You can say you're 42 when you're really 44. But you can't say you're six-foot-two [1880_mm] when you're only five-foot-seven [1700_mm]: you may be found out.
  5. Don't be too prescriptive about who you are looking for. It's ungallant. You are probably mistaken when you say you want a six-foot [1830_mm] nymphomaniac Swede -- with a twin sister -- although clearly you wouldn't rule one out.
'Finding Cupid in the classifieds', Paul Reizin, The Scotsman, 2005-02-04

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It'll be eBay next. Try telling THAT one to the kids!

2/09/2005 01:44:00 am  

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