Trying to find romance in the personal ads

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Ever consider responding to the personal ads section of a newspaper? I did and lived to tell the tale.

I think I was 27 when I first decided to take a different approach to meeting women. As a permanent night worker with no real social life it was next to impossible to meet females, so when our women's editor, Maureen Fox, ran a sort of personal ads section in her page I thought I'd give it a try. What did I have to lose except my dignity.

All letters had to go through Maureen so that was a little tricky and embarrassing, but I got past that. Besides, I felt a lot more at ease writing than vocalising, so I plunged in. And Maureen was discreet and helpful.

And I did meet a few girls. One felt as awkward as I did but we somehow negotiated that encounter in the most excruciating hour or so. I just couldn't make conversation and she acted like she wanted to be somewhere else. We were both released from our agony and never met again.

Funnily enough, I felt better having met these girls even if nothing much happened. It made me realise there were ways of meeting people if I so wished. There was no going back.

About a year later I suddenly found my first girlfriend and while I ran the gamut of emotions in those months it taught me one very valuable lesson: never give up. And so I considered how I could progress to girlfriend number 2. Then I spotted a personal ad and there she was.

And in the months before I first met Trish I dabbled in responding to personal ads in my newspaper. I thought why not? I had nothing to lose. And by then I had gone with two girlfriends so I had lost some of my fear and gained a whole lot of confidence.

One of the girls who responded (one or two didn't) met me in a city restaurant over a coffee and for once I overcame my usual reticence and chatted freely. The more I talked the better I felt. It helped that she looked quite nice, had an even nicer smile, and seemed mildly interested in what I was saying. Until she mentioned she had about five other guys to see. Five? Yes. So she said she'd get back to me later. I hadn't realised this was an interview so that knocked me right back, but then what else could it be? She, after all, had put an advertisement in the paper. Silly me to imagine I was the only one to reply.

I met her a few years later after I had married. Strangely enough she never recognised me. Or pretended not to. And I said nothing either. Out of curiosity I noted she had no engagement or wedding ring though. I wondered how she got on afterwards with the other five? Of course I never found out.

As for me, I was bitten by the bug and decided if you can't beat them join them, so I put my own personal ad in a paper and the rest is history.

I never did get around to dating agencies or trying the online route – the latter came too late for me but I might have tried it. We'll never know.

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