Friday, September 05, 2008

GSOH? You'll need it

Chris has written a very funny post over on his blog about internet dating sites. Go and have a look (see Mrs Malaprop Ahoy).

Now, I happen to know that a few of you out there have toyed with such things or, in the pre-internet age, with so-called Lonely Hearts ads. A good friend of mine found his wife that way - a story I recounted way back in this post. It's now a perfectly respectable way to connect with people. Life is busier than ever before and the opportunities for two people to find each other, especially two people who have been away from the dating game for a while, are often frustratingly few or very time-consuming. That was the plot of the sadly ill-fated TV series Unhitched. Hell, there are even dating sites for people who want to have an affair these days. I wrote about that a while ago too.

Lonely Hearts Ads are the subject of Fran Beauman's new book which is out sometime in 2009. Fran's a great writer (she must be good as she wrote a whole book on pineapples and it's amazingly witty, clever and informative) so I'm looking forward to this one. Provisionally titled Shapely Ankle Preferred: A History of Lonely Hearts Ads, it will reveal that this is no modern phenomenon. The oldest advert she found dates from July 1695 and says:

'A Gentleman about 30 Years of Age that says he had a Very Good Estate, would willingly Match himself to some Good Gentlewoman, that has a fortune of £3000 or thereabouts, and he will make Settlement to Content.'

But her favourite (and the ad from which the book takes its title) dates from around 1770 and states:

'Man seeks wife. Must have shapely ankle and good cow management skills.'

John Lloyd of QI fame revealed on his radio show The Museum of Curiosity that his favourite ad was from a Kenyan newspaper called the Nairobi Star, which said:

'Nanyuki farmer seeks woman with tractor. Send picture of tractor.'

But my favourite of all time has to be this most unfortunate typo from The Daily Telegraph's personal ads in 1973:

'East Essex Coast. Lady, 40s, no tits, seeks gentleman. Box 0220.'

And this has to be the most miserable ever (sadly I've lost the name of the newspaper but I think it was Private Eye) :

'Bitter, unsuccessful middle-aged loser wallowing in an unending sea of inert, drooping loneliness looking for 24 year old needy leech-like hanger-on to abuse with dull stories, tired sex and Herb Alpert albums.'

It's a fascinating subject and one I could talk about for hours. But I shall only touch upon the subject of that all-important profile and photo. When my friend Neil was looking for love he tried, unsuccessfully, to write a profile that would have the ladies queuing at his door. He thought he'd sold himself pretty well but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. And his larder was bare. So he approached some of his female friends and colleagues and asked them to write it. The result was radically different but still truthful and, what's more, proved to be a huge success. As the result, he met Sarah and they're now blissfully happy. So there seems to be a lesson there Guys and Gals. Write what the 'customer' wants to see, not necessarily how you see yourself.

Then there's that all-important photo. Neil and I went through his photo collection and found the one we thought showed him in the best possible light. It wasn't the photo that any of the ladies chose. So he used their choice (with some editing - in the original he was holding an assault rifle. Possibly sending the wrong message there?) and it paid off. None of the pictures in this post are of Neil by the way - all will be explained below.

And, finally, on the subject of photos, the ever excellent Exene has found one of the funniest blogs I've seen in ages. If you enjoyed Cake Wrecks, you're going to love Sexy People. Larsen and Renzo have created a blog that encourages you to send in embarrassing, ghastly, awful portrait photos from your past. Most seem to come from the 1980s when spectacles were big and hair was ridiculous. Others are older and funnier still. I've peppered this post with a few.

So go and have a look. You'll be laughing all day.

Just don't use any of them in your Lonely Hearts ads.


Janet said...

I can't wait to have a few minutes to go take a look!

I'm also thinking about all these candidates for humiliating photos lying around - especially the one my good friend recently found of me from the 70s, wearing bright yellow trousers! I swear I could NOT have owned those...but the proof is in the Kodachrome!


Stevyn Colgan said...

Ha! I have dropped the occasional dodgy pic of myself into previous posts. I might do again some day. I'm that kind of a guy.

Yellow trousers? Eek.