Reading the personals

In the age of disco, the Cold War, and Johnny Carson, (a mere 30 years ago), personal ads were considered sleazy, sexual, and sometimes perverted — a backstairs way for people to manage what they were ashamed to admit to. These days, personals — both online and offline — are one of the most common and accepted ways for people to meet one another. By spending a couple of hours reading through the dating ads in whatever newspaper or magazine you normally read anyway or at popular dating Web sites such as Match.com, eHarmony.com, or any of the specialized dating sites, you can get a really good idea of who's looking for what.

Are personal ads completely accurate? Can they be useful? Good questions. If you believed everything that was written, you'd believe that all women are raven-haired, svelte, emerald-eyed owners of their own antiques importing businesses, and all men are handsome, chisel-chinned CEOs looking to settle down with a wife and kids after taking long romantic walks on the beach on their private islands.

If you're already feeling outclassed, if you're not skinny, or if you don't own your own business, not to worry. Having done some research on the personals, I can assure you that people are not necessarily very accurate in their self-descriptions. (If you don't believe me, just spend a little time in the cookie aisle of your favorite grocery store, or — even better — think about how you described yourself in your yearbook.) But that's not the point of this exercise.

What this exercise does is help you figure out how many people are looking to connect, how they describe themselves, and what they're looking for. If nothing else, this exercise helps you realize that you're not alone, that lots of seemingly normal, happy, fun people are out there looking. Once you're ready, you can hop right on out there and answer — or even write — an ad if you wish. The following section tells you how.

Continue reading here: Writing a personal ad for practice or real

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