Accentuate the Positive and Other Rules for Personal Ads

Personal ads have become a popular way to meet men. But many women shy away from ads because they feel it smacks of desperation. Don't worry! We know lots of women who've placed and answered ads without seeming desperate or too interested. That's because they wrote or responded to ads in a Rules way.

How to Write a Personal Ad

Ads can be expensive so make yours no more than four or five lines. Ads that run on and on are a waste of money and seem desperate. (Why else would anyone spend six hundred dollars for one ad?) Not surprisingly, they contain

too much information that no one cares about; and too much lovey-dovey stuff (of course you like walks on the beach, who doesn't?). Most people skim or ignore long ads and rarely respond to them. Think of advertising campaigns ("It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," "Maybe she was born with it. Maybe it's Maybelline") when you write an ad. It should be short; upbeat, and flirtatious—a pleasure to read. It should contain facts only about height; hair color, religion, sex, and profession. Don't mention marriage or kids. Don't refer to your past—for example divorced or newly available since your last breakup. Don't say things like Tm not into makeup or superficiality" or "I'm happily overweight." Perhaps a man will not mind your extra twenty pounds when he sees your beautiful face but chances are he won't answer such a candid ad.

Many ads are a turn off because they look for sympathy. The writers hope to hook you in by telling you that they are human and damaged. For example, "Ex-wife of alcoholic seeks nonabusive soul mate." It's honest but a bit depressing, don't you think? I mean, would you answer a man's ad that said, "Unemployed executive looking for understanding wife?" Thus, The Rule is that as long as you don't outright lie you needn't be honest to a fault either. Just leave things out—for example don't say you're slim if you're fat. Simply leave out your weight entirely and accentuate your blue eyes and long blond hair.

Don't be shy! It's perfectly okay to ask for exactly the kind of man you want. We know one woman who said only men with Porsches need apply. You might think she had a lot of nerve, or that men might be turned off by such an ad because the woman comes across as a gold digger. The fact is that this woman received dozens of letters with photos of men in front of their Porsches and she married one of them. Another woman wanted only the kind of man who would write poetry. Dozens of men sent her poems. Men like to be challenged in an ad and like impressing women, so let them. Ask for what you want—just don't say you want to get married.

When you receive responses, sort them out into yes, no, and maybe piles. Don't rule out letters without photos. Men are often lazy about such things. If you like their note and the sound of their voice on the phone, agree to a drink date. But be wary if a man doesn't mention certain critical facts in his letter. You don't want too many surprises on the first date.

How to Answer an Ad

Get some plain white stationery the size of a telephone memo pad, don't perfume it or seal it with a kiss and never include your address—you don't want any crazies stalking you at your apartment. (Write a flirtatious note with the essential facts. If his ad said, "Marriage-minded, Tom Cruise look-alik^" you could start your note off with: "Dear Tom" or "Dear T.C." Never mention marriage even though he brought it up in boldface.

Remember, you're just doing this for fun, to meet some nice men. Notes that talk about marriage, kids, and commitment make most men run the other way even when they want it. Just start out with something easy likze, 'Your ad caught my eye." (That makes it sound like you were casually reading XYZ magazine. He needn't know that your Monday night ritual is poring over personal ads looking for your husband or that you answered twenty other ads that week.)

Don't try to be different. Don't send a sleazy photo or a collage from a fashion magazine with your face over Cindy Crawford's body. All of that is sophomoric. It also shouts desperation. The best way to respond is to dash off a cute note in five minutes while watching the 11 o'clock news. Less is more. Remember, he has a lot of other letters to read. End the note by saying something likze, "Well, Tm off to my aerobics class. Hope to hear from you soon." Keep it light!

The photo is actually the most important part of the package. Most men decide to call you based on your photo, not your note. They either like your looks or they don't; so spend the extra time getting the right photo. It should be about 3x5, no posters or photo-booth photos, preferably of you alone and smiling. Don't send photos of you holding your one-year-old niece or in a bikini or with a girlfriend.

Don't be surprised if you only get one or two replies for every twenty ads you respond to. Men typically receive hundreds of responses from women. Some take weeks and months to call. When you do get a call, try to make the date for only a quick drink. You have no idea what he looks like and he may have been exaggerating about how handsome he is. On the other hand, he could very well be Kevin Costner's twin. A short drink date will give you enough time to decide if he's for you, which is all that okay, make sure to get his telephone number, saying you want it in case you need to cancel or reschedule. Then call the number to make sure it's his. Hang up when he or his answering machine answers. Give your mother or a friend the number before the date so someone can track you down if anything happens. We know all this precaution seems very unromantic, but Rules girls don't take unnecessary risks!

A word of caution

Dating via personal ads involves taking risks that usually dating by introduction doesn't. You don't know this man from a hole in the wall!—so be careful! When he calls you to set up a date, don't feel you have to go out with him if he sounds weird, angry, or rude. But if you do like him and the sound of his voice, agree to meet at a restaurant near your apartment. Never give him your address or meet him at your apartment; and never let him pick you up in his car to drive to a restaurant. If he gets very angry because you won't let him pick you up at your apartment, or makes you feel that you're being paranoid, say "Maybe this isn't going to work out" and get off the phone.

Continue reading here: Don't Live with a Man or Leave Your Things in His Apartment

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