Thursday, March 13, 2008

A personal ad with no purse strings attached

Here I want you to use the gimmick simply to get in touch with you. The major distinction between a real personal ad and this exercise is that real ads are limited in number of words and just focus on the tip of the iceberg. Without these restrictions, you can look well below the H2O level.

One of the quickest ways to make sure that what you’re advertising for and what you want are the same is to write a personal ad that is just for fun and practice and that will, most likely, never see the light of day. A personal ad can tell you very quickly whether what you want and how you’re advertising are out of whack. If you’re looking for someone with whom to settle down, for example, then looks should be less important to you than stability, sincerity, and fertility. If you love to travel, you shouldn’t be trolling for a homebody. To use your personal ad for this exercise, look at what you said you wanted in your mate (your fantasy) and what you said about yourself (your reality). Look for compatible or complementary traits.

For example, if you listed that you want stability and commitment in your About Me section but listed adventurous risk-taker in the About Him/Her section of the ad, you’ve got some work to do in order to achieve some semblance of compatibility. In determining whether the lists are compatible, look for overlap in words or ideas. If you see “fun-loving” in your list, you probably want to see “fun-loving” — or a concept like it — in the fantasy date’s list, too; be careful if your fantasy date’s list includes qualities that conflict with yours, like “down-to-earth and serious.” You’ll think of them as a stick-in-the-mud, and they’ll see you as frivolous, flirtatious, and untrustworthy.

You may be saying to yourself, “Hey look, I’m only talking about a date.” But don’t go off in a direction that makes no sense (why date someone of another faith if you would never allow yourself to fall in love with that person or marry out of the faith? Why date someone who smokes if you hate smoking?) unless you simply want a diversion, which is expensive in terms of time and energy and emotion. Of course, if you want to do that, it’s fine with me. Just make sure that you make your intentions clear upfront to all parties concerned, including yourself.

If you’re not sure what you want, it’s okay to experiment, but make sure that your uncertainty isn’t based on an unwillingness to face up to who you are and what you want. That’s an expense none of us can afford. Because this ad isn’t going anyplace, don’t worry about how many words you use, but do make sure that you’re not avoiding reality by tap-dancing with a lot of words. Are you looking for romance or companionship or commitment? Don’t tell me all of the above, because they’re really not the same thing.

If your ad sounds like every ad that you’ve ever read, start again. This is you. The real you, the honest you, the specific you. No one ever has to see what you really want, but doing this exercise can focus you in a very helpful way. What you’re looking for in your personal ad is something that really says you. The fact that you love grape jelly and Bob Dylan and are allergic to cats says a lot more than that you like moonlight and long romantic walks on a beach. Puhl-leeeeze. If there was ever a time not to be trite, it’s when you’re talking about yourself and who you are and what you want. Don’t worry that you’re being too specific.

If your ad seems too picky, you can always modify it and try that approach for a while or rely on the Fates and chemistry to steer you. Keep in mind, though, that a little bit of that unwillingness to take responsibility goes a long way. So do be careful. Do not be tempted to send this ad anywhere. Personal ads can certainly jazz up your social life, but don’t waste the time or the money on a personal ad until you have a bit of conventional dating under your belt. You want to make sure that you have most of the details worked out before you take the act on the road.

Tuck the ad away in your notebook for a while and go on to the next chapter. If, after dating for a year or so, you feel like you know what you’re doing but would like to widen the dating pool, you’ll be prepared. Do read the ad again to make sure that everything is accurate in terms of how you see yourself and your prospective date. (Of course, it certainly should have changed a bit once you’ve been out there — nothing’s quite as valuable as a bit of experience.) You’re now most of the way through armchair dating. Just a bit more and you can get out there and strut your stuff.

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