There aren’t too many things I miss about being single (wondering if he’s going to call, then waiting for him to call, then realizing he’s a lunatic and hoping he’ll never call again) but there is one thing: the personal ads. As a writer, and as a former student of anthropology, I found them endlessly fascinating, which is why, when an author named Thomas Kelleher asked me to review his book, Free Love: True Stories of Love and Lust on the Internet, I said yes without a moment’s hesitation.
Once I saw the cover, however, I began to have my doubts. It depicts a single, winking emoticon on a tie-dye background: more Girl Scout camp than quality literature.
But don’t let the cover fool you: the contents are a far cry from the make-your-own-t-shirt station. In fact, they’re bizarre, and tragic, and hysterical, and frankly rather unbelievable. This a work of non-fiction, however, and having trolled the waters of Match.com, eHarmony and Plenty for the better part of the past year and half, I willing to believe it’s all true (at least in the minds of those Kelleher interviewed…).
The book is divided into six sections: men seeking women, women seeking women, men seeking men, missed connections, women seeking men and casual encounters. (Truly something for everyone…) Each chapter begins with a personal ad, ranging from “I need a huge favor” to “Are you my silver fox?” and concludes with a brief narrative of what happened after the ad was placed.
The only downside is that the narratives are written by the folks who placed the ads in the first place, and not by Kelleher, so some are better written than others. But Kelleher explains, rather humorously, why people turn to online dating in the first place.
Dating takes a lot of time, money and hard work if you rely on old school ways of meeting people. You have to actually go out, make yourself look presentable and agonize over that perfect outfit, without looking like you’re trying too hard. You have to work up your conversation starters/ice breakers/witty jokes/pick up lines that never work. Line up your “emergency call” from the best friend for a quick escape should arise. Remember to set the Tivo. Fight for cabs. Shell out a week’s income for overpriced watered down cocktails. And, of course, risk rejection and wind up going home alone anyway.
Hence the internet.
But the internet can be a scary place, as indicated by the following ad:
I want to get a good alcohol buzz on with a hysterically funny, endearingly rude, audaciously vulgar woman in a bar. Or maybe something else with said type of woman. The cuter and brainier, the better. Or, you can just ignore this ad like all the rest I’ve posted.
Hmmm. Blatant sarcasm is never a good thing—especially blatant angry, misogynistic sarcasm. I learned this the hard way so I can’t say I’m all that surprised by the writer’s rather sorry recapitulation of his dating efforts:
It’s no wonder that women are said to be the biggest environmental threat on the planet. I am inclined to agree. From a young age they are instructed that their role in life is to consume. The consumption patterns of Americans, and particularly white women, are wrecking the planet and causing the greater part of humanity to live in poverty. They simply do not understand this. So I only date [by going] Dutch, no matter how cute she is.
Admittedly, there is some truth to that statement (although I’d argue that plenty of men are just as bad) but I’m guessing he’s still single. Fortunately, the majority of the stories in Free Love were a bit more… well, loving. And those that weren’t read like an awful car wreck: you don’t want to look but at the same time, you can’t look away.
I have a sneaking suspicion that those of you who’ve been enjoying my blog less since the conclusion of My Great Date experiment would enjoy Kelleher’s book and to that end, I’m going to send a free copy to the first person two people who comment on the wall of my Facebook page to request one. (Click here to get started, and be sure to hit “Like” in order to post.)
In the meantime, happy Monday folks! And check out my latest reviews for the the Philadelphia Dance Journal here.