Looking for Love in the New York Review of Books

Quality over quantity was her goal, but a personal ad in the most unusual of places led this reader to some unique men.

by Athena Bradford • More.com Member { View Profile }

Some time ago I moved to a new city and was experiencing a dearth of “gentleman callers.”  Internet dating still scared me—Personal Ads, carefully placed, were my drudge of choice. I was hesitant but lonely and the latter wore down my resistance.  I crafted a slightly coy, witty ad: 

Tall, leggy redhead new to Chicago seeks men of wit, wisdom and warmth.  Former academic, bored with paradigm shifts, interested in passionate gifts.  I Hate mimes, devoted to the Saturday Times puzzle, and (just between you and I) react strongly to poor grammar. I’m very particular about thread count, and I’m drawn to hopeful men who remind me of my favorite martini—straight up, with a twist and a little dirty.

I carefully worded the ad to weed out the goofy romantics who wanted a companion for a long walk in front a fireplace, the overgrown frat boys who believe that showing off the air bladder in their Mercedes will get them laid, and MIMES. (Of course, the very first letter I received was from a MIME! who drew a carton to express his outrage at my discriminatory attitude.  And dear God, help me, he sported a beret). 

So I had the ad hooked to my fishin’ pole, but where to cast it?  I wasn’t interested in quantity; I wanted quality goods: a lover who was more maestro than mechanic. Specifically, I was looking for a grown up who understood and adored women and someone who could bring his best game to post-coital conversation.  Sex with me is not a refresher course for taking the SAT—two or three word directives, one-word expletives, any compliment that ends in -est, and a minimum of chatter is what I’m looking for.  BUT, after a brief nap, I want someone smart enough to whisper sweet somethings in my ear. Of course I understand that when you’re playing tennis with a mystery date you don’t get to quibble too much about line calls, but I am and always have been a sucker for men who have a way with words.

I decided that my best chance for finding such a man was the New York Review of Books.  It was expensive, but I wasn’t interested in “dating Darwinism” so I wrote the check and crossed my fingers. 

After ten days, the responses became to arrive. (NOTE: all information that follows is true.)

Exhibit One:

A sweet, but elderly fellow who attached part of his resume to his letter.  From this, I discovered that he had won an Eagle Scout award 45 years prior, and that his main interests were18th century tailoring and heavy timber construction. Now it might surprise you to learn that both arts can be practiced simultaneously, but, bear in mind; this was not your average Boy Scout.

Exhibit Two:

This envelope contained only one photograph of a wispy-haired fellow, cute in an Opie Taylor “if you like these freckles, I’ve got hundreds more” kind of way.” He was dressed in Renaissance garb complete with the most enormous Kelly green codpiece I had ever seen.  You may ask, How many had I seen, but after working in the theatre for a number of years, let me assure you that I know my mackerels from my minnows.  Inevitably, the message carefully printed on the back began, My Faire Maiden.  Next!

Exhibit Three

A self-described vagrant sent me his definition of a hopeful man.  “Always take his pulse before taking his hand.” Jeffrey Dahmer, Milwaukee County Jail. He was also kind enough to include a very helpful P.S.  Don’t use PASSWORD as your password.

Fast Forward

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