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Desperately seeking...someone

by Laurence Clark

23rd April 2007

Although I'm happy married nowadays, I must confess to still being hopelessly addicted to reading lonely hearts columns. Despite the fact that I'm not actually looking for anyone and it's been years since I placed a personal ad myself, I'm still fascinated by the ways in which people describe themselves in order to attract a partner, particularly in disability-related magazines and websites.
A while ago I researched thousands of disability personal ads for a stand-up routine. Aside from anything else, it was a good excuse to indulge my peculiar addiction. It soon became apparent that the secret personal ad code, whereby for example 'bubbly' means overweight, has been extended by the disability community to include the curious phrase 'slightly disabled'. Although this highly subjective term could mean a million different things to a million different people, I've always taken it to say: "pick me because I'm much more able than the other losers listed here!"

However, other disabled people chose to use their impairments as unique selling points instead of playing them down. One guy advertised his "rare type of dyslexia" as if he expected to be chosen over others with more common forms of his condition. Another ad described "an insulin-dependant diabetic with a cleft palate and a slightly weak left foot" - is it just me or does the last item on this list seem comparatively insignificant?

There is a tendency with this approach to go a bit too far and lose sight of the fact that you're actually trying to attract a date. I suppose the thinking behind this could be that if you get all of your less wholesome points out of the way at the very start then you won't have any skeletons in your cupboard. It certainly took me a while to come out of the closet and confess to my partner that I am a Doctor Who fan. But I have serious doubts about the chances of success for personal ads that state things like "just come out of hospital after a bladder and chest infection" or "have tried to kill myself on numerous occasions".

If you lack confidence in your personal qualities being a sufficient lure for your dream lover, you could also mention your material wealth as an added incentive. I guess this was the thinking behind the advert that read "paralysed from the waist down, but owns own home." Another person overcame the barrier of not actually having any wealth to speak of by cryptically promising his dates that he would soon be well-off because of something he'd invented!

Some ads are so incredibly specific about the sort of person required that you can't help but think the advertiser may be narrowing their options a little too much. I came across one ad by a 40-year-old gay, paralysed Harley Davidson enthusiast who was looking for a partner with these exact same attributes. I mean, just how many of them can there be out there?

When you read some ads you have to wonder what the person is really looking for, such as the guy who was seeking "a professional in the care, financial or clerical industries" who had good dress sense and a knowledge of PR. Reads more like a job advert, don't you think?

I'll leave you with my all-time favourite personal ad which appeared in a certain British disability magazine a few years ago. Very often the printed adverts are the best, as the advertiser must think very carefully about which words to use because of their restricted word count. This one simply read:
Good-looking Male, 38, jet black hair, piercing blue eyes, one good leg, seeks lady for outings and more?

You couldn't write comedy any better than that!
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