html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Last post about personal ads.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Last post about personal ads.

Tyler Cowen suggested that I write an intelligent but bland personal ad to maximize responses. The grad-student ad got me about thirty responses, of which six were interesting, including the naughty ones I posted Saturday. If I included a nice picture, I would get eighty or ninety responses and nearly all of them would be like this:

  • Here I am my dear. I have come to take you away from all the boring world has to offer you. I believe in making my woman happy(to a fault) and I will get happiness in return. Me: 5'11, 210, 43.
  • Hi, my name is *** and i'd like to get to know you better. I'm 36, college grad., personal trainer, massage therapist, and logistic broker. I enjoy the outdoors and looking for someone to enjoy this summer with. Please read my profile and see if we have some commonality...hope to talk soon..take care ...
  • Hola ! Bearded Grad Latino guy here ready to introduce myself to you. I am fashioned in the old school era. I live by the words "treat others as you like to be treated". I had a wife once,but things never really worked out like I would have liked. I am well educated and a professional (teacher). I have eyes that are destined to please and be pleased. I enjoy travelings and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I love kayaking down the river or hiking in the mountains. I'm always finding new projects to do around my house. I work well with my hands. I can build almost anything as long as I can visualize it in my brain. I have a bearded face with long black hair to go with it. I love to laugh and be laughed at. I am 38 years young. I like to reduce some of my daily stress by riding my motorcycle or runnig with my dogs. I'm easy to talk to and enjoy meeting new people. Would you like to know more? Send me an email or give me a call. I live in Sacramento (by the river). Hope to hear from you!!
  • Hi there, my name is *******, I'm 5'9", 190, black hair and brown eyes, most women find me very attractive. I'm a supportive and loving man. I would like to hear from you. I'm a very well rounded person who enjoys many things in life. I'm classy, fun and down to earth. Please drop me a note and send me some pictures of you and lets see where things will go. Hope to hear from you soon.
  • Hi I would like to know more about you, I just moved to this area and I wish to make new friends, I have a degree in Business and working for my masters degree, Do you have msn or yahoo to chat online? I like outdoors, movies, read abut economy, finance. I was living in Canada but I decided to move down here, I do not drink or smoke, Like working out and walks.

Seriously, how could I ever tell those men apart? It would take forever to meet them all and there's no wheat in that chaff. When I put my doubts aside and actually do meet someone from a pleasant, uninteresting email, I find a pleasant, uninteresting guy. Then I come back from my date completely uninspired and my friends tell me that I am being too picky because I got hurt by my last boyfriend and I don't really want love. When he writes later, I have to feel bad about turning him down.

What I really want in a reply to a personal ad is personality. I would love to get something with as much fire as UnderwearNinja's letters in yesterday's comments. Honestly, the email from the football player who likes southern food was better than any of the ones above; at least it was vivid. An ideal response would go with one of the themes from the ad and take it in a direction I don't expect. I'm not partial to replies where the guy describes himself, because I don't care. If a guy is sharp and funny and nice, I don't care about height or weight or hobbies or life philosophy. We can work any of that out. Truly. I'll raise dogs or fix motorcycles or rock climb or whatever freak thing he likes. Or, I'll kiss him when we get back from our separate weekends. I don't care. If he isn't sharp and funny, I don't care if his interests align perfectly with mine. It isn't enough. Nice inside, really smart, funny as me, in two or three paragraphs. Please.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you tried trolling the mens' ads and see if any are funny? Then you could start a witty dialogue with those guys.
-dithers, likes cheese, hates traps.

good god your word verification seems to be telling me I need glasses.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note that in my theory only one kind of woman should write bland may fall into the latter category, which then means a highly specific ad. But the case for a bland ad is this: if you will, unprompted, offer something specific and witty to blank air, the "right guy" for you might offer something specific and witty to a bland ad. Why not? What is your theory of first-mover equilibrium? And have you applied it reflexively to yourself?

And don't focus on the modal or even median case, this is a problem of the tails of the distribution, so to speak...


1:40 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Yeah. It's slim pickings. The problem might be Sacramento.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous nuclearpoet said...

Or the problem might be with the folks that happen to come across the ad? Perhaps the supply of males from this source is, in some respect, controlled by the non-Internet-site demand for these males...

I also wonder if the type of guy that you are looking for may not have time or incentive to troll sites like the one you put your ad up on, because they're too busy reading Marginal Revolution or something...

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What exactly do you find funny though? You never tell us any funny stories, and humor is kind of subjective.

For example:
I was riding in the car with one of my good friends one night. He got pulled over for a burned out license plate light. He had been pulled over the week before for the same thing, so he was an idiot for not getting it repaired. So, the officer comes to the window, and tells my friend why he's getting pulled over, I turn to my friend and say, "You haven't gotten that fixed yet? You idiot." Then I yell to the police officer, "Hit him with your flashlight." Apparently he didn't find that very funny, and he got angry and says back, very seriously, "We don't do that anymore." Of course that makes me bust up laughing, which pisses the officer off even more, and he starts making threats, while my friend sits there in the middle with this, what the hell just happened look, on his face.

Now, see, I found that hilarious, my friend however wasn't nearly as amused as me. So, humor is clearly subjective.

Of course, the same guy, when we were younger, elbowed me in the face and knocked one of my teeth out, when I spit out the tooth, he busted up laughing. So, situation reversed, he thought it was hilarious, but I wasn't very happy at all.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I never tell you funny stories? Humor is indeed subjective.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or jokes, or funny movies you liked. It's hard to be funny in text across the internet with someone you don't really know.

But, what are the basics here? Do you like slapstick? Sarcasm? The whole witty banter thing? Or just acting goofy? How about being a smartass. Or does it have to be like intellectual humor?

Anyway, humor in e-mail with someone you don't know is risky, you don't know if they're going to find you amusing, or offensive, or just immature and stupid.

Justin (eventually I'll learn to do this everytime.)

3:01 PM  
Blogger Pandax said...

I enjoy your humor (however, I'm female), don't lose it all. A little definitely helps you stand out in the sea of ads. I have a defective humor gene, so I must pray for people who are willing to sift through the bland muck. I agree with nuclear that it could also be the choice of posting site.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous UnderwearNinja said...

Some part of me wants to rewrite one of these, but the rest of me wants to brag about meeting Megan today.

In case all of you guys were wondering, yes, she has a large rack.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You made eye contact the whole time! Your mother raised you right.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous UnderwearNinja said...

I'm not scared of you!

3:45 PM  
Blogger Pandax said...


3:48 PM  
Blogger Roze said...

Oh my god.

"Seriously, how could I ever tell those men apart? It would take forever to meet them all and there's no wheat in that chaff. When I put my doubts aside and actually do meet someone from a pleasant, uninteresting email, I find a pleasant, uninteresting guy. Then I come back from my date completely uninspired and my friends tell me that I am being too picky because I got hurt by my last boyfriend and I don't really want love. When he writes later, I have to feel bad about turning him down."

Sounds exactly like my experiences. The problem isn't happens in Chicago, too.

I get many compliments and responses to my ad, but the guy behind the email is never as interesting or sincere (intelligent, humorous, etc...pick your adjective) as I need.

What's a girl to do?

5:30 PM  
Anonymous nuclearpoet said...

Now that I've gotten a chance to take a well-deserved nap (much as I like to maintain that above a certain threshold, sleep is a creature comfort, Nature gives me a good whack to remind me that it's a basic necessity of life) and come back to review, I was wondering if your demand was a bit unrealistic. You obviously have a high bar already, and now you want the bearded grad student to knock your socks off on the first email (well, perhaps the second).

I know that I don't find that many people around me (especially now, with where I live now) who have similar interests and think on the same level. So when I meet someone new for any reason, there is a certain 'probing' phase where I'm trying to get a feel for the mental space that the new person inhabits. Then perhaps I can draw up a Venn diagram and determine the intersection of my mental space with theirs. Since humor is frequently dependent on the interrelationship between the person being funny and the person appreciating the humor, properly overlapping mental spaces is quite important. As evidence, simply watch an high enough number of high-profile comedians do their act and let me know if you actually find every single one of them funny enough to be worth their notoriety. Perhaps some of the fellas that have sent you "nice" emails are trying to do that. Perhaps a high number of them may not inspire you, but given your stated desire not to have an extended correspondence prior to meeting them, I'm not sure if there's any way around that. I don't think you have reason to feel bad about turning them down afterwards, since after all, they did choose to take a risk in meeting you-- and the situation could presumably (yeah, I know it's hard to believe, given how supercalifragilisticexpialidocious you are) be reversed, and you would much rather be turned down nicely for the second date than be strung along for some time by someone who is not that attracted to you, but doesn't want to hurt your feelings.

Oh-- and Tyler, I don't agree with your case for the bland ad. The benefit of the "right guy" in saying something specific and witty to any given bland ad is not very high, since there are plenty of boilerplate personal ads out there. Unless you're talking about a guy who is as analytical about his personal-ad theory as you are, and creates his own boilerplate "specific, witty" response and submits it to a large number of women who have bland ads in order to maximize his marginal benefits...

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You made eye contact the whole time? Clearly, she couldn't have a really huge rack then. I mean, it's virtually a Q.E.D.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous UnderwearNinja said...

Latest Anonymous:
That just means my father raised me to not get caught.

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're right about humour-it doesn't come across very well in writing (Dario Fo and Spike Milligan being exceptions).
For example:
A woman was playing with her son, Davie, on the beach when a huge wave sweeps him out to sea.
The mother is distraught and says to God: "God, I'll do anyhting, I'll pray for seventy nights, just bring my little Davie back to me".
God is touched by this and repents. "Oh, okay"
And then a another huge wave brings little Davie back to the beach. The mother stands there, gobsmacked, bewildered.
God [a little irritated]: "what is it now woman, aren't you ever happy?"
Mother: "ay,ay, ay..God, when you took him already, he had a red cap on him"

Now that ain't funny. Er.."first-mover equilbrium". Now *that's* funny.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Oh my goodness, so much to mock, so little time.

1. Megan, I insist that you stop what you're doing with this blog and start telling us some funny stories, PRONTO!

2. Since humor doesn't come across well in writing, except for a very few cases, don't expect us to laugh.


1. Tyler was going out on a limb with an interesting theory but, unfortunately, is not right about the bland ad. There's no way that would work for you. Perhaps for some, who are looking to increase the bulk of replies because his or her standards might include wheat in what you think is chaff. But not you.

2. I agree with Dithers, maybe look at the men's ads more instead of setting your bait and waiting to see what happens? It's possible that you'll find something out there... try things other than Craigslist. Even Friendster, maybe.

3. Humor with people you don't know on the internet can be effortless and flirty and way more boldly sharp than you can be in real life. Writing has vast potential for humor, nuance, and wit. It can sometimes be dangerously effective (to the point that you like someone more as their internet personality than in real life, which is no good). I know I'm preachin' to the choir (the choir being most of you but not Justin)...

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dubin, hello. I couldn't tell the difference between your serious non-sarcastic portions and your non-serious non-sarcastic portions , or was that non-serious sarcastic portions? you can see, this internet humour thing ain't working!

Let me try another: I say, I say , I say...what do winnie the pooh and alexander the great have in common?

8:32 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

I'm having a hard time remembering your ad verbatim, but I don't think you explicitly stated what kind of response you were looking for (although you probably assumed that by stating what kind of guy you wanted, he'd know you'd also want the reply to reflect that), most guys I know, including myself go somewhat bland on responses to personal ads because
one: it's often hard enough to understand if a female in a romantic situation wants exactly what she says she wants in attributes even if you know her in person.
and two: the return rate for male efforts on online dating are orders of magnitude lower than females, so we have to be more careful about offending people (which online humor can do, even disregarding the fact that most people just aren't that funny if you don't know them and have shared experiences to ground you.)

Have you tried to throw in something to entice lots of responses (picture, whatever), but then explicitly state you are looking for a more interesting response, something to make you laugh and convince them that theyare dynamic?

You'll still probably get a ton of crap sprinkled with a few people complaining that you are stuck up. However, it may signal to that great fit guy that he can swing for the fences and start off the email with a reference to his Bartlby like approach to online dating [or a math or engineering reference, whatever kind of intelligence you are looking for], but then explain how he figured he'd give it a try since his parole officer said he could start dating again, or throw in a story about hobos chasing him when he first moved to your city (or agian, whatever else kind of humor you are looking for.)

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, bill, that's the point. We don't know why kind of humor she's looking for.

And, a lot of humor tends to be based on the things you do, so it's personal.

My friend just took a self rescue class for climbing. His instructor referred to the knife on his harness as his Simon Yates knife.

I was skiing with a friend in northern Minnesota, we were flying down this BD, he was leading. He flew over a gravity bump, and found a mogul field hidden below the drop, which he hit at probably 40MPH and about 3' off the ground.

My friend/roommate came up to me one day and asked to borrow my drill, a hammer, and a chisel. I'm like, sure but, why, and he says, "I'm doing my brakes."

So, unless you're a climber, the first one isn't funny, you have no idea who Simon Yates is, you don't know what self rescue is, and you probably haven't seen Touching the Void (excellent movie btw).

If you don't ski, you're not going to understand the skiier lingo, and you're not going to understand the desperation of that situation, at that speed, with your skis off the ground all you can do is watch a bad situation rush at you.

And, finally, if you've never done your own brakes you probably don't realize how simple a job replacing the pads for your drum brakes should be, and one can only imagine why a drill, a hammer, and chisel are necessary.

It's hard to be funny with someone you don't really know. You don't know what they're going to find offensive, and you don't know what you have in common to really make jokes about.

12:47 PM  
Blogger lil miss dubin said...

>>>When I put my doubts aside and actually do meet someone from a pleasant, uninteresting email, I find a pleasant, uninteresting guy. Then I come back from my date completely uninspired and my friends tell me that I am being too picky because I got hurt by my last boyfriend and I don't really want love. When he writes later, I have to feel bad about turning him down.

wow, that's it. that's it in a nutshell. intuition is there to defend you against nights like that. i always regret when i don't listen to it.

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a friend exactly like you want, problem is he is a player
so he won't stay long.

4:13 AM  

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