Meeting Friends & Lovers: My 13 Years Using the Personals

Love, Sex

Some fun and playful experiences from the first 13 years I placed and answered personal ads.

Most of my favorite relationships in the 13 years since I've been divorced have come through personal ads.  Since I can ask directly for all the qualities I want when I place my ad, and since “collecting people”  is my favorite hobby, this way of finding special persons has worked well for me.  I've never found a perfect man--my ideal lover list contains 26 entries, from nonnegotiable items like playfulness, honesty and warmth,  to optional items like a hairy chest.  But I have found people who have remained close friends long after the romance ended.

My first ad was in 1976 in Iowa City, Iowa.  I had come back from a vacation to California and had read fascinating ads in its local papers.  Mine was the first personal ad I ever saw in Iowa City. And I remember the covert way I used to go to the PO Box rented just for the responses.  The results hooked me on personal ads. From that first try, I enjoyed the most socially  fulfilling summer of my life.  Frank, 28, was seven years younger, totally playful yet very bright and communicative.  He brought out the free child in me, and we would play on swings, lick each other’s ice cream cones, cuddle on a couch in the skills exchange office I managed across from the priests’ living quarters, and generally act out Carefree Youth.

Then there with Don, seven years older than me, who drew out in me the mature, strong, yet sensual woman. Both men were scientists teaching at the University of Iowa. Neither was possessive and so both felt just fine about the close relationship I had with the other man.  The others who answered the ad just were no comparison for Frank and Don, so I didn’t see them again after my initial call or meeting.

I am still close to Don and Frank. Don spoke of marriage, and I wasn't ready for that. Frank moved to California for a teaching position.  But I saw Don and his wife when I went back to Iowa a few years ago, and Frank and his new partner and I had a wonderful time when he was here for a convention. Frank and I send written belly laughs back and forth in the mail.  He also published his version of the hailstorm we enjoyed in the back seat of an old Ford. It was in Minneapolis, and we ended in the car after my coaxing to “play” in an empty museum room was vetoed by the usually game- for-anything Frank.

When I moved to Seattle in 1978, putting in ads was a fine way to meet new people In fact, I answered one ad a woman placed, because her “feisty yet colorful” self-description appealed to me. Cindy and I became best friends for six months till she moved back to California. Our children joined us for several picnics, hikes and meals.  We shared a lot of experiences around men who answered our ads and around single parenting. Other women whose ads I've answered have not responded, till this spring. Ellie and I shared answers to our ads, and I dated some men she was not drawn to, and called an “elegant gypsy” I have spoken to but not met yet. 

I've baked bread, gone camping, visited an art museum, delivered balloons as a singing clown, and had a wheelbarrow ride with men I met through ads, plus the more ordinary activities of movies, eating out, walks, etc.  I have been “in love” with three of the respondents over the 13 years, and have had 3-6 month relationships with a few more.  I have no bad feelings over how any of these those relationships ended.

An ad that read “Free dating service for me! I’m 38, warm, honest, a Pisces; love playful, New Age, growth-oriented free spirits into music, new experiences, outdoors, sharing life dreams" put me together with two men active in food co-ops and one business executive, Francis.  A year after I met Francis, he asked if I, in the business I had started, would arrange the details for a conference of the sales reps he worked with. So that particular ad paid off financially as well as socially. Francis later was the prime mover in getting me involved with the growth experience, Context trainings--another side benefit.

None from the “dating service” ad satisfied my high expectations. The next ad changed all that: “Woman, 38 (I’ll never grow up), fledgling entrepreneur, irreverent, insatiably curious; enjoy classical music and kazoo; want fellow poets, philosophers, jesters to summer with."  When I talked to Roger, I knew he would be special the first night we went out. He gave me warm encouragement on map reading--I was dropping off a book at a remote address. I was pleased to have someone take time with me on that, especially since an intelligent woman doesn't want to admit problems with a mere map.

We had a fine picnic that night--he had even brought wineglasses. Before the evening was over, we had made an arrangement to support each other. He wanted to lose 1 pound each week.  I wanted to grow my fingernails. Each week we met our goal, we would get an hour’s special time from the other. Those hours provided back rubs, being held and, my favorite, a wheelbarrow ride around Green Lake, an hour of delight.Read "My Wheelbarrow Ride" at I wore a fancy dress and a summer hat. We got lots of grins from passing runners and walkers, plus comments about women's liberation, what I might have to do for him in return, and their requests for a similar ride.

Though Roger was less affectionate and playful than I wanted, our relationship left some beautiful memories, including the movie we saw with his teenage son, in which I had to be discreet about my amorous inclinations. And when he had me over for dinner, he’d bought a bouquet of craft store lilacs after I’d shared how much I love lilacs.  I still enjoy that bouquet on my window sill.  I also became close friends with his housemate Sandy; we were in a women's group together for two years and enjoyed co-counseling, meals, and outings together.

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