Back in the pre-millennial days where print media was the only way to get dates, outside of “real life,” there was a phenomenon known as “Classified Ads or Personals.” Most newspapers had them, but there was one New York City paper, a local weekly publication, that had the most interesting Personals section. It was truly better than TV, and provided hours of entertainment for my friends and I.
The one thing we enjoyed was perusing the abbreviated descriptions, sort of a precursor to our present-day text-speak. Some are obvious: SWM for single white male, for instance. There were also some incredibly creative descriptive initials out there! It was fun to decode them all, but it was also good preparation for our favorite section of the Personals: “Missed Encounters.”
“Missed Encounters” was a section that highlighted the most poignant and bittersweet stories of two ships passing. A typical story: “Me: SWM with huge backpack next to my seat in second row of movie theater last Thursday. You: tall redhead in turtleneck, holding a small popcorn, two seats away. You smiled and asked if the seat was free. I just nodded and moved my bag. We saw “Annie Hall” together. Me: painfully shy. You: beautiful smile, infectious laugh. Wish we could’ve shared popcorn and laughs. Another movie next Thursday?”
Just thinking about those ads makes me a little teary-eyed. Imagine the incredible risks: placing a very expensive ad in a newspaper or magazine on the infinitesimal chance it’s a newspaper she reads. There’s an even smaller chance she’ll peruse the Personals section at all, and even smaller than that to check out “Missed Encounters.”
Then, he risks looking like a fool, waiting in the movie theater lobby or on the sidewalk for someone he might never see. She takes a huge risk, even if there’s a shred of a chance she reads it, in meeting and going out with a total stranger and potential weirdo or worse. Yet still, those sections were packed with these kinds of stories—sometimes they took up more than two pages!
I just recently started thinking of those ads again, and wondered why that was the biggest portion of the Personals section. Maybe the beauty of these stories is exactly because of the questions we are left with: “What could have happened?” It’s a pretty common tendency for us to wonder what might have happened if we’d made different decisions.
One thing that I realized when I got nostalgic about those ads reminds me of the post I wrote on Godcidental moments. The person placing the ad—both parties involved, really—are relying on a miraculous outcome. And these romance stories are that much more meaningful because of the reliance on His will.
Today many singles put up online dating profiles instead of taking out personal ads. You may feel vulnerable reaching out, but I applaud your effort even more. Your time on CatholicMatch is valuable, and sending out emoticons, posting in the message boards, sending private emails or sending a chat request, are ways you could increase your chances of finding someone. That much is obvious.
But our risk factor is much, much lower—we do all of this from home, safe and sound. We don’t end up being that painfully shy guy in the theater lobby for a few reasons: one, we’d made enough of a connection to get a sense of each other before meeting. And two, our reliance on a Miraculous Godcidental moment, albeit present, is somewhat diminished. Think about what trust that guy had in His Mysterious Ways!
So I leave you with the encouragement in putting yourself out there, which hopefully you are doing. I also would love to hear your thoughts on not only noticing the Godcidental moments, but in seeking them out as well.