FINDING A NEEDLE IN A DATING HAYSTACK

This is an article I drafted first for a lifestyle magazine and then for the L.A. Times back page of the Saturday section. Neither one eventually decided to use it, but I thought you might enjoy it nevertheless.

Here it is!

Finding a needle in a dating haystack is tough for everyone, but just maybe a little harder for mature couples.

We met in the olden days; it was early in 1996. It was at the tail-end of the bar scene and blind dates, but before the internet, which was still about three years from popular and extended use. The arena for introductions at that time was the widespread use of personal ads in the print media, newspapers and magazines

In order to get out of the hospital over Thanksgiving, I promised the doctor I would stay home, elevate my foot and use ice bags all day. That’s another story and only minimally related to this one. As you can imagine, staying home with an elevated foot gets boring pretty quickly and there’s only so much daytime TV you can tolerate. To pass the time I started reading the Los Angeles Times, cover to cover, and discovered, with great surprise, several pages of personal ads.

The way this worked was each ad had a box number. After calling the main phone number, you dialed in the specific box number. The ad writer left a message amplifying their ad or just inviting you to leave a message.

After a week or so I said, “What have I got to lose”? I answered a few ads and got some responses. One response seemed worth following up. We met for a cup of coffee. A glass of wine was the only other alternative. We each drove to our meeting so we had our own escape. Dinner would take too long if it wasn’t working out.

The first meet-up was okay, so we arranged a date after Christmas for dinner and then followed up with another date to see the “Waiting to Exhale” movie and dinner.

That seemed about as far as it needed to go.

As you can see, answering ads was pretty much the same as it is today with internet dating sites.

Knowing that answering ads was a numbers game, I kept reading and considering which ads to follow up with. In mid January, this ad appeared and stood out like a flashing red light at K-Mart.

One word demanded my attention!

It was a pretty standard ad in many ways, but what popped out for me was her inclusion of the word “INTELLIGENT.” That is not a description you generally see in many personal ads, particularly from the distaff gender.

I had to find out more. I called her box number and her greeting amplified her ad’s description to tell me, among other things, she liked ballet and opera.

By the way, at that point I was fast approaching age 65 and still working in the marketing arena.

Now it was my turn. I told her I was a little over her age requirement, did not like ballet or opera (but would be happy to buy tickets for her and a friend anytime). I was not sure about her definition of financially secure, but I was interested in the rest of her description and left my phone number.

She did call and we ended up exchanging a number of messages and calls. She worked downtown and I worked in West L.A. so we had some difficulty finding a time we could get together for coffee.

We knew we would be violating one of the basic rules of personal ad introductions, but the calls were interesting enough, so we said, “What the hey, let’s have dinner.”

We met at a local restaurant in the Marina. It was like no other introductory meeting I ever had. Usually at these introductions I had to carry and nurture the conversation with questions to draw my “date” out.

Not this time. She gave me the third degree for over two hours. It was hard for me to get a question in. This was new and different, so I said to myself, “Let see where this goes.”

She asked me about everything in my life. We talked about my background, my business, my priorities, what I was looking for. It was an interrogation; almost like a verbal Rorschach Test.

Her business background was in the apparel industry, but she could have been an FBI or CIA interrogator.

We found a lot similarities and common areas in our background and business experience. We were able to click on a number of different levels.

When dinner was over, we both obviously enjoyed the encounter. We exchanged a hug in the parking lot and agreed we wanted to see each other again.

She claims she called her daughter that night and said, “I found the guy. He was very honest in answering my ad, which doesn’t always happen, and he could be the one.”

Going through a nasty divorce, I was a bit more cautious. I’m not sure I felt as strongly as she did, but I certainly wanted to explore this further.

…and explore we did. A year later, we bought a condo, somewhat later we got married, and have visited 81 countries and all seven continents. It has been an exciting adventure; a truly successful adventure.

This wasn’t the first movie for either of us. So based on past experience, we were able to communicate very openly right from the start and although we were both controlling personalities, we ceded authority alternately on major relationship responsibilities.

The avenue for older couples may be a little harder. As you age, you have more baggage, more habits and become a little more fixed in ways you’re somewhat set in.

It’s never too late, however…but you need to take it one step at a time and be willing to be open to flexibility and change.

She approved this message.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “FINDING A NEEDLE IN A DATING HAYSTACK

  1. bonnie sachs

    so nice to have the details on the story of your getting together. hope you are both getting along in this strange time. sending love! b

  2. Paul Wadsworth Pendorf II

    Enjoyed the story very much Art. Forwarded it to my 56 year old divorced sister in Las Vegas to offer hope if she hangs in there.

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