The Personal Ad as a Rewarding Literary Endeavor

By Cynthia Gurin
(nee' Cynthia Loomis Webb von Kittendorf)

 

In 1987, I had recently turned 40, and was finally recovered from mourning the end of a long term relationship.

I was also feeling more alone than I had ever felt in my life.

So one morning, when I awoke from a dream with the overwhelming knowledge that someone was searching for me, I paid attention to it. My dream told me that unless I did something immediately to capture his attention, he, whoever he was, would never find me.

The Miami Herald had just embarked upon their very first foray into the world of Personal ads. Their “Person to Person” page was featured in “Tropic”, the Herald’s popular Sunday magazine section.

I told my girlfriends that I had decided to place an ad in the Herald’s Person to Person section.

They were very supportive of the idea.
They said things like….“Are you OUT of your MIND!!!????”

But I had such an overwhelming certainty about this, that I went ahead and placed the ad anyway.

In order to protect the privacy of those placing an ad, the Herald assigns a post office box number at the Miami Herald building address to which interested parties can write. At that time, every few days, the Herald had someone gather up whatever mail had arrived for that particular box number, they’d place it in a large brown envelope, and forward it on to the person who placed the personal ad.

I ran my ad for just that one day, just that one Sunday.

My ad wasn’t very long, and unlike other advertisers, I didn’t specify what I was looking for, I simply tried to give enough of a description of myself, so that the right person would be able to recognize me.

My ad read;

Long auburn hair, longer legs. Personality shy to outrageous. Blue jeans to ball gowns. Age, late 30’s. Very late 30’s actually. Enjoys sailing, power-boating, quiet evenings at home. Plays terrible tennis. White horse, shiny armor and vast kingdom considered charming in a respondent. Former Boy Scout given equal consideration.

I received over eighty letters. Almost all were from well educated professional men. Some letters came from as far away as Europe. (One response did come from a local correctional institution, and one reply was from a woman). Those who replied to the ad told me a bit about themselves, and many indicated what it was about the ad that caught their attention.

Most of them misunderstood the subtlety of the last line of the ad completely, more than a few expounded on scouting merit badges they’d earned as youngsters. I penned brief acknowledgments of their letters, saying that although I was pleased to hear from them I didn’t think we would be a match.

One of the replies which did capture my attention came from a divorced engineer, the father of three, who said he was currently living in the Florida Keys, which was some two and a half hours South of my home in Coral Gables. He had enclosed a photo. He was an attractive man who, obviously clowning around when the picture was taken, was clutching a bottle of Soy Sauce and wearing an upside down Wok, helmet style, on his head. His letter drolly commented “I do not normally wear the Wok, but this photo was taken during my Chinese period.” The letter cracked me up. To risk rejection by replying to such an ad took guts to begin with, but to send a silly photo to boot, was really increasing the odds of rejection.

I liked the letter so much that I felt it deserved a personal reply. Since he had provided a telephone number, I called and left word on his answering machine, saying that although I had greatly enjoyed his letter and photo, I was afraid that he was geographically unsuitable.

Moments later he called me back and we chatted quite enjoyably for more than an hour. Instead of accepting the idea that we would never meet however, he asked if he couldn’t just fly up and take me to brunch the following Sunday. Figuring that one could never have too many friends, I said “What the heck”.

He told me he’d arrive around noon and asked if I could pick him up outside Miami's Delta Airlines terminal.

I said "Sure"

"What kind of car are you driving?" he asked.

"Mercedes" I replied.

"See you Sunday" he said, and hung up.

Unfortunately he forgot to ask what either I looked like, or what model and color Mercedes I was driving.

In Miami, everybody drives a Mercedes.

Sure enough, come Sunday, there were five Mercedes idling outside the Delta terminal, every single one of them with a woman of about my age at the wheel.

Shortly past noon he walked straight out the terminal doors, and directly over to my car. He never even bent down to look through the window and ask whether this was the right car or not. He simply opened the passenger door of my car, got in, and asked if I’d been waiting long.

It was as if I had been picking him up at the airport for years.

From the airport I got on I-95 and headed towards a waterfront restaurant over on Key Biscayne. He stared at me quietly for a long time as we drove, then, after a few minutes, he said gently, “I don’t want you to think I’m crazy or anything, but…Would you marry me?”

I glanced over at him then took a look at my watch.
"Why don’t you ask me again on Tuesday?" I replied.

And so he did.

We’ll have been married for 25 years in August of 2012.

Cynthia Gurin considers the Personal Ad, through which she met her husband, to be her most rewarding literary endeavor.

For those who wondered about the last line of the Personal Ad:
Boy Scout Oath or Promise; On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. A Boy Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.
This position has been filled.

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