This blog was inspired by a giggle I had while looking at a book called 'Shapely Ankle Preferr'd' by a lady called Frances Beauman. It's a rather witty look at the history of lonely hearts columns and it had already crossed my mind that dating sites seem to be everywhere nowadays. Up to Christmas the TV ads were all full of toys, immediately post Christmas it used to be all about summer holidays. This year there was a marked difference- every second ad was for a dating site, Match, Plenty of fish, Harmony, Oldies and a weird one if you only fancy folk who work in a uniform. There is now one called Elite (for the beautiful - intelligent - superior people) that had my other half on his feet swearing at the TV, on the basis that if you really consider yourself ‘elite’, then you have some kind of personality disorder and you need a therapist not a dating agency.
Frances takes us through the history. In 1837 a bachelor with a lonely heart tried his luck and advertised for a lady. One of the responses got his juices going and an arrangement was made to meet under a certain lamp post one evening. He would be holding his black walking stick in one hand and his gloves in the other.
He wore his best frock coat, she a smart gown. They chatted away with whatever passed for small talk in those days and he was much impressed when she said she lived with a lady of the county. He presumed she was a friend of the lady, the girl did not specify.
He decided to marry her, but the minute he learned she was merely the lady’s servant, he was appalled and ended the relationship. Instantly. (Men!)
12 years earlier 53 ladies had replied to an advert from 24-year-old William Corder. He said he was in need of a respectable wife to provide him with property and domestic comforts. Corder was actually the Red Barn murderer. He was a small, skinny bloke who’d recently killed his last partner, Maria. He’d shot her in the head, knifed her through the heart and strangled her with her own handkerchief. Nice. Interestingly the correspondence of the 53 ladies survive and they clearly show that England was full of frustrated women, ready to take the first man available.
The majority replied to Corder’s ad just to escape a miserable home life which is typified by a 22 year old with ‘no pretension to beauty’ who was making a meager living for her and her illegitimate daughter by doing a bit of needlework .
In those days the ads were placed mostly by middle class men as they would cost almost two weeks’ wages for a housemaid.
Lonely heart ads have been with us since 1695, when a leaflet publisher concluded love could be sold just as easily as other merchandise. WW1 brought a new phenomenon, the lonely soldier, and then the lonely widow. An ad in 1915 is fairly typical ‘Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the War.’
I recall my Auntie Nell, who lost her fiancé in WW1. Her front room was full of pictures of her lost love, a handsome young man caught for eternity in old sepia photographs. She never married, never even looked at another man. There were many like her.
Today more women place ads than men. Youth is less important than it was although women lie about their age and weight (downwards) while men lie about their height and salary (upwards). Folk are more specific about what they are looking for, and more are looking for a serious relationship.
I thought I’d have a wee look and go through the shorthand, and translate.
I'm new to this, so here goes = I’ve used this site many times but never under this name.
I love laughing = on antidepressants, too many of them
I'm a glass half-full kind of person = alcoholic
I like going out and staying in = I like breathing and/or just stating the frigging obvious
Looking for my partner in crime = dubious past and/or future
I'm here for some good banter = why not go down the pub then?
My friends say I'm witty, wonderful, beautiful, talented = they have no friends
I like walks in the park, watching movies and going to the pub on Sunday for roast dinner = stalker
My friends and family are really important to me = sociopath
My life is fab. I just need someone to share it with = underachieving egotist
I'm easy-going = lazy
I'm laid back = very lazy
I'm down to earth – doesn’t wash
I like to stay in with a glass of wine and a DVD = I want a date to take me out and pay the bill.
I like cosying up in front of the fire = probably a serial killer with numerous victims dead in the cellar.
Genuine guy seeking genuine girl/guy = not genuine, probably a sexual predator.
I enjoy longs walks on the beach at sunset = wants someone richer to pay for their holidays.
I like travelling = homeless
Don't get in contact if you don't know the difference between "your" and "you're" = teacher. (Well, I read that and thought, Is that my editor?)
I'm a 42-year-old man looking for a 27-year-old woman = aren’t they all?
I’m normal = No you’re not. And you know you’re not if you feel you have to say it.
I don't watch television = less intelligent than they think they are. Probably has a beard. Probably will go on to say something about films with subtitles.
Looking to make friends = you need to ask, why do you have no friends?
Hello, is it me you're looking for? = A Lionel Ritchie fan and therefore probably best left alone.
Looking for my knight in shining armour = pathetic, somebody who doesn’t know how to pump up their own tyres. Probably blonde.
No baggage, please = either in denial, never sees their kids or has been in a coma for most of their life.
I don't bite, unless you ask me to = a good sign when choosing a Rottweiler for guard dog purposes maybe not so good in a life partner. Hannibal Lecter wore that mask for a reason.
I don't take life too seriously = I don’t pay any bills, I’m hugely in debt and probably about to be evicted.
I work hard, play hard = married and therefore will only make dates at very short notice.
My children are everything to me = and so they should be, so why do they need to say it?
I'm bubbly = Alcoholic/ blonde/has a laugh like a foghorn. Probably all three.
Caro Ramsay 17/01/2014