When I find the free weekly local journal in my letterbox, I sometimes read through it all the way to the dating section. I find the latter particularly interesting because it tells so much about people, and I find it highly interesting to see what men and women of our times are looking for in love. For exactly these reasons, I had for a while meant to make a collage out of these short ads. When finally starting this task and taking a closer look at the dating advertisements of one* newspaper, the following non-artistic picture emerged (besides the collage, that is):
For instance, I noticed that only people of a certain age seem to make use of the print media when they search for a new partner (or something alike) in life. The large majority was older than 40, the bigger part still older than 50, and there were quite some in their 60s and 70s; one man was even 80 years old. I assume that younger people prefer the internet – or maybe they simply use different journals and newspapers. Moreover, there were considerably more ads by men than by women – a good “market” for the ladies, one should think.
As a common feature, nearly all of the advertisers seemed to have quite a clear vision of what they did and did not want. The own age, height and other specifications of the looks were mostly given. For men in particular, age and looks mattered, they were largely requesting a photograph and asked for a certain age in their perfect woman. Men were rather looking for a younger woman, whereas women were looking mostly for an older or same-aged man (with one exception). Most of the men and quite some of the women - irrespective of their age - found it very important to indicate their (former) profession. Only a few indicated their first name, however, and only once in a while some were referring to their astrological sign.
Interestingly enough, quite some of the men and women in their 60s and 70s highlighted that there was no need to give up old habits or apartments. A perfect match emerged in my mind when I noted that one man and one woman in their 70s were both highlighting they were not the grandpa respectively the grandma-type. Pity he was looking for a lady younger than 70.
Finally, it is noteworthy how much you can read into the language of such advertisements. Whereas some seem to try to save every single letter or punctuation mark (the economizing type - overall, women invested more money), others repeat words (the talkative, spontaneous ones), and others again quite obviously have had an agency draft their text (the busy and “successful” ones).
But at the end of the day, most of these advertisers seemed to be simply feeling alone, looking for someone “nice” or “sweet-hearted” – whatever that may mean. I can imagine that it is a very difficult task to describe anything that goes into the realm of chemistry in only a few words.
* I admit that this would not a sufficient basis for an empirical study. Yet looking at one newspaper sufficed for my purposes – and I dare raising the hypothesis that it is a quite representative picture I got.