Upscale romance

WHILE visiting a friend in New York City, I picked up a copy of New York Magazine. I was feeling upscale. After thumbing through several inordinately chic articles, I came upon the meat of the issue: the ``Strictly Personals'' toward the back. You may be familiar with such self-promotional prose from readers of other, less elegant publications. Calm down; these are different. Still, they are as entertaining as anything I have read in months. Let's get right to them: ``Energetic investment banker, 6 ft. 3 in., 33, looking for outdoor-oriented woman, 23-30, residence unimpor- tant. Will spend day roaming Litchfield county, and evenings in a romantic European inn. Bio/photo.''

Try this one on for sound: ``Magical, musical, magnificent model must meet masculine, marvelous, merry, mature, marriage-minded man.''

Here's a romantic one: ``Successful man seeks successful lady. Object -- success. Bio.''

A disclaimer is in order here: These are not made up; they are exact quotations. I am not that clever.

After reading several dozen missives, you find patterns emerging, although, like snowflakes, no two ads are quite alike. You can pick out the veterans of the weekly section by little things, like ``recent photo'' as opposed to just plain ``photos.'' One gentleman describes himself as being 56 years old, followed by ``(my real age).'' Many ad- vertisers inject the adjective ``honest'' in their glowing self-portraits, generally right before ``witty, athletic, outdoorsy, ebullient, shapely, active, successful, modest. . . .''

Religion is important to many people, although one gentleman depicted himself as a ``nonreligious Christian.'' That's sort of like a nonpracticing lawyer, a nonworking journalist, or a nonreigning monarch, I suppose. A woman characterized herself as ``Christian, but religion unimportant.'' Some of these people could use a good copy editor.

Age is more significant to the men. They tend to want their dream women to be at least a few years younger than themselves, like the banker from earlier on who was 33 seeking 23-30. Presumably, he wouldn't be caught dead roaming Litchfield County with a 31-year-old has-been.

Some people are better copywriters than others. This gentleman has the touch: ``Multi-millionaire . . . .'' So does the woman who begins, ``Beach at night is my favorite place. . . .'' This next lead will narrow the responses considerably: ``Ballet, Tschaikovsky, Raphael, Victor Hugo. . . .'' Sounds like it might be Alistair Cooke, doesn't it?

Sprinkled among the ``Robert Redford Look-alikes'' are more subdued ads. This is not one of them: ``Handsome, well-educated, MBA, Ivy League, stockbroker, 32, great tennis player, an ex-All American soccer star, easygoing. . . .'' Here's an exception to the rule: ``How about meeting a real person instead of the plastic, glossed-up hype from one of these ads?'' Make sure you get a recent photo of this one.

By now, you must be wondering, as I am, why all these ``sensuous, six-figure successes'' have to advertise to get a date. I'm also concerned about what they will tell their children, assuming they hit it off and have some, when asked how they met. My mother first encountered my father at a gas station. I have heard the story dozens of times, but I don't mind because it is a good tale. It is the way people should meet.

After wading ear-deep through upbeat ad copy, I came across a ``NJ lady'' who maintained she was ``attractive, slim, warm, fun-loving . . . but lonely.'' (The last modifier appears just this once in the entire section.)

She doesn't say she's ``honest.'' She doesn't have to.

David Holahan is a free-lance writer.

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