The Third Third

Dating By the Book

I thought I was raising my intellectual moxie with a subscription to *The New York Review of Books*. As, indeed, I probably am. But who knew? It’s the personal ads that have captured my imagination. The personal ads in *The New York Review of Books* are dominated by women of the third third, women owning up to being 60-ish. And proud of it. Not shy about their attributes, either. I quote: “graceful good looks;” “adorable smile;” “smart, successful, attractive and fit;” “slender, successful architect;” “outgoing, with stunning legs, good figure;” “smart and fun to talk to;” “former dancer, youthful, graceful;” “beauty and brains;” “elegant, whimsical;” and “dynamic, yet vulnerable, feminine, generous woman.” Not only are they attractive and accomplished, they’re solvent enough to have paid $500 or more to place their ads seeking (again, I quote): “an emotionally intelligent man with good sense of humor, fun and adventure;” “easygoing, friendly man with inquiring intellect, in good shape;” “educated, active man, fitness is key;” “active, secure man who values kindness and honesty;” “smart, thoughtful man who can laugh/enjoy life, is accomplished in his work and enjoys good conversation over a good meal.” Meanwhile, they’re very busy. Successful in business, they also hike and bike, they read and travel extensively, they cook and do yoga, and they love music and theater. Read: they are not desperate. And yet, here they are in *The New York Review of Books* personal classifieds. What’s the story? Maura O’Brien, the *Review*’s classified editor responded via email: “I think that the main reason women in "the third third" of their lives place personal ads in our magazine is our readership demographic. The average age of our readers is 62, and the majority of them are male (71%).” An Advertiser, Sally Furze, also responded (also by email): “I have been a subscriber to NYRB for at least 15 years, and an avid reader of the Personals page just for the sheer entertainment value. But it recently dawned on me that the men who read NYRB are probably an excellent set to draw from, they are likely to be like me, intelligent, liberal, middle-aged, well-employed, etc.” As for a dating strategy, Ms. Furze offers this, which is what she says she also tells any respondents: “I am extremely independent, and I am beginning to think that I will probably not remarry. I am not opposed to marriage, though, and if Mr. Wonderful comes along, I would certainly consider it. But it is very difficult to meet the right kind of man. The central problem, and this will sound egocentric in the extreme, still I think you will find it persuasive, is that I am a big intellect, accomplished and sophisticated, yet live in a small town (Salem, Oregon) with a commensurately small population of suitable suitors. Further, I am at an age where the cliché that "all the good ones are married" is incontrovertible truth, again especially in this provincial setting. (I stay here because of my job, which I absolutely love, and because Salem, with all its faults, also has its charms, and it is a very easy city to get around in and get one's business done in.) “My recent strategy, which has been working pretty well, developed from my realization that Mr. Wonderful may not be coming along, combined with the fact that it has been very difficult to find one man in possession of all the features I desire. So I am applying what might be termed the Modern Portfolio Theory of romance. I have assembled a collection of what I term "The Misters Individually-Lacking-but-Collectively-Complete." In this way I find I have at least one date every two weeks, and thus a reasonable social life.” Ms. O’Brien, the section’s editor, suggests “the old-fashioned system of placing a personal ad in a magazine or newspaper, and of sending and receiving paper responses is appealing to our older readers and advertisers. Maybe there is some comfort in doing things that way, rather than placing oneself so vulnerably on the Web.” But what do you say? Where would you/do you try to make your match? (Or, if you prefer, to build your portfolio?)
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