To the woman who left a somewhat hysterical (in both senses of the word) message on my voice-mail, in which she described what seemed to be some kind of misunderstanding that had occurred as the result of a personal ad she'd either responded to or taken out herself:
First of all, I'm sorry to have been so long in getting back to you. You're probably in a psych ward by now, repeating the letters "SWF" over and over again to no one in particular. And I feel partly responsible for that, but 1) I was on vacation when your call came in, and 2) my emergency-response system makes the government's own response to Hurricane Katrina look like D-Day and the Marshall Plan combined. Let me put it another way: I don't do house calls.
Or phone calls - not until I get that 900-number up and running, anyway. Still, I must confess that I felt an immediate urge to contact you upon listening to your message, if only to find out what the hell you were talking about. And wouldn't you know it, now I've gone and erased the message, so I don't even have that anymore. But I think I remember the gist of it, to the extent I got the gist of it in the first place - something about a guy who done you wrong.
This guy may not have been the handsome, athletic, Nobel Prize-winning, loves-puppies-and-walks-in-the-rain father of your future children that he described himself as in his ad. Or there may have been a slight miscommunication regarding his marital status. By "SWM," he may have meant "Singularly attracted to my Wife, who's also the Mother of my children, although I'm allowed to respond to personal ads, as long as things don't get too, you know, personal."
But let's say he flat out lied. Let's say he tried to pass himself off as single so as to take advantage of you. Heck, that may be what you did say in your voice-mail message, for all I know. Everything was so garbled that all I really had to go on was the tone of your voice - exasperation giving way to indignation giving way to more exasperation, followed by more indignation, then stupefaction. I'm not sure what this guy said or did to you, but it must have been good.
Bad, I mean. It must have been bad. Or is it possible - unlikely, I admit, highly improbable and very difficult to imagine, but possible - that you've (how should I put this?) overreacted an itsy-bitsy, teensy-weensy, who-wouldn't-in-your-situation amount? And mightn't lying, from the little white lie to the double-whopper with cheese, be part and parcel of the personal-ad phenomenon? I mean, can you honestly say that you yourself told the truth and nothing but?
I suspect you can, actually, hence the hysteria. But if I can leave you with just one piece of advice regarding the personals, it would be this: Try to keep an open mind. And I mean that in both directions. Don't assume that because the "tall, dark and handsome Proust scholar" turns out to look like Toulouse-Lautrec after a really long night at the Moulin Rouge that the little guy might not grow on you. And don't assume that a guy on the singles market isn't also married.
In short, apply the same wary-but-hopeful attitude that you apply whenever you meet anyone. What's the first thing you should do when introduced to a guy whom you might spend the rest of your life with? Google him! Then google him a few more times using different keywords like "embezzlement" and "parole." You may not find out everything you want to know, but at least you won't be relying on him to supply you with all the information you require.
Still, I hope you don't give up on the personals, Hysteria. Given the right attitude, they can be a lot of fun. And who knows, you may meet the absinthe-sipping, hunch-backed dwarf of your dreams. Good luck.
If you like piña coladas...well, then there's not much I can do for you, but go ahead and write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.