Match.com, OK Cupid, Craigslist, Tinder: Before online and phone app dating, there were personal ads. A couple lines of type in grey newsprint were all the room you had to find the love of your life. But from time to time they worked.
I had almost given up when she called.
The personals ad I’d run in Eugene Weekly was about to expire. Early on, the responses were promising. There were even some phone conversations and a few shared pints with lovely young ladies. But beyond that, nothing much materialized.
Near the end of the ad’s run, the responses had lessened, and I began to wonder if I even wanted a girlfriend. The few dabbles in dating since my divorce had been more or less pains in the ass. Girlfriends, I’d begun to feel, were nothing but trouble. But then late one night, perhaps on a Friday — I don’t remember exactly — I stumbled home to my tiny bachelor’s studio apartment, buzzed and a little floating. There was a message on my voice mail.
Yes, I still had a landline. Don’t forget I’d placed a personals ad — like, in a real newspaper. This was, after all, the early 2000s.
This is how it worked: You place the ad, you call a number and set up a voice mailbox. Anyone interested left a message, and the messages ranged from serious to, well, frankly vulgar invitations for casual sex from all sorts. Behind the anonymity and safety of phone receivers it was, at the very least, good for a laugh.
This message was different. She said her name was Kim, and her voice was sweet and a little nervous. She told me she’d just graduated with a master’s degree from University of Oregon. I called her back the next day. It was nice to have someone’s voice on the line, and hers was already familiar. (Later I learned she’d debated responding to the ad for a while, and it took the urging of a friend and plenty of white wine to finally take the plunge.)
I don’t remember much of our first conversation, but she easily passed my first test: She loved The Smiths. And having had a few intriguing yet ultimately stalled dating leads, I decided I would immediately inquire about a face-to-face meeting: broad daylight, public, nothing threatening. I didn’t have time to waste.
After, sitting on a lawn chair in my mom’s backyard, I told my mom I’d maybe sort of met someone. I said, “Her name is Kim Harper.” Mom said, “Oh that sounds like a journalist or an actress — like Kim Novak or something.” She was also impressed with the master’s degree.
Despite a ringing endorsement from mom, I decided to pursue.
Our first face-to-face meeting was at Perugino in downtown Eugene. It was a warm August day, and while I was walking to the date a woman approached me on the street to ask if I would be interested in auditioning for a Gus Van Sant film. To this day, I’m not sure if this was a good sign, but I decided it meant I’d definitely selected the right outfit.
At our first meeting we talked for three hours about all sorts of things. I thought she was very pretty, and I liked how I couldn’t nail down the exact shade of her eyes: Sometimes they seemed brown, sometimes they seemed light green.
I waited one day to call her again. We met for a movie and, a few days later, took a walk to a park with strawberries. It was very easy, in all the best ways, to touch the small of her back, hold her hand and give her a kiss.
And no, I didn’t get the part in the Gus Van Sant movie, though I did audition. All things considered, I think that’s probably for the best.
Thirteen years have passed; a wedding and one daughter later, we’ve rarely been apart. I can’t say when I knew it would work, but I can say I knew Kim Harper — my Kim Novak, my smart journalist girl — would stand by me. And she has.
I’m not the kind of girl who answers a personal ad. This is what I told myself after reading “Pop Culture Geek’s” personal ad in EW in August of 2003. I’m pretty shy and never dated much. I had just finished grad school and was comfortable in my little house with my two cats and tribe of friends.
But this ad caught my attention, and my interest in it caught me off-guard. It hit all the right points and sounded sweet. I showed it to my friends. They all said, “OMG. Kim you have to answer this ad! This guy sounds just right for you.”
“No,” I said. “I’m not the kind of girl who answers a personal ad.”
And yet, I kept reading it and showing it to my friends. My friend Melissa made me call. “Hi my name is William …” His outgoing voice message was sweet, sounded normal and again … hit all the right points.
But I’m not the kind of girl who answers a personal ad. I didn’t leave a message. If I saw the ad again the next week, maybe I would call.
It was there again the next week and the week after that.
Finally on a warm summer afternoon, my friend Jenn asked me, “Really, what do you have to lose?” She was right. Something was telling me I needed to respond. So, late one Saturday night, after a couple glasses of liquid courage, I called.
I have no memory of the message I left, but the next morning the phone rang. We talked for a long time.
“Would you like to meet?” he asked.
We met at Perugino on Tuesday, August 19, 2003. Again, we talked for hours. He wasn’t sporty; he liked good music, and he was smart and funny — all the right points.
We went on our first official date that Friday — a movie and drinks at Adam’s Place downtown.
That was it. We were inseparable. We made our home in downtown Eugene. We were married three years later at Adam’s Place. Three years after that, we welcomed our daughter into the world.
In the end, I guess I am the kind of girl who answers a personal ad, and I’m glad.