Monday, September 7, 2009
A gentleman of twenty-four summers, and considered by himself fair to middling in looks and possessed of ample means, who for the past three weeks has resided in Philadelphia, having returned to his native city, is desirous of forming the acquaintance of any lady (native or foreign) possessing health, intelligence, and a mild and amiable disposition; black eyes, good teeth, weight not less than 147 pounds and voluptuous in form. Any female possessing the above qualifications may address in confidence, as the advertiser is sincere, Byron, station G, 1,259 Broadway.
(As a total aside, isn't it cute how they used to put the comma into street addresses higher than 1,000? So funny.)
There are so many things about this ad that I find terribly amusing. First, "considered by himself fair to middling in looks." I actually like the way he phrases this (most people say, "my friends say I am good/fair/whatever-looking"), it's where I think he has a good, self-deprecating sense of humor. But then it goes on to be a little more, well, odd.
For example, why does he include the tidbit about having spent three weeks in Philadelphia? What could that possibly have to do with a matrimonial advertisement? He obviously has ample enough means to pay a good deal of money for this ad, but just because you have money doesn't mean you should spend it to include entirely superfluous information! Is a woman going to think, well, he doesn't look like much, but he spent three weeks in Philadelphia so he must be okay! Maybe there is some meaning associated with this - like maybe Pennsylvania has really lenient divorce laws and New York's were quite strict (the latter I know is true; the former I have no idea). Back in the 1950s, if you said you spent some time in Reno, NV, that's exactly what it meant - they had among (perhaps the) most liberal divorce laws in the country at a time when there was no such thing as a "no-fault" divorce.
But even if that's what he means by Philadelphia, hardly a way to appeal to the ladies. "Girls, I just got a divorce and am ready to try again! Who's in?" Hmm. Not so tempting. Perhaps it means something else, or perhaps he's got Philadelphia on his mind. I truly don't know.
Then, typically, he lays out some essential qualities (mild and amiable disposition, etc). But she also must have black eyes...well, that's fine. But what's really striking is that she must be no less than 147 pounds. Um, okay. 147 pounds. Not 150, not 145 even, but 147! What difference does that extra three pounds make that you can't round up to 150 and make things easier?
That and Philadelphia makes me think that either this guy was very amused with himself, was a little nuts, or speaking in some kind of code. The more I think about it, the more I lean toward code.
What about you?
Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!
©2009 Pam Epstein