Monday, April 5, 2010
Matrimonial. - A young man of pleasing appearance and affectionate disposition, whose attention has been occupied with business to the neglect of his social ties, now feels the desire and adopts this method to make the acquaintance of a young Lady of personal attractions, engaging manners and refined tastes. His means are ample for the comforts of married life, and therefore he is not actuated by mercenary considerations. Acting in this matter with the utmost good faith, he trusts it will be answered with confidential frankness. Address "C.S.J.," Post Office Box 3173. ap16.p425-StAnyone who's ever lived in New York City has probably heard the refrain that it's so hard to meet people here (I wouldn't be surprised if you hear the same complaint in other cities). How can that be the case? There are like 8 million people in this city and they're literally all living on top of each other, why can't they meet?
Well, as this ad shows, people felt exactly the same way 150 years ago - although I don't always think for the same reasons. Here, as you see, C.S.J. doesn't know any women because he's been too busy with work and there aren't any women in offices as there are today (sometimes women worked as stenographers, but other than a male supervisor, they would have been completely segregated from men). Middle-class men were expected to work hard and live repressed, stoic, simple lives until they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, Horatio Alger-style, and then - and only then - could they enjoy the finer things in life. But by that time, like this guy - who maybe moved in from the country - men didn't have any friends to introduce them to their sisters or daughters or whatever.
So what do you do? Well, as I argue in my dissertation, you turn to an unconventional method of finding true love through a matrimonial. Just as people do now with online dating. True, today it's theoretically easier to meet people because there isn't the same social segregation, but once you've dated all your friends' friends, the only thing left is online dating, right? Or at least that's the stereotype. But there is an odd truth that the bigger a city you live in, the less able you are to get to know the people in it - because you're surrounded by strangers. And that's what people started encountering for the first time in the 1850s and 1860s because that's the moment where you start seeing some really huge population surges in cities.
Or, in other words, the more things change...
Anyway, I like this guy a lot. He seems really genuine and nice, and I love how he describes himself as affectionate - and also makes a point of saying he can support his wife and does not care if he a woman with money. He might not be as eloquent as Bertram or Christopher, but I think he's also a romantic at heart.
Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!
©2010 Pam Epstein