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Punk'd

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oh man, I suck.  I was gonna post Friday and didn't, so figured, I'll post on Saturday!  And then I didn't.  So I was definitely, definitely gonna post yesterday.  And that didn't happen either.  But I found a pretty funny ad for a Monday morning.  


A gentleman, of education and means, intending to spend the coming summer in Europe, desires to make the acquaintance of some educated and handsome young lady, with a view to matrimony.  Ladies who are not sincere in what they do, and who do not expect to find the advertiser a gentleman, need not answer, as he does not wish to be annoyed with silly letters of that character.  Address James H. Willard, Union square Post office.

Heh.  I actually do know what this is all about.  I don't know if this is actually true, or at least if it was a really widespread thing, but lots of people thought that teenage girls with nothing better to do would get together with their friends and answer matrimonial ads for amusement, but would send really outrageous letters.  Or, would send perfectly nice, normal letters to lead on the poor guy who wrote the ad in the first place, and then stand him up when they arranged a meeting, or some other prank.  Again, I don't know if this ever really took place, but I can imagine how it might have.  Obviously this guy believed it did - in fact, I would say that this is better proof that it did than any of the newspaper articles warning girls against such a dangerous practice.  If he felt it necessary to pay for an extra four lines to his ad to mention this, instead of, for example, enumerating his lovable qualities, he must have known someone who got punk'd.  Which then leads me to wonder why he printed an ad in the first place, if he was so sure he might get joke replies.

Anyhow, this was, supposedly, a very, very risky thing for girls to do.  Why?  They might first answer as a joke, but then would be taken in by this guy (who was naturally an evil-doer, since only bad people would ever publish matrimonial ads), gradually fall in love, meet him, get seduced, and then of course be ruined and become a prostitute and etc, etc, I think I mentioned this recently.

So hard to be a girl! 

And yet, so hard to be a guy too!  I mean here he is, aware that people use the matrimonials as a form of entertainment, and he's still publishing one.  Is that a sign of desperation?  Did he know someone who was successful and figured he'd risk it anyway? 

It's interesting to me to know that there were these widespread perceptions about the ads, because whenever there's "common knowledge" about something (be it true or not), it means that that thing is, well, common.  Which means, I hope, that my dissertation is worthwhile, since not many people have written about these ads before.

If only I could just finish the damn thing!!

©2010 Pam Epstein

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