Today is my 20th wedding anniversary. A wave of nostalgia rushes through me.
I met my wife Cindy Lou in 1990 thanks to a classified ad. I saved it—as you can see. In fact, we enlarged and displayed it at our wedding.
Cindy and I enjoy telling the story now (perhaps me more than her), but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, in the early years, we found it a little embarrassing, so when asked, “how’d you guys meet?” we usually went with a lie. We claimed we met in a record store. My friends knew I spent a lot of time in them, so they bought it.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…
Why would a “catch” like you need to do a personal ad?
Okay, in the dictionary, there’s no picture of me next to the word “catch.” I’m no ladies man either. However, I usually was a man with a lady. After deciding I liked women (at the normal age), I was never shy about meeting them. And until 1988, I was in school. It’s easy to meet single women in school.
I didn’t find that to be the case when I joined the working world. In fact, I found I rarely ever met women. I spent my days in advertising agencies. Played softball with the boys. I wasn’t active in a lot of particular social clubs. Bars and nightclubs were not my scene. My love life was dreadfully uneventful at this time.
Around this time, the blind dating business was starting to catch on.
This was pre-Internet. Dating services were emerging, but not nearly as cool or as widely embraced as they are now. So like most, I felt awkward about them.
Awkward lost the battle with lonely. I began to think about it. Then I began to respond to some classified ads. When you do this, you speak to voicemail systems, so I got my best little rap together and dialed. Not one bachelorette ever returned a call. I felt like a loser.
One day, I left my office for lunch and slithered quietly into the office of a video dating service. Surely, this would work. Didn’t happen. After sitting through the pitch, I learned I’d need to shell out a couple of grand. I decided I wasn’t quite that lonely.
Now you recall, I said I was in the advertising business, a copywriter. It occurred to me I probably should try being the advertiser, not the prospect. I should write my own dating ad.
The ad worked.
I chose to write a quirky ad designed to narrow the field. Most of the ads by single white males (SWM), or males in general, promised an unrealistically ideal “offering.”
The ads would describe the single man as the impulsive, passionate type who likes to take walks on the beach under the moonlight, drink chardonnay, appreciate fine foods and art, and treasure deep meaningful conversation. I suspect ads like that might pull better than the “bare the truth” ad describing a babe hunter who admitted he drove a pickup, spends the weekends watching football and guzzles Bud.
I ran my ad in the South Coast Shopper, a Pennysaver-style classified ad rag that came by mail each week.
When I got on the phone to check my voicemail I learned how this business model rakes in the bucks. I was charged $4 per minute or some steep fee to retrieve my messages. So as I’m listening to each woman describe her qualities, I’m thinking “please, could you get to the part where you give me your phone number?”
My ad drew 8 responses. I believe I spoke with all of the women. I wound up having dates with 4 of them. They went like this:
• Date 1: Great date. Pretty girl. Great conversationalist. We practically named our children that night as we barhopped in Newport Beach. Turns out we never dated again. I discovered the girl was using me to make her boyfriend jealous.
• Date 2: Cindy Lou. Pretty girl again. Classified ad dating is surprisingly fun. Great date too. We had an awesome dinner in Laguna Beach, walked around the shopping area after, and talked for a long time in a gazebo overlooking the beach. I remember a lot of our conversation was about “The Prince of Tides,” a novel we had both read and loved. We also talked quite a bit about Jimmy Buffet.
• Date 3: The date from hell at a sushi bar. After dinner, I was asked what I’d like to do next. My answer, “Go home and watch the Lakers.”
• Date 4: Pleasant time with a very nice woman at some Mexican restaurant. No chemistry whatsoever.
I wanted to keep seeing Cindy.
Cindy didn’t feel the same. I called and called. Finally got her. She was busy. Turns out Cindy had recently begun seeing someone, Paul, I think, a pilot in the service. She liked her prospects with him better.
I had to know… So why are you answering dating ads? She told me she had never done it before. She explained she was doing it along with her unlucky-in-love roommate in an effort to make her feel better about it. Cindy’s nice like that. Cares about people’s feelings.
I moved to begging.
While Cindy was blowing me off, she was nice enough talk to me. So I began to beg. I felt there was something between us.
Begging eventually paid off. I had a pretty nice bachelor pad, a condo. I cook pretty well. Also, I have a righteous CD collection. None of this was lost on Cindy when I persuaded her to come to my place and allow me to serve a scallop fettuccine dinner.
So I got a third date… a marathon party with friends in a limo that stopped at numerous Long Beach bars and eventually made its way to the Hollywood Bowl for a Jimmy Buffet show. Wasted away again in margaritaville. If I could only remember how much fun we had.
A crossroads came because Cindy continued seeing Paul. I couldn’t handle that. I called on all the persuasive powers I had and asked Cindy to pick a dude.
Then we got serious.
We dated a ton. Spent all the time we could together. Lost our jobs about the same time during one of the many recessions we’ve lived through. We moved to San Jose together when we both landed jobs in the South Bay Area.
We lived together. Got engaged. Married. Traveled. Bought a house. Started a company. Made babies. Two awesome girls. Bought strollers. Got a van.
When you’re married for 20 years, you’d be the most transparent liar in the world if you said every moment was a smooth ride down Bliss Blvd. As the vows go (though we wrote our own), we have been there for each other in good times and bad, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.
And here we are 20 years later. Making a life. Making it work. Making memories. Beating the odds.
The power of advertising.
It amuses me to think about our story in the context of my profession. (It probably doesn’t amuse her). I never bothered to count, but I have probably written more than 1,000 ads. The objective tends to be to sell lots of stuff to lots of people. Even when they work, I generally don’t have a success story to tell.
I had to share this one, the story of my best ad.
The ad was written for just one person. The same goes for this blog post.
Happy anniversary Lou.