Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Lexicon Harlot, Match-Unmaker

It's happened. My lucrative career as essay adjudicatrix has spilt over into real life. Not content with the impress of my pedantic pencil upon the collective undergraduate disquisition, I'm now getting up the goats of Voltaireans across the nation by ripping down hand-penned personals notes.

On the subject of personals notes, I'm not - in principle - against 'em, though it would take a braver person than I to risk a couple of hours of precious weekend on the strength of "N-S G.S.O.H. 28-35". But no, far be it from me to disdain a desperado. Indeed, I hereby tender for your consideration that there are far worse preliminaries to a human couplet than a rhyming one.

"Handsome yuppy, seeking other,
To replace his much loved mother."

"Hello! My name is Susan Bretts.
If you refrain from cigarettes,
Like jazz and books and croissants three,
It sounds like you're the one for me."


So what, you ask, could possibly move a Harlot About Town to remove a hand-penned personals note from the public domain? Try this on for size (we're talking A4 paper, lined, blue texta, posted on the noticeboard outside the library):

Hi! I am an Aussie guy, did 5 yrs at uni, looking for an Asian girlfriend. Interest? SMS/Call: *********** C U Soon"

Now call me picky, but "Aussie guy", "5 yrs at uni", replete with own mobile phone number, doesn't really cut my mustard. What we all want to know is whether he makes a good basil sauce, promises not to watch televised ballsports, and will occasionally consent to being dressed up in viking regalia and wheeled around the carpark in a shopping trolley. But that's all by the by. If self-styled "Aussie guy" with mobile phone is your cuppa tea, then dunk your biscuit, by all means.

Equally, my predilection is for persons who write in words, rather than lone-rangering alphanumerical symbols. In my book, "C U Soon" is a poor substitute for "every minute will be an agony of anticipation", but I suppose our "Aussie guy" is affecting a casual tone to help distract from the out and out creepiness of - and here I get to my point - "looking for an Asian girlfriend".

The United Republic of Asia is a very big country these days, but even if it didn't stretch between the regions formerly known as the sovereign states of East Timor and Turkey, there'd be something a little troubling about the notion of "Asian" as a homogeneous category. (Equally, there's something a little troubling about the idea of "Aussie guy" as a homogeneous category, but blah blah.) This particular "Aussie guy", I can't help thinking, thinks of prospective girlfriends in terms of different flavours, like ice-cream, flavours that are best described, not by referring to the prospective girlfriends' politics, ethics, aesthetics, preference for wearing corduroy dungarees, or snail-racing prowess, but by alluding to the geography in which their grandparents grew up. Of course, "Aussie guy" isn't actually interested in geography; it's this, that with an "Asian girlfriend" he knows what he's going to get. I could speculate about his assumptions, about what's encoded for "Aussie guy" in the words "Asian girlfriend", but I'd only be doing so in order to invigorate my indignation. His assumptions, whatever they are, are predicated on a notion of cultural (and genetic) homogeneity sprawling across an entire continent, on that enlightened "they're all the same" position, and what I want to know is what he was doing for those five yrs at uni.


vague said...

Oh excellent. This guy looks like a real winner! I suspect whatever he was doing at uni for five years was exactly the same thing my students are doing: letting their dead weight drag the entire class down into their pit of slack-jawed banality.

If he were in America, though, he'd be a prized catch based on accent alone. Come to think of it, could you send me his number?

alexis said...

I promise, the novelty of Australian vowels and the unvocalised /r/ wears off quicker than you can drink a glahss of watah. Or slivovitz, as the case may be.

But "pit of slack-jawed banality"! Mind if I pitch that to the TV people?

Martin Kingsley said...

A point well made. I can only hope that the person (and I use this term loosely) belonging to that aforementioned note is not long for this world.

Anonymous said...

Well, if not an imminent demise, one can only hope that the hapless Lothario finds his way (and pronto!) to one of the legions of estimable websites devoted to slaking this particular thirst.

Maybe the five years were spend leaving illiterate missives tucked between the pages of accounting and computer science textbooks in the library without his ever bothering with trifling annoyances like, say, enrolling in a degree.

As for glasses brimming with slivovitz - shouldn't we all be so lucky?

JahTeh said...

Now we should all be kind to TimT if that's the only way he can catch a girl.

TimT said...

No, my idea of seduction is more having fits of the vapours on public transport and hoping some dashing tennis-playing lady named Hester Hyphen-Someoneorother will swoop me away to their lair in Transylvania where they perform the dance of the Seven Whales. It's more metatextual than sexual, but it's the best I can do at the moment to distance myself from this particular attempt at romance.

Besides, isn't it a feature of a lot of romance/matchmaking letters to use peculiar acronyms? (The only example I can think of is MILF, which is bad enough). It's a kind of glib code that's used in place of more meaningful or more seriously considered language.

That, by the way, is the most virtuouso use of the other/mother rhyme I have seen for some time. It fits perfectly.

Martin Kingsley said...

Woah, woah, woah-woah-woahwoahwoahwoahwoahWOAH. Did you just use 'metatextual' in the same post as, and I shudder at even having to render the acronym, "MILF"?

Everybody, strap yourselves in. I think I just heard the world ending.

Miss Eagle said...

Your correspondent is always struck by the frequent request of male advertisers in the newspaper "seeking" columns that the female be "slim". Makes one wonder what shape the male person is in and why Rubinesque women should be so easily dismissed.


lucy tartan said...

This reminds me of the graffiti in public toilets in small towns: "Ring a Root call Leanne 03 7777 3434" etc. Obviously that isn't Leanne's real phone number.

I reckon Mr Australia probably spent every minute of his five years highlighting and underlining entire page-long paragraphs in library books.

alexis said...

So I say I'm down with the Swingles Advert, but really, it's more a case of snooty tolerance than sincere downness. It's the self-identification as real estate that gets me. You know what I'm talking about. You see it all the time in the back pages of the local newspaper: "Fully refurbished divorcee with Federation chimneys likes long walks on the beach, &c." But worse, far worse, is when the person seeking paramour doesn't market themself, and instead lays down precise specifications for the prospective:

"Me: whatever I damn well choose. You: size-7 shoes; no allergies; proficiency in Sanskrit, Swedish massage and embroidery; must drive own scooter."

But I'm a bit old fashioned like that.

alexis said...

Miss Eagle, there is a Queen song called "Fat Bottomed Girls" that both cheers and appals me.

Timotheos, your plan is flawless.

Martin Kingsley said...

"Looking for 30+ housewife, must have own boat and motor, please send pictures of same"?

Mrs Mean said...

While "C U soon" is an appallingly bow to the commonalities of text-speak, in a personal ad, where every letter is probably costing 30 cents, to a mean and frugal persona such as my own, it somehow gets me going.

Perhaps a personal ad that simply said:


would be even more alluring to one such as meself.

You never know what pushes another's buttons.

alexis said...

I understand what you're saying, Mrs Mean. My own Protestant Stinginess Ethic is well developed. But our Lothario hadn't paid for his ad. He'd written it by hand and pinned it up on the notice board. No excuse for failures of eloquence.

Mrs Mean said...

What is NSGSOH?

Not So Good Sense of Humour?

Not Seeking Good Sense of Humour

Naughty Sex-God Seeks Offal-loving Human

Need Somebody to Give Seriously Overt Hugs

Neurotic Serial Granny-Strangler On Hunt

This acronym thing is rather confusing.

Maria said...

He probably spent 5 years at Uni wandering about notice boards posting personals ads on the student notices sections.

Which reminds me of a short anecdote from law school about personals ads.

I was, quite innocently, attempting to sell some law texts secondhand by posting a list of old Law books I most wished to get rid of. Them Law texts are quite expensive, but since they get outdated almost immediately, and I hardly read them again, and they take up far too much space in my room, I'm glad if anyone will relieve me of them for just a bit of the price.

They've got lovely titles such as "Administrative Law: Cases and Materials" and flirty names such as "Land Law" and "Commercial Law".

I added to the bottom of the list my name and mobile number.

A little later I received a text message from a man saying it was "about the notice".

I enquired about whether he was interested in acquiring a book, and if so, which one.

He texted back that the book he wished to acquire was:

"I'm bored, single and want to get to know you" and told me his name, age and that he was a lawyer.

I'm afraid that didn't tickle me pink, and romance a la book noticeboard didn't commence.

What is it about the way I arrange book titles on a page ... Was it my dashing Arial 12 font, the way I indent, or my use of columns that got a man's heart pounding?

Or was it sheer desperation I read in a text?

Alas, I shall never know.