Negative Personal Ads
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What do you think? Do negative ads work? Should they work?
Are negative personal ads refreshingly frank or just angry?
By Amy Sohn (Email) Published Oct 16, 2005
Any Internet dater is familiar with the personal-ad format: You toot your own horn to the point of ridiculousness and then, just so the reader doesn’t think you’re completely egotistical, throw in a mildly self-deprecating comment for good measure. If the ads are to be believed, everyone who dates online is intelligent, fit, caring, sensitive, and, of course, unmarried. But the truth is, anyone posting a personal ad is acknowledging their own singlehood, so when we read those self-aggrandizing adjectives, we know they mask someone more vulnerable than the ad might have us believe.
Aware of this, some posters choose to undersell, mocking themselves and potential respondents at the same time. They see their dark worldview as something to be proud of, not to hide, and post ads like “In search of bird with broken wing,” “Total jerk seeks total bitch,” or “Damaged Goods.” The philosophy is that honest, if negative, ads will reach the right people. And if these ads attract more psychos than the positive ones, at least the psychos make for more interesting dates, these posters say.
My friend Tim, 43, a storeowner who looks like John Lurie, calls himself the “king of negative personal ads.” He’s posted negative ads for three of the four years he’s been Internet dating, with headlines like “Seeking pre-operative Jewish girl,” and “Ex-girlfriend look-alike contest,” and says he feels he’s found the G-spot. “I finally reached the demographic I was seeking,” he says. “I realized I was less interested in trying to impress them with a well-selected restaurant than in finding the right wavelength.” That wavelength, he says, is “a kindred spirit I can have sex with, a chick who likes Bukowski.”
When he posted an ad on Craigslist recently that said “I hate you already,” he got dates with two women. One was on crutches and the other had just had knee surgery. I told him that with an ad like that, he’d gotten what he asked for. “I’m not trying to woo innocence,” he says. “I’m not looking for someone to take home to Mama.” Then why not place an overt casual-sex ad? “Because I don’t want to have sex with someone I’m not interested in. I want to watch a Fassbinder film with a woman, pause, have sex, and then watch the third act with her.”