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In all the wrong places takes a look at online personal ads — and misses the point.

If you want to understand personal ads, read Shakespeare. You know how all those lords and ladies in Shakespeare fall in love with other lords and ladies dressed up as ladies and lords? Again and again? Well, I say, that tells you something about falling in love (through personal ads or otherwise).

People are attracted to people they don't know anything about. (Not to mention movie stars and fairy tale prince(sse)s.) We're attracted to the things we don't know even more than the things we do. The things we only get hints of (or think we get hints of), and then imagine — dream — are real. (Like your newfound lover's undiminished vitality and irrepressible idealism. Or its implacable poise and undaunted can-do-itude when surrounded by young children. And so on.) We see in people we don't yet know the ideals we most wish for, the virtues we fear we'll never find in anyone we ever meet.

And that's what's so incredible about the people you meet online — there's so much you don't know about them. You get to dream it all up. And somewhere, out there, there's a real person to tie it all to, a vehicle for your fantasies. You get to let yourself think they're actually real, even if it's only for the moment.

Who wouldn't love that?

June 19, 2002 2:11 AM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

couldn't agree more.

there's so much talk about xenophobia yet xenophilia, love of the exotic or unknown or foreign, is hardly ever mentioned.

how charming are the rundown streets of a foreign city! the same streets that would have us protesting to the city authorities were they the streets of our town.

in a sense, intimacy and romantic love are enemies.

or the essence of beauty is distance (rough paraphrase of, i think, simone weil, french philosopher).


Posted by bernard on June 20, 2002 9:50 AM

I'm glad I was not born before tea.
-- Sidney Smith (1771-1845)

Posted by lipitor on August 17, 2004 7:00 PM

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