Archive for 2011


You won’t find a picture of Rachel Walton on Nor will you find the 42-year-old Florida natural-health enthusiast, writer and former nurse describing herself in a newspaper personals ad.

Not that these dating aids are wrong, but “it’s not my style,” says Walton. “I can’t even imagine I could pull that one off.”

In a generation where we — unlike Mom and Dad — have had the freedom to question, to explore inner feelings, to do life and relationships differently, many of us have tried to shed the old-time societal messages.

The ’90s saw a backlash, for example, against the oft-quoted 1986 Newsweekcover story, “The Marriage Crunch,” which said that never-wed, white, college-educated women 40 or older were “more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to find husbands.”

“At times I feel lonely, but my life is not about looking to find a man,” says Walton. “If I find a man, that would be wonderful, but it’s not my goal, and it’s not going to be what makes everything all better.”

What is her goal? “My goal is to find my mission in life — that may or may not include a relationship.

“It’s a subtle difference between having my whole attention on waiting for a relationship, vs. breathing more deeply into who I am and standing in that.”

She came to a new way of being single in her 40s. Before that, the questions cropped up mostly at key events, such as the marriages of her brothers.

“At those times, it was very much, `Why does it work for other people and not for me?’” Walton says. “Then they have one child after the other, and each time, it’s like, `Do I want that, can I have that, should I be wanting that? Is there something wrong with me?’ ”

The biological clock is only one of several thorny issues: What to do with sexual urges and fears of growing old alone are others.

“At times, being single holds a quality of aloneness and solitude that is good and right,” Walton says. “At other times, being single feels full of loneliness which is, at times, unbearable.

“Waking up in the middle of the night, or when I’m first waking in the morning,” she adds. “Those threshold times can feel particularly vulnerable.”

While Walton’s 7-year-old Lab mix Mattie does provide some comfort, she misses having someone to share with day-to-day. On some level, however, she is using this time in her life — over 40 and single — as a path to growth.

“There’s some way that some deep exploration and connection into myself needs to be there,” she says. “That’s the journey, and it’s not easy, and it’s not quick and simple, and it’s not necessarily comfortable.”

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Men are more likely to start their lonely-hearts search by casting a wide net and trying to arrange dates with as many eligible women as possible, according to Douglas Raybeck, a professor of anthropology at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.

Women are more selective. They’re more cautious about embarking on serial dates and more likely to focus on one prospective mate at a time.

The good news is that most lonely hearts are honest about themselves. The personals are probably not a hotbed for liars and imposters, according to Raybeck. However, novices should be aware of common literary double entendres before arranging dates.

Here are a few to keep in mind:

Full-figured — Obese or overweight

Discreet encounter — Married man anxious to avoid a real-life re-enactment ofFatal Attraction

Enjoys fine dining — A woman seeking a partner willing and able to spend money on her

Enjoys cozy nights by a warm fire — Possible couch potato

40-ish — Closer to 45, or possibly 50

Enjoys movies — Probably spends more time watching TV

No head games — Looking for a sincere partner willing to make a lifelong commitment

Tired of the singles’ scene — Hoping to get hitched. Fast

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If this ad doesn’t pique your curiosity, it could be because it’s cloaked in the clichéd jargon that has become the language of the singles’ scene.

According to Douglas Raybeck (pictured above), a professor of anthropology at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., descriptions such as “enjoy romantic walks on the beach” are so widely used, they no longer reveal anything significant about the advertiser.

In a study that evaluated 462 singles ads in a New York newspaper, Raybeck found that not a single advertiser described his or her interests as watching TV. And only two `fessed up to enjoying time spent at the mall.

Similarly, many female advertisers described themselves as “full-figured” but the word “overweight” was never used by women.

Many advertisers state favorite activities like “cozy nights by a warm fire,” movies or reading. In reality, though, the cozy-nights-by-the-fire advertiser could be a couch potato who experiences separation anxiety when he’s a shuffle away from the TV remote, said Raybeck.

“That’s not to say it’s misleading advertising. Instead, what the advertiser is trying to say is they like the image the description is trying to convey,” said Raybeck, who is married and claims that romance is overrated as a feature of a happy marriage.

“People need to read advertisements carefully and analyze the subtext. [Personal ads] are the perfect tool to winnow unsuitable partners, but they are only a preliminary step. They shouldn’t be seen as the ultimate method of finding lasting romantic love,” he said.

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