Before ehmarmony and Ashley Madison, there were words-only newspaper dating ads, resembling agate listings of losing baseball teams.
The Fresno Bee rolled out its version in the early 1990s. Time heals, so I stand now to offer The Bee public forgiveness for a misdeed.
I had been cajoled then into placing an ad by two married friends, insisting I’d become too painful to watch in becoming suddenly single after 20 years. I guess Sugar Pops and Pepsi for breakfast further eroded my moribund mojo.
So, I nudged my DWM (divorced white male) out there along with slivers of G-rated hankerings that, if so charmed, could progress to a pay-per-listen phone message.
I felt like both chum and chump. With several popes’ worth of monogamy under my belt, I weakly whispered a call for wise, witty and professional women with affinities for the Yankees and “off-beat” lectures. I intoned about the whereabouts of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Though sounding as amorous as a shedding sloth, I experienced occasions for a catholicity of sin. There was the test of coffee, tea and woe-is- me; a taste of Friday Hot ‘n Now; golf as religious and spiritual obstacle course; and other Freudian tête- à-tête that fed my mind with endless replays of a favorite Allman Brothers’ tune, “Whipping Post.”
During this rapture, I also worked as the Bee’s religion reporter.
Cancel the ad, I ordered. Immediately relieved, there followed a weekend of penitential repair for force-feeding spaghetti into a garbage disposal.
Then rang the phone. The Bee had screwed up. The dating ad was published again, past its cancellation.
She’d seen me dripping wet, reporting from a soggy Martin Luther King Day parade. She was a marcher, who liked galleries, museums and the Yankees.
I activated my deflector shield of civility. Well, says I, to the sunny-voiced woman from Reedley, if you ever visit Fresno (lo, a biblically long 25 miles), do let me know and…
She called my bluff, concluding my dangling sentence by calendaring a Sunday lunch in a public place (my request).
She wore a green sweatshirt and a pulsing, peach-colored smile. I could sense her warmth, as I deliberately walked past her sitting at the restaurant, pretending she wasn’t just about the mall’s only other sorry soul seeking a solution to solitary Sundays.
As I neared the down escalator – I swear I was about to turn around – she left nothing to chance. No way, she said later, no way you were getting away that easy. I went through a lot of expensive phone calls to catch up with you.
Thus, did the Bee’s mistake jump out from the page.
After she finished her pastrami, I suggested a short drive for a quick tour of the Bee news and press rooms. We could watch robots move tons of newsprint!
I told her to follow my white Toyota. I was driving a white Honda. Had her guessing.
I swear the redhead’s Ford pickup had a gun rack, along with a pox of dings, dents and a relentless fluid leak.
She insisted she was a Mennonite pacifist and hinted I was dumber than an empty Pez dispenser when it came to knowing about sliding windows and pickups.
I recall little else beyond her inviting me to a second, equally unique date the next week at City Hall. There, as she snuggled a grandbaby, I watched the family celebrate her son-in-law’s police swearing in.
Some call the printed news a snapshot of history. Twenty years, roughly how long I was in the Bee’s trenches, and there were mistakes on both sides, So, boss types, no need to promise a “free” paid obituary to set things straight, although it would be a kick to have.
We’ll chalk it up to it just deserts as we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. When you’re married to the news profession sometimes it will marry you, even by mistake.
John G. Taylor, a former Fresno Bee reporter and editor, is owner of JT Communications Company. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.