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Taboo or not, the practice certainly isn't new.Personal ads have a history going back at least 300 years, according to a new book on the subject entitled "Classified: The Secret History of the Personal Column" (Random House Books, 2009).
"Bitter, unsuccessful middle aged loser wallowing in an unending sea of inert, drooping loneliness looking for 24 year old needy leech-like hanger-on to abuse with dull stories, tired sex and Herb Alpert albums. " "I like eating mayonnaise and peanut butter sandwiches in the rain, watching Barney Miller reruns, peeing on birds in the park and licking strangers on the subway; you eat beets raw, have climbed Kilimanjaro, and sweat freely and often. Let me know soon." "Young farmer with 100 acres would be pleased to hear from young lady with tractor.
Baby, you are my Tijuana Taxi." "Me -- trying to sleep on the bus station bench, pleading with you to give me a cigarette; you -- choking on my odor, tripping over your purse trying to get away; at the last moment, our eyes meeting. Must wear size five shoes." "There is a little place in the jumbled sock drawer of my heart where you match up all the pairs, throw out the ones with holes in them, and buy me some of those neat dressy ones with the weird black and red geometrical designs on them." "Morbidly overweight, seriously competitive computer gamer with creative genius wrt online persona... Anyway, I gotta go take a ****, so I'll just wait for you ladies to respond. Please send photograph of tractor." And my favorite so far....
Internet dating is just the modern version of the first "matrimonial" agencies of the 1700s, which helped lonely bachelors search for wives through printed ads, said author H. Cocks, a history lecturer at the University of Nottingham, UK.
In between, the social acceptance of personals has waxed and waned with the times.
More and more elements of people's lives, including love, have gone online in the last few years, and self-promotion on the Internet in general is now just a fact of life.
"Short self-descriptions aren't only the preserve of Internet daters, they are also the essence of things like Facebook and other social networking sites," said Cocks.
At least that is what the police tended to think, and they only stopped prosecuting lonely hearts ads in the late 1960s — until then they often thought that they were mainly placed by prostitutes and gay men," Cocks said.
Dating sites now suit the older single Personal ads became relatively 'acceptable' by the mid to late 1990s, say experts, helped in no small part by the explosion of Internet use.
Like the latter, though, it took some time for the personal ad to be accepted by the Mom-and-Pop public.