It was before the internet and online dating. Before you could check out a potential date on Facebook and hope he didn’t say he was 30, but actually was 50 with a photoshopped full head of hair and washboard abs.
I was working at The Birmingham News in 1992, 27 and single in that mini-Atlanta city. You know you’ve exhausted all your options when there’s a room full of guys you’ve already dated at every Jewish singles event.
A friend did it first. She put a personal ad in the Atlanta Jewish Times – there was only a print edition then – and had the guy she agreed to meet bring a date along for me. They seemed like decent bring-home-to-mama types. No rapists or ax murderers in the bunch, from what I could tell.
So I took a chance and chose my words carefully. I’m a writer, after all:
“WANT SOUL-MATE to share the good life. SJF, 27, attractive writer enjoys travel, sightseeing, aerobics, bicycling, dancing, music seeks SJM non-smoker, 27-35 with similar interests.”
The ad came with a voicemail option. So just in case I didn’t sell myself well enough in those 25 words, I made my poetic pitch in my sweetest, most appealing New York-turned-Southern voice:
“I’m looking for a companion to share the good and bad, who treats me like a woman and not a passing fad. I prefer him tall and strong, around 30 will do. My interests: hiking, nature, fitness, and his should be those too.”
The handwritten note on which I wrote that plea and the yellowing clip from a 1992 Jewish Times personal ad join many other memories affixed to a scrapbook from my marriage of 24 years to Ian Robbins.
There are also the Jewish Times engagement and wedding announcements. Plus a column I wrote in 1994 about how we met, “Irony and Destiny,” without all the details about the personal ad. I had plenty else to write about our similarities and a few bits of irony (Our names together spell I-Roni).
To recap: We were both from Long Island. His parents met at Rego Park Jewish Center in New York, which I attended often as a child while visiting my grandparents, who were active members. His brother and family live where my father grew up and other relatives of mine lived.
But most ironic is that I’m the third person in Ian’s family with a version of the same name. My sister-in-law is a Roni and Ian’s brother is Ronnie. In Ian’s family you are either a Ronnie or you’re married to Roni. You can imagine what family gatherings are like when someone calls our name. Bashert?
Two children in college later, Ian and I are officially empty nesters when my 18-year-old daughter leaves for the nine-month Nativ program in Israel in September. And we’re proof that personal ads work.
Little did I know when I placed the ad that after two years of dating long distance between my apartment in Birmingham and his condo in Buckhead, I would work at the Jewish Times as a reporter and 20 years later, as an editor.
You might say there’s a bit of irony (there’s that word again) or self-fulfilling prophecy at work here. Or maybe my marriage, and past and present jobs at the Jewish Times were and are bashert. And to think it all started with the words I wrote in the newspaper, words like those I’ve been writing for some 30 years in newspapers, magazines and online media. All carefully chosen this time to reach a desired result.
The Jewish Times has brought back the personal ad. But it’s free now. How great is that? I had to pay a small fee for mine, but totally worth it, wouldn’t you say? So if you’re looking for love in all the wrong places and take a chance like I did, I hope you find your intended too. You never know when your soulmate is looking for someone just like you. And if you do find Mr. or Ms. Right, drop us a line. We’d love to hear about it. Maybe your story can be shared in these pages too someday.