I know I’ve been talking a lot about dating lately, but as I have ventured back into the scene over the past year, I find myself doing what I do with a lot of new subjects of interest – overanalyzing. Hey, what can I say? It’s what I do best.
So, anywho, speaking of dating, let’s take a look at a phenomenon that generates over $2.5 billion in revenue per year: online dating sites. Online dating sites are used by 15% of Americans (don’t ask me to prove those figures, but I swear, I found them somewhere, I didn’t just make them up). Our society’s demands on our time make the opportunity of finding a dating partner or, heaven forbid, a mate, problematic. Dating sites have become the cattle calls of personal interaction. This is not, however, something that sprang from the loins of the Internet. The concept has been around for a long time. In fact, for thousands of years. Here are some of the more notable sites from my vivid and bored imagination history, yeah of course, history.
Hemo-tab-ra’s Sphinx Sylphs – Giza, Plateau of Giza, Kingdom of Egypt – 2497 BC
Hemo-tab-ra, an enterprising naturalized Hittite, gained a lucrative contract from Pharaoh Khafre to provide the workers who had just finished The Sphinx, and were now hard at work on the pyramids, with women. For a jar of beer, a worker could attach a short note to the base of The Sphinx that described himself. Local women could peruse the ads for 30 minutes in exchange for a small basket of wheat. They would take their chosen ad to Hemo-tab-ra, who would set up the meeting at sunset. Egyptologists have even found and translated one of the ads:
“Jaru-al-tep, I am NOT near death. I have all my arms and legs
and most of my teeth.
I have eighteen toes and eight and-a-half fingers.
Only three open sores.
I love small animals and crying.
Looking for a woman. That’s it. Just a woman. PLEASE!
Balderic’s Beauties – Château d’Ainay-le-Vieil, Cher, France – 1301
Balderic le Lubrique saw an incredible marketing opportunity when the local women complained about the lack of men due to the fact that they were still on their way back from the Third Crusade. For the sensible price of 6 Denier (the same amount you’d spend on a fat capon), village ladies could put up notices on the wall of the Château. For an extra 2 Denier, Balderic would attach a drawing of the lady. In reality, they looked more like French cave dwelling pictures of Mastodons being speared, but hey, whatever works…and this apparently worked. This ad was found in cellar of the Château during renovations.
Angélique la Salope: I am 22.
My parents are worried that I will never marry and remain an
old maid forever, thus draining their finances and patience.
Cuddling in front of the fireplace to read a book would be wonderful
except for the fact that I can’t read or write
since women cannot go to school in our village.
My parents want grandchildren…
As for me, I just want a man who will not relieve himself on the kitchen floor.
“Do You Want Your Ashes Hauled?” – Advertisement in the New York Tribune – 1912
“Hauling Ashes” was a post-Victorian euphemism for “doing the nasty.” This was the first co-ed dating site. Someone would place an ad and ask for a response to a Box at the newspaper…”serious inquiries only.” The New York Public Library Archives reportedly has this ad on file in their vast records:
Proper Gramercy Park woman, widow
seeking discreet gentleman adorned with stately head of hair for social intercourse.
I have my own home that features window shades, and my own Victrola.
I prefer afternoon or early evening tea-time “meetings.”
Of note – a meal of any sort should not be presumed
Only those gainfully employed and with clean finger nails need apply.
Of course, the internet has changed the game. Some modern dating sites require the completion of exhaustive questionnaires. You’re simply too tired to date afterwards…or at least you need a nap first. Others feature the convenient “swipe left or right” feature to secure a furtive assignation. Not that I’m dismissing the whole “swipe left or right” thing outright, but let’s just say spur of the moment decisions in the love arena have never exactly boded well for me. Well, except for that one time…oh, nevermind, I digress.
One thing that has definitely changed over the years is the move away from simple facts and requests, and more towards flowery mendacity. I mean, I know we all live for the moment when we enter the coffee shop to meet our online date, only to hear them chuckle and say, “Oh, I guess you can tell that my profile picture was taken about 20 years ago. When I was sober. And had hair. And showering was more of a thing.”
Hemo-tab-ra! Where are you when we need you?