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Some gorillas in the missed

July 27, 2006|Tanja Laden | Special to The Times

THE "Missed Connections" ad I've dreamed about finding:

"Me: 30s, 6 feet, British Daniel Day-Lewis look-alike skimming Kierkegaard in Brentano's. You: 30s female in travel section reading Kuala Lumpur guidebook. Wanted to chat, but when I put my volume of 'Fear and Trembling' back, you vanished. Would love to discuss Malaysia over espresso. Do call."

Flashback: I'm 13 and scouring the "Chance Meetings" section of the local paper while waiting for my mother to pick me up at the mall. I'm not reading the ads in hopes of finding someone who's looking for me, though; all the boys my age are too busy playing Dungeons & Dragons to bother to chase girls through the classifieds.

Instead, I begin reading the ads after watching "Desperately Seeking Susan," a film where Madonna's character used the personals to correspond with her artsy boyfriend. I picture myself a hybrid of Nancy Drew and the village matchmaker, one day reuniting lovers searching for each other through the printed word.

As I read the ads, I'm captivated by the cryptic world of grown-up interpersonal relationships. They seem so exotic, elusive and ... mature. Someday, maybe, there would be a beautifully worded ad written for me.

Flash-forward to today: The "Chance Meetings" have moved online to Craig's List, where they're now called "Missed Connections." And though I'm older, I still find myself reading them in what has become a guilty-pleasure morning ritual.

Where is that enigmatic post meant for me?

As I read more, however, I become increasingly dismayed. Though a few of the ads have wistful, romantic tones, most of them seem gutless, predatory, whorish -- or downright creepy. So now, instead of wishing an ad is posted for me, I find myself hoping it's not.

Most MCs feature posters who are attracted to someone they saw either at (A) Trader Joe's, (B) the gym, (C) on the 405 or (D) at Starbucks. But rather than the ads sounding literary and mature, the posts usually read as either desperate or conceited, resembling less an ideal personal ad and more something along the lines of:

"Black VW on Hyperion. M4F, 43. You: gorgous (sic) mid-20s blonde on cell phone, trying 2 deal with you're (sic) stalled car. Me: early-40s blond guy driving tan pickup. You looked so helpless, I wish could of (sic) stopped to help, but I was late to my audition. Let's make out."

YOU'LL also find plenty of disturbing posts by people who feel they were somehow wronged and are using the site to vent their frustrations by writing long-winded diatribes against their ex-lovers. In addition, there are plenty of posters who know where to find their crushes but are so afraid to talk to them they're using Craig's List to initiate contact lest they be rejected face-to-face.

And let's not forget the chronic pickup artists preying on the romantic individuals who may be reading the MCs hoping one of the ads might be directed at them. Other posters have routinely complained of "lurkers" who have transformed the forum into a dating service of sorts.

But I see through all of them. These days, my scanning of the "Missed Connections" is little more than human curiosity and an early-morning time-waster, whereby I marvel at the sad and brutal state of the dating world. Still, sometimes as I eat granola and scroll through the ads, the 13-year-old in me secretly hopes to find the ad meant for her.

Note to the Daniel Day-Lewis guy: I prefer Sartre.

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Tanja Laden may be reached at weekend@latimes.com.

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