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WANTED: PERSONAL ADS THAT TELL PERSONAL TRUTH.

Byline: Tananarive Due Knight-Ridder Tribune News Wire

If you believe what you read in the personals, the world is overrun with attractive, fun-loving, bright, wealthy people who just can't find a date.

Right. Well, at least you can pin down the basics: He wants an LTR (long-term relationship), you want an LTR. She's an N/S (non-smoker), you're an N/S. He likes jazz, you like jazz. And so on.

But just remember - they're ads, not affidavits.

Like any advertisers, those singles want to reel you in.

In fact, maybe the very nature of a personal ad forces people to embellish. How alluring would the personals be if they were completely honest?

You can do better: Self-centered, overweight couch potato, 50, seeks woman young enough to be my daughter so I can cling to my youth and exercise my controlling personality. Low self-esteem preferred.

No Cindy Crawford: Gold-digger, 35, annoyingly demanding. Seeks insecure guy who'll be so blinded by my dyed hair that he'll spend lots of money to keep me on his arm. Will flirt with your friends.

But exaggerated personal ads can backfire.

``Stan,'' a 45-year-old South Florida man, says he actually has walked away from dates he met through the personals if he thought the woman misrepresented herself. Once, he excused himself because a woman had a bad complexion and - gasp

- looked 15 pounds heavier than she'd claimed. Another time, he says he met a woman who'd said she jogged three times a week, from which he inferred she was in good shape. ``She weighed about 260 pounds and looked like Mama Cass'' from the Mamas and the Papas, he says.

Stan's pretty harsh. But, hey, the folks who respond to personal ads are investing money to hear more about you and time when they agree to meet you. So it shouldn't be surprising that some of them would act like car-buyers who stomp off when the model the dealership advertised is gone.

That's why it's best to stick as close to the truth as possible, advises Tony Lucas of Boston-based Tele-Publishing Inc., which handles personal ads for newspapers all across the country.

``Sometimes, I look at people and say, `This is not you,' says Lucas. ``You have to be a little honest. If you're honest, you'll get what you want.''

An honest ad might get you only five responses, says Lucas, while an embellished ad might get 40 - but at least the people who respond to honesty will be interested in you, not your body double.

Amy, a 62-year-old Miami writer who has taken out personal ads with varying degrees of success, says she's convinced that people who stretch the truth don't really expect to meet someone. ``Underlying all of this is the conviction that this isn't going to work,'' she says - but at least they'll get to talk to a few people on the phone.

So how can you read between the lines in personals? Some phrases to watch for:

``Attractive.'' Don't imagine a supermodel when you see this word. (And never expect anyone who says they look like a celebrity to really look that way.) ``Attractive'' might only mean ``not unattractive.'' In the eyes of their friends, anyway. Or their mother. Says Lucas: ``Some people would think a hairy person would be attractive. Some people would think that's the grossest thing in the world.''

``Average looks.'' It could mean exactly that. But remember: Many people exaggerate in the personals.

``Rubenesque.'' Give these people credit for honesty. This usually means heavy. Other terms that might mean a few extra pounds: ``height/weight proportionate'' and ``teddy bear.''

``Generous.'' People rarely write ``I'm rich,'' or ``Rich person wanted.'' Instead, they may describe themselves as ``classy,'' in search of someone who is ``generous,'' or who enjoys ``the good life.'' Other hints: Mentions of travel and fine dining in an ad may also be references to money. ``Financially solvent'' is another - though it could mean the person might settle for you if you at least have a job.

``Fortyish.'' Age is the other big issue in personal ads. Often, when people omit their age, it's because they think they would be considered old. Vague terms like ``30ish'' and ``40ish'' might mean ``late 30s'' or ``late 40s.''

``Harvey,'' a Miami entrepreneur and surfer who is in his late 40s, says he won't mention his age in his ads. ``When you put an ad in for a `40-something,' there's a stereotype,'' says Harvey, a lifelong athlete. He wants people to have a chance to talk to him first.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with making quick assessments from a few lines in a personal ad.

I've dated many people I met through friends - people I probably never would have responded to if my first introduction had been a mere physical description in a personal ad. When you're reading the personals and you have little else to go on, you find yourself being nitpicky about physical details that otherwise wouldn't matter so much.

What's the solution?

If you're taking out an ad, think about it a little and list your real attributes. And if you're checking out the personals, try reading past the physical description, and maybe you'll find something else to get excited about.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 23, 1996
Words:875
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