NonSmoking, Slightly Angsty Don Knotts Type Seeks His Thelma Lou

Every man, I believe, dreams of living a Lothario's life: a little black book filled with an ever-growing collection of phone numbers, a cool bachelor pad with lights controlled by dimmers and romantic sambas that fill the room with the flick of a switch, a steady flow of fab femmes he calls "Doll" and "Sweetheart." Even as I present myself to the world an enlightened man of the '90s, there's a small part of me that longs to be Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, circa 1961, all rolled into one.

To that end, I decided to place, for the entire month of February, a personal ad in a local publication. Lest you misunderstand, let me state: this was no act of desperation. I did this purely on a lark, with no particular expectations, though I will admit to pricing ice buckets and cocktail glasses at my local Williams-Sonoma outlet and light dimmers at the local hardware emporium.

The first obstacle I faced was composing the ad. I'm not being disingenuous when I say that I've not a clue what my romantic selling points are. After more than twenty years of dating, I'm still not really certain what it is a woman might find attractive about me. I know all the words to "Polka Dots and Moonbeams." I own all thirteen Marx Brothers movies on video. I won a city-wide essay contest in the seventh grade. I've voted in every Presidential election since 1976. Which of these attributes and accomplishments to include?

I was at a loss and so turned to a few friends of mine, females all, to advise me. Advise me, hell - they wrote the ad for me. It was the smartest thing I could've done; as soon as the ad appeared, the responses started pouring in.

And so it was I learned, once and for all, that I'm not meant for playing the field. More than thirty woman responded to my ad. I'd made a vow to myself that I would honor each recipient with at least a phone call, if not a face-to-face meeting. After all, it takes a certain amount of courage to respond to a personal ad and I felt that chutzpah should be rewarded. But more than thirty women in a four-week period! I'm afraid I found it all a bit overwhelming and threw in the towel after ten or twelve phone calls and a handful of brief meetings.

The problem, I suspect, is that I simply wasn't prepared for such a barrage. I've always been a one-woman man (if that) and expecting myself to be able to suddenly juggle that many women, even over the phone, is a bit like asking an avowed couch potato to set aside his bowl of Cool Ranch Doritos and run the marathon on a moment's notice. He's likely to give up after a few short blocks. It is with a certain regret that I report that there were no sparks evident - in either direction, I suspect - during the few in-person encounters in which I indulged; admittedly, this may have had something to do with my reluctance to continue the race.

Still, I'm not sorry I placed the ad. I chatted on the phone with some terrific women and spent some reasonably pleasant hours in the company of a few others. It's the closest I'll ever come to the Playboy ideal, I'm afraid. Hugh Hefner, it seems, I am not. But in the starry eyes of those responding to my ad, I was the perfect man: sensitive, caring, and loyal, gainfully employed, imbued with senses of both humor and responsibility. And though nothing in the ad suggested it, I'm certain most of them imagined that I possessed the physical charms of Tom Cruise or Tyrone Power or whomever might be their ideal. It's only human nature, after all. We tend to presume blind dates attractive until they're proven homely. So perhaps it was best that I tuckered out early. Though I may have proven a disappointment to the handful of women I met in person, in the mind's eyes of more than two dozen women who never met me, I'm everything they could ever have hoped for in a man. How could I expect to top that?

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