One group is described in the first of these gems as being good-looking, intelligent, humorous, more youthful than their years, and well-off too. And apparently they hunt in threes - what have I been missing?
Despite being in that mid-forties age range myself I have never met this combination of assets through a lonely hearts column. However, I have come across some fascinating, and a few delightful women whom I would have not missed for anything. Things have not worked out, but I am carrying on despite the Saturday morning blues.
It is often said that men are only interested in one thing. Well, I am quite keen on that one thing myself, but it does sometimes seem that the same applies to box-number women too. The words they choose so often say it all: the demanding tone; the emphasis on height, good looks and the trappings of success. Rarely does there seem to be any interest in meeting a whole person - that combination of mind, body and spirit - which overlooks the imperfections in us all.
This impression is frequently confirmed at that first meeting, with the awful 20-second summing up that so obviously takes place. I am clearly not the dreaded Chris from Northern Exposure, and time after time the body language says it all. Often not even a drink is offered in return, even though this is surely a way of saying 'thanks for trying' - and certainly not a green light.
Happily, it is not always like that. Charm is still alive, and 'thanks but no thanks' can be delivered in a thoughtful way. Just occasionally I do feel that it is the whole of me that is being met, and that is elevating, even if it does go no further. As it was put to me once: 'At this stage it's just a business transaction.' Not so for this respondent: a whole person, warts and all, is who I want to meet, and I do appreciate it when the objective is shared.
I suspect that, among men, I am not alone. General age, whereabouts and mental prowess apart, I am prepared to at least share half an hour with all- comers. I am free of specific ideas about the sort of person I would like to meet, as I have found it is the differences between people that make life interesting.
Not being part of the Porsche-plus- bimbo brigade I do not require a photo to be sent. I want to encounter potential friends, and I am not really bothered what my friends look like. I know that occasionally one of these relationships will develop further, but at this stage I just want to meet someone interesting to share a short time with in conversation. 'Attractiveness' (how often that word appears as an adjective) can take months to emerge.
On the positive side, what I have learnt is to expect the unexpected, and to enjoy things for what they are and where they may lead. I once received a polite 'no' in the post, which I promptly binned. I kept all the letters which eventually followed, but the first is now landfill on the London/Kent border. More than a year elapsed before that woman - a whole person if ever there was one - wrote again, because her circumstances had changed. What resulted was certainly interesting.
Another completely experience arose from correspondance over 250 miles, normally well outside my range. (Why is location so frequently left out?) Just about everything seemed to be against this one, but the initial letter from Merseyside was striking (the usual catalogue of children, crisis and culture, all rounded off with a splendid 'and I can clean out the drains'.)
It was the drains that did it. With offbeat humour like that there was certainly a whole person there, so a written friendship was settled on. And when the drain cleaner came down for a spot of southern exposure we actually agreed it would be best not to meet, as it might spoil something that was both unusual and rewarding. Circumstances changed again, so of course that meeting did eventually take place, with results that will be familiar to readers of Mills & Boon books. Sadly that one hit the rocks too, but I would not have missed it for the world.
A couple of pleas. The first is for that all-important element of humour. This can be an angst-laden business, and a smile helps. The second is for acknowledgement. Possibly as many as half of those who reply - men as well as women - are particularily vulnerable; that may be why they are using this method of finding a partner. And I for one am not able to tell which half that is.
Writing that initial response can take a lot of courage, and to receive nothing in return dents the morale further. Of course it is accepted that, for a woman, phoning may not be easy, but a brief 'no thanks' only costs 18p, and if dozens of these stamps have to be bought then that is just too bad. Those are people out there.
Sufficient encouragement has been received to be able to say that I've not given up. A bit bruised at times, but I have found myself in several completely unanticipated situations which I have both enjoyed and learnt from.
Perhaps most impertantly, a flow of people has been maintained through my life. No jillpot yet, but that could be just around the corner.