''I wonder how Juliet is doing?' she said for the umpteenth time. The fourth member of our gang had abandoned us for her new romeo. 'I can't believe he's so attractive, who'd have thought it?' Rachel was referring to the fact our absent friend had met her boyfriend through a Lonely Hearts advertisement, something none of us had ever considered.
'Maybe it's not such a bad idea after all,' said Rachel, flicking through the back pages of Private Eye. 'No way,' we answered. 'Anyway, who needs men? We're happy with each other's company.' Regardless, Rachel started reading out a few advertisements.
By the time she'd got down to the fifth 'exceptionally handsome male looking for loving partner to travel the world', each other's company had palled substantially. Thus, aided by copious amounts of wine, three 'I dare yous' and a pen that worked, the seeds of adventure were sown.
Lacking the nerve to write one each, we hit on the idea of doing a joint advertisement from the three of us. It seemed a stroke of genius. After all, it stood to reason that men would think there was triple the chance of a reply, and hopefully we'd be inundated. And as one girl's poison is another girl's dreamboat, we could mix and match.
'One for all, and all for one,' chimed Rachel. So, like the three Muscadets, we planned our assault. The first problem was what to write - how do you compose an advertisement to attract the partner of your dreams? Or at least someone presentable.
'We're going to have to try to attract a wide range of different men,' suggested Claudia. But trying to write the first line proved exasperating, as each of us argued over the image we should project.
'Look, I know it's not politically correct on the feminist front, but how about we put down: 'One blonde, one chestnut and a brunette',' insisted Claudia. 'Make mine more arty - conker chestnut,' interrupted Rachel, smoothing her sleek bob. 'In that case, make mine tiger blonde,' added Claudia. Here we go, I thought.
I wrote down: 'Conker chestnut, tiger blonde and blue raven seek males . . . .' I then scratched out the words - I had made us sound like the Gladiators. After all, we were Nineties women; we didn't want men only interested in physical beauty. On the other hand, we did want a reply.
'What about comparing ourselves to Greek goddesses?' said Claudia. I sighed. Not that old Aphrodite seeks Adonis crap. 'I rather fancy asking for Thor - the god of war,' continued Claudia on a cloud of fantasy. 'No, better still, Mercury the messenger.' 'And guess what you'll get?' hooted Rachel. 'Bikers and sales reps.'
With that sobering thought, we mutually agreed to abandon the Olympian theme. 'What about animals?' Not bad. 'I want to be a wild panther,' I cried. 'In that case, I'm a mythical horse like Pegasus,' announced Claudia.
'You're more like My Little Pony,' snorted Rachel. ' pounds 8.99 and made of plastic.' I asked Rachel what she wanted to put down. 'What do I remind you of?' she sighed, fluttering her eyelashes.
'Bambi,' I replied. 'Bambi?' she screeched. 'What kind of virile male is going to write in and ask for Bambi?' Regardless, Claudia and I were convinced this was a good route. Hysterical, we continued writing: 'Delicate creatures looking for sincere men to tame us.'
'Animals are ridiculous,' said Rachel. 'I'd rather be me.' OK, spoilsport, no problem. I wrote down: 'One wild panther, one mythical horse, and a human.' She was not amused.
Another bottle of wine and a fresh piece of paper later, we had moved on to words to describe the kind of men we wanted. 'Charming?' No. We all agreed it had undertones of slimy. 'Funny?' No. Could be read too many ways.
'Honest?' Forget it. A wasted adjective. 'Prosperous?' That was vetoed on the grounds of making us sound like gold-diggers. 'Solvent' went the same way, on the grounds that 10 pence made a tramp solvent.
'I'm not worried about mega-successful, I just don't want failures. All I'm asking for is a tall, lean, muscular graphic-designer type in a black polo-neck and jeans? Is that too much?' bleated Rachel.
We worked our way through the thesaurus. Every word was chosen carefully and for good reason: 'successful' (boring, but covered the field); 'witty' (implies humour without demanding Jack Dee standards; 'each seek new man' to ward off anyone thinking we were advertising group sex; and 'single' to repel married men.
Finally, we added 'extremely attractive' as a deterrent against descendants of Cyclops. Deciding on an acceptable age range proved another major decision. Rachel insisted on including younger men. Claudia, who liked men who looked after her, pushed it to the other extreme. We ended up covering anyone in long trousers who didn't use a walking frame.
Two hysterical hours later, staring at our empty glasses, we finally settled on the perfect theme for the advertisement. Rachel wasn't totally convinced. 'My only worry is we might end up only attracting the serious wine connoisseur. And anyway, what do we really know about wine?'
'We've drunk a lot,' came the reply. With that, we tiptoed out and posted the application form in the middle of the night. Three weeks later, I sat down and opened the first envelope. The letter began: 'Dear winos . . . .'
To be continued next week.
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