“Tell Me I’m Pretty, Then Watch Me Cling: Lonely Hearts and Icy Lungs”
Yesterday on the Western Waterfront Trail:
-10 degree wind chill + an hour of trail running = me, in the clearance bin at the Lunacy Mart
That’s the new math.
Three minutes into the run, I was giving myself a serious dressing down: “Okay, this blows like Mt. St. Helen’s. This sucks like a Dirt Devil hand-vac. This bites like a curry powder donut.”
Then I sneezed, and all my teeth shattered, so the rest of my ravings were just gummy mutterings. Suffice it to say, I would rather have been one of Britney Spears’ neglected children (well-dressed and warm, if illiterate) than out in that cold.
But I was determined to continue, as I have a complex and semi-deranged mental process through which I “earn” late-night sweets by moving my body during the day. And I knew there were warm brownies coming my way at 10 p.m. So I continued to run. And curse. And feel like the wind was a State-Fair-demonstrated Ginsu knife, cutting and piercing and peeling and flaying my bits, all to the amazement and applause of the onlooking trees.
Changing tack, I decided to try role-playing, something normally best saved for dominatrixes and couples therapy, but essential in this situation. So I pretended I was Will Steeger…and then Anne Bancroft or Liv Arneson…and then Robert Scott…and then I had a revelation: pretending to be a polar explorer, about to die of scurvy, hunger, and frostbite, was some pretty dumb motivation. Rather, I should cast myself in the role of a down comforter or a pair of fleece underwear.
There, that was better. I was a pair of fleece underwear, nestled in some Scandia down. Much better. I was even able to admire the amber weeds, frozen in the bay, and the enthusiastic lone hockey player out on the ice next to me; he’d set up his own goal and was skating, shooting, and then raising his arms triumphantly in the air with each “GGGOOOOAAAAALLLL!” Yea, this fleece underwear business was going okay.
And then I yawned, and my jaw broke in twelve places. The coldness had not receded…and did not until I started paying attention to the NPR story playing on my headphones, a story about a new book compiled by David Rose (They Call Me Naughty Lola), excerpts from which had me cackling to the point that the icicles dangling from my nostrils finally cracked and fell to the ground with a melliflous tinkle. The book relates the phenomenon of personals ads in The London Review of Books; these ads have become a showcase for clever people who, instead of writing notices that detail their love of long walks on the beach and dedication to playing Scrabble, portray themselves as idiosyncratic, even repugnant, misfits:
‘They call me naughty Lola. Run-of-the-mill beardy physicist (M, 46).’
‘I’ve divorced better men than you. And worn more expensive shoes than these. So don’t think placing this ad is the biggest comedown I’ve ever had to make. Sensitive F, 34.’
‘List your ten favourite albums… I just want to know if there’s anything worth keeping when we finally break up. Practical, forward thinking man, 35.’
‘Employed in publishing? Me too. Stay the hell away. Man on the inside seeks woman on the outside who likes milling around hospitals guessing the illnesses of out-patients. 30-35. Leeds.’
‘I like my women the way I like my kebab. Found by surprise after a drunken night out and covered in too much tahini. Before long I’ll have discarded you on the pavement of life, but until then you’re the perfect complement to a perfect evening. Man, 32, rarely produces winning metaphors.’
‘My ideal woman is a man. Sorry, mother.’
‘Your buying me dinner doesn’t mean I’ll have sex with you. I probably will have sex with you, though. Honesty not an issue with opportunistic male, 38.’
‘Not everyone appearing in this column is a deranged cross-dressing sociopath. Let me know if you find one and I’ll strangle him with my bra. Man, 56.’
‘Are you Kate Bush? Write to obsessive man (36). Note, people who aren’t Kate Bush need not respond.’
‘Stroganoff. Boysenberry. Frangipani. Words with their origins in people’s names. If your name has produced its own entry in the OED then I’ll make love to you. If it hasn’t, I probably will anyway, but I’ll only want you for your body. Man of too few distractions, 32.’
‘Ploughing the loneliest furrow. Nineteen personal ads and counting. Only one reply. It was my mother telling me not to forget the bread on my way home from B&Q. Man, 51.’
‘Mature gentleman, 62, aged well, noble grey looks, fit and active, sound mind and unfazed by the fickle demands of modern society seeks…damn it, I have to pee again.’
‘Slut in the kitchen, chef in the bedroom. Woman with mixed priorities (37) seeks man who can toss a good salad.’
‘Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite.’
‘Romance is dead. So is my mother. Man, 42, inherited wealth.’
’67-year-old disaffiliated flâneur jacked up on Viagra on the lookout for contortionist who plays the trumpet.’
‘Looking for a man who doesn’t name his genitals after German chancellors (not even Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingfürst, however admirable the independence he gave to secretaries of state may have been).’ [sidenote: this woman, a 38-year-old local government arts official with an interest in Bismarck, said that she been inspired by a disastrous experience with a date who announced over the tiramisu that he called his private parts “Asquith,” after the late British prime minister. “I’m fairly easy-going, but I specifically didn’t want another dessert-spoiler,” she said, explaining that the only thing she could think of worse than a wartime prime minister was a pre- Weimar German chancellor.]
‘My favorite Ben & Jerry’s is Acid- Boiled Bones of Divorce Lawyer.’
‘I wrote this ad to prove I’m not gay. Man, 29. Not gay. Absolutely not.’
My first reaction to hearing these ads was, “Wow. These people sound like bloggers! I would totally read their posts.” My second reaction was, “Wait a minute, is that my car over there? I’m done already with this trail of frozen tears? Wahoodlie!”
I sprinted towards the car, tripping over a train track in the process; and the sound of my iced-up tibula splintering when I fell was a dark melody in the still, white, frosty air.
As I slowly crawled to the car over the course of the next hour, I stopped occasionally and patted together little sno-cones to suck off my gloves–what refreshing hors d’oevres!
It was getting late, and I was dragging my carcass through the snow with my shards of teeth, broken jaw, and fractured leg, but my heart remained warm, thanks to the wit of strangers. May they all meet and marry…and bring me warm brownies in the hospital.