Personal Ads for Self-Deprecating British intellectuals

Okay, so I have written before about my undying love for the personal ads in the London Review of Books. They are addictive . More addictive than “missed connections” on Craig’s List (and woah. Those are like crack.) But the personals in LRB are true comedy. First of all, these people are literate – just because of where they’re placing their ad – so they all can write. You can just feel the humor in their language. But it’s LITERATE humor. Anyone who’s tried to plow through people writing “funny” ads on and elsewhere – trying to show they have a witty sense of humor – will immediately know what I’m talking about. Also – these people in the LRB personals seem to compete with one another as to who can be the MOST self-deprecating, and self-loathing. These ads are even funnier than the whole Brutally Honest Personals feature at Esquire – which is also hysterical reading. (You know. Like this ad). I mean, come on. But all of them are hilarious.

But back to LRB: I laugh out loud almost every time I go see what’s going on there. Nothing like the humor of the self-deprecating Brits. Think about the language of the personal ads in America … how earnest they can be, how braggadocious (“I’m good-looking, great body, I own 10 jet-skis, and I adore good wine”) … You know, that kind of self-promotional language … and then compare to an ad like this:

Young, charming, thoughtful, attractive, sporty, zesty, intelligent. None of these are me, but if you’d like to spend an afternoon or more considering alternative adjectives to be applied to 53-year old cantankerous dipshit, write now to box no 2202

I CANNOT GET ENOUGH of this crap.

Here’s another one:

A friend once bought me a pair of novelty underpants that had a caption on the front reading ‘In case of fire break glass’. I didn’t understand what it meant until they did actually catch fire in the tumble dryer because they were acrylic and I had the setting on too high. The door melted shut and sure enough I had to break the glass to put the fire out. Replacement dryers are very expensive. As such I would like to meet a nice woman who won’t set fire to my underpants. Stupid, stupid man, 51. Box no. 2206

I adore these people.


Must enjoy computer battleships, segregated bathrooms and respect my mother by wearing clothes just like hers (cavalry twill, mainly.)

You know, visiting the personals section of the LRB is a weekly pitstop. It always makes me laugh.

So imagine my happiness to read that David Rose, head of advertising for LRB, has compiled his favorites into a book: They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books.

I must own this book. It will be one of those books in my collection which I can dip into on blue days, pick up at any point and read to get a good laugh.

Here’s an article in the NY Times about the book . One excerpt from the article:

The magazine’s lonely hearts have described themselves over the years as shallow, flatulent, obsessive, incontinent, hypertensive, hostile, older than 100, paranoid, pasty, plaid-festooned, sinister-looking, advantage-taking, amphetamine-fueled, and as residents of mental institutions.

They have announced that they are suffering from liver disease, from drug addiction, from asthma, from compulsive gambling, from unclassified skin complaints and from reduced sperm counts. They have insulted prospective partners. As one ad starts, “I’ve divorced better men than you.”

HAHAHAHA I just can’t get enough of this stuff.

Like there is an entire STORY behind this personal:

A woman in the current issue, for instance, specifies that she is looking for a man “who doesn’t name his genitals after German chancellors” (not even, the ad says, “Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingfürst, however admirable the independence he gave to secretaries of state may have been.”)

I can’t stop laughing.

These personal ads have “resulted in at least two children and four marriages. (One already ended in divorce.)”


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18 Responses to Personal Ads for Self-Deprecating British intellectuals

  1. Emily says:

    This post is just begging for a “write your own self-deprecating personal ad” contest.

  2. red says:

    Ha! Okay I’ll write one if you do.

  3. Emily says:

    “Young-ish woman looking for anything with a pulse, the smelly and/or unemployed excluded. Outgoing, some might even say ‘loose,’ especially when drunk, with the exceptionally realistic standpoint that beggars can’t be choosers. Vast knowledge of Pink Floyd recordings and useful ways to remove vomit stains from upholstery a plus.”

  4. red says:

    “Pinched bitter spinster prone to 3-day long crying jags searching for a gentleman comfortable with neuroses and utter panic, who has no perceivable life of his own, who is happy to reassure her that her ever-escalating ever-chaotic whirlwind of insecurities and paranoias are unfounded and have no basis in reality, and who will never take it personally when she throws books at him and screams that her life has added up to NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING. Blurpiness of body is a plus. Also he must never use the words ‘fin de siecle’. Not even in casual conversation.”

  5. red says:

    //Outgoing, some might even say ‘loose,’//


  6. Emily says:

    “It would also be helpful if you found photographs of eyeballs romantic and/or sexually stimulating.”

  7. red says:

    “Undyiing love of Janis Joplin or John Lennon is in no way acceptable.”

  8. Steve Ely says:

    Between the ads you two wrote for yourselves here, I think the thing I find the most surprising and confusing is the word “blurpiness.” I may be pondering the meaning of that one for a while.

    I also think that some of the men on the Esquire BHP page should hook up with some of the women there. It’d be sort of like the end of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Unless you haven’t seen the movie yet, in which case nothing has anything to do with the end of any movie.

  9. red says:

    Steve – aren’t those Esquire ads HILARIOUS?

    “I am grossly overweight and I am also a crier. I live paycheck to paycheck.”

    I mean … God, we all have these character flaws … but to put them into a personal ad so bluntly is HILARIOUS!

    Oh – and there was a huge “blurpy” discussion here on this blog once … It’s actually not my word – it’s my friend ann marie’s word – for the kinds of bodies we like in men. Sadly, they do not really exist in New York out of certain neighborhoods in Queens – but blurpy guys abound in Chicago, Dublin, Boston …Blurpy is NOT FAT. I’m not talking about big fat guys. These do nothing for us. “Blurpiness” refers to a sort of Bill Murray-esque BLURP around the waist.

    I adore blurpy guys, rare as they are in my neck of the woods.

  10. Steve Ely says:

    HA! I just took a look at the previous post of yours with the self-deprecating personal ads and saw this from you, “Have you seen ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’? That comment of yours reminded me of that.” I’m not sure if your previously making the same point as I just did unaware makes me feel less clever than otherwise or actually more.

    All considerations of paunch or pudginess aside, I am suddenly enthralled with the sound of the word “blurp.” I could write a not-even-rising-to-proper-self-deprecation personal ad: “Still five to eight years away from actual blurpiness but deriving unreasonable amounts of enjoyment from the act of saying ‘blurpy.’ If you like a man in love with the mellifluousness of ‘blurpiness,’ write now to box 1322.”

  11. tracey says:

    I love all these people. So deeply.

    I cannot get past this, just this little phrase:

    /Pinched, bitter spinster/

    Hahahaha! I mean … oh, Sheila!

  12. Stefanie says:

    Oh my, I think I am going to be laughing all night.

  13. ricki says:

    Mine came out rather long, so I transferred it to my blog

  14. Bridget says:

    Thank you so much for directing us to the LRB classifieds, HILARIOUS!!!

  15. triticale says:

    Not only isn’t that part of my body I deal with when I go where even the Kaiser goes by himself named after a German chancellor, it isn’t named after anyone. A brief experiment with “Little (undisclosed true first name)” petered out due to lack of interest. If I were female and seeking male companionship I would find any such affectation discouraging.

  16. DAW says:

    Oh, thank you for that one Sheila. I think you’ve found me some nice recreational reading. That last one made me laugh out loud, and that doesn’t happen enough anymore.

  17. beth says:

    best thing i’ve read all week, from the amazon excerpt: //I’ll see you at the LRB singles night. I’ll be the one breathing heavily and stroking my thighs by the ‘art’ books. Asthmatic, varicosed F (93) seeks M to 30 with enough puff in him to push me uphill to the post office. This is not a euphemism.//

  18. red says:

    beth – I am howling at the age in the parentheses.



    I go to the LRB personals whenever I’m feeling blue or like nobody has a sense of humor anymore. They just crack me UP.

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