The mating game

1999

F 20+ educ WLTM M 30+ solvent indpt n/s vegan GSOH, footie, f/ship poss l/term r/ship.

This is a secret code. Try cracking it.

For those of you who haven't figured this out yet, here's what it works out to in full: A female (F) in her 20s, educated (educ), would like to meet (WLTM) a male (M) over 30 years old, who is solvent (ie not bankrupt), independent (indpt), a non-smoker, vegan (ie does not eat any animal products including milk, cheese and honey) with a good sense of humour (GSOH), likes football (footie), and is looking for friendship (f/ship) and possibly (poss) a long term (l/term) relationship (r/ship).

Welcome to Britain's matrimonial market. Well, perhaps matrimonial is too strong a word, considering that not all the players want to get married. And once you finish reading this article, you should be well-versed in cracking the codes that govern this most competitive of markets.

Have you ever looked through one of those foreign travel guides on India - the ones which tell you what to do, where to go, along with a little bit of India's history and culture? If you have, you would've seen their slightly condescending references to India's matrimonial market, perhaps with a picture of one of the ads in a newspaper, the ones which go something like Handsome Male 29/6/50,000 (29 year old 6 feet tall making 50,000 rupees a month) xyz caste seeks fair and lovely, accomplished bride of similar caste etc. You'll soon see why the travel guides are condescending. After going through the "matrimonial" ads here, you will find that the Indians have a lot to learn in marketing.

Let's start with an ad from a "SHOOTING STAR" - "a fit, M 38, dark, into sport, shooting and leisure". Now why this qualifies him to be a shooting star, God only knows. But the Shooting Star headline is catchy enough. See what I mean?

Then there is the "MOON DANCER, an attractive, youthful, happy F 40s," who simply "requires a nice guy". Hmmm. If only it were that easy. But what on earth is a moon dancer? Michael Jackson's stuff maybe? On the other hand, there is the "SULTRY BLACK BABE, pert figure, educ F 38" who seeks "Mr Right". Surely you haven't forgotten what educ F 38 means?

Or take this one: "TRULY SCRUMPTIOUS media profess (professional) M 27 hates sport likes socialising and nights in". Or yet another "A GOOD REED - M 36seeks stress-free committed r/ship with dark, voluptuous F into Velvet Underground, Bukowski and Paris. (Sorry, I have no idea what he means by a "good reed". Somehow I don't think it's a typo).

Here's one from a "MID WEIGHT STALLION, M 37 sound condition, lovely temperament, some vices, seeks competent F owner 30-50...". Alternatively, you have the straightforward, honest guy who nevertheless has to blow some kind of trumpet to get your attention: "CRAZY, SEXY, COOL - NO. Short, shy and honest, that's me, blah blah". Marketing, as they say, is everything.

This being the West, gays and lesbians are well represented too. Here we go again: "MUSCLEBOUND, Stocky muscular blue-eyed M 34 ...seeks slim M for 1-2-1" (1-2-1 is also a phone company in the UK). And "STAND-UP, slim, blue-eyed attract 33 hairy chest likes music...seeks slim M for poss 1-2-1".

Here's one from a woman who wants a "PURE WHITE ANGEL, 18-28...for feathered romance, mateyness, pillow fights", and another from a "SAPPHO LOVING WOMAN, blonde-ish, fit-ish, young-ish profess F 43..." (Pass again. I don't know what sappho-loving means).

These are just a flavour of the ads you get here. And for those of you who suspect that these ads are from a totally downmarket tabloid publication, the answer is, the ads are all taken from one of Britain's most prestigious newspapers, the Guardian. Virtually all newspapers carry these "Soulmate" type ads - the social pressure on people to find a mate is as intense as it is in India. The only difference between the ads here and the ones in India is that the ones here rarely mention pay, status or family. As the ad for Boeing airplanes say: Travel. And see how different we are. And how very much alike.

- Chetan Dhruve in London

The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.

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