They come in plain, brown envelopes addressed to C. Hinkle, five of them in the one week alone. No, it's nothing illegal, but it's the reason I tell my brother to move to Houston. Let's see, there's Great Expectations, Successful Singles International, Millionaire's Club, Selectra-Date, Maritronics, Compatibility Unlimited, Classical Music Lovers' Exchange, and The Christian Connection. Yes, we're talking about matchmaking services. Oddly, they all have a similar cover letter: Dear Mr. Hinkle, either you or a friend has given us your name as someone who might be interested in our services. Back when I was single I got the hint: my friends were worried about me.

Only to avoid hurting anyone's feelings, I investigated these services. The first thing I had to do was fill out a questionnaire. That looked pretty easy, even if some of the questions were a bit weird. Agree or disagree: We need to provide more state funds for welfare? Good question! I'd hate to have a relationship with someone who didn't agree with me on this issue. Agree or disagree: early hotel check-out times are annoying? No, I like having to be out by 7. Agree or disagree: My parents would be shocked if they knew some of the things I do? That's for sure! Face it, they go to movies, they watch Dallas, they know what's happening. My parents would be so shocked if they found out that I wasn't fooling around with anyone's wife -- or their husband. They each also asked me to film a video tape and submit it. Be serious! I abandoned these services, and that's the last you'll hear of them tonight.

By now, though, I'd started thinking: I needed new ideas --> places to meet women. I know, I could join organizations. Bad idea, as if I wasn't already involved enough. Well, then, I could go back to school. Spare me; that's too much work. How about classes at the Learning Annex? Now there's a decent idea. I found a copy of their catalog and was intrigued by some class titles: How to Flirt, Moonlight Sailing Magic, The Art of Sensual Massage, How to Create and Explore Intimacy, and Better Relationships...How Long are You Going to Wait? I was ready to send in a check to sign up when I turned the page -- and found the best idea yet: Personal Ads.

Don't laugh, some of the most famous people through history have used personal ads. For instance, Ghenghis Khan wrote one: "wanted, strong woman, good with horses. Must be willing to travel and burn cities." And Nero wrote: "MWE (Married, white emperor) with love for music looking for a few hundred women to cuddle with in front of the fire."

I knew this would be great! I'd read through the ads, find the perfect woman, and write a wonderful letter to entice her to meet me. Yeah! Let's check some of these out.

Here's the Annexmate of the Month, the editors' top pick. "I'm an expert at cooking. My home is immaculate, you could eat from the floors. I love children as long as they make excellent grades and have perfect teeth. My dream man is over six feet tall, has a long line of degrees and letters following his name (preferably M.D.) and makes an income somewhere in the 50% tax bracket. I want to live in a castle with slaves, I mean servants, on every floor, and an unlimited credit account in every store on Earth. NOW IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?" Yes.

Next. "SWF (Single, white female - good start), 25, shy, looking for an Australian SWM." Right, and I've always wanted a Lithuanian maiden.

Another. "Wanted: cute, wild, rich, never married, commodity broker." We're not getting picky are we?

This wasn't working. Well maybe I'd have better luck if I wrote my own and let thousands of women write to me. Sweet idea. I read some of the men's letters to know what to say.

"Tall, dark, handsome, rich, 38, SWM. If you're reading this, your chances of marriage are slim according to People magazine. But I'll see what I can do for you if you send me your phone number, gross annual salary, and a nude photo." I knew I couldn't write a letter like that! (I wasn't 38.)

More ideas. "Suave, debonaire, intelligent, tall, handsome, distinguished, exciting, adventurous, humble, 39-year-old man seeking a woman like Leona Helmsley."

I give up. It's hard to remember that I was ever this desperate, but it wasn't so long ago that the highlights of my social life were chess tournaments and Toastmasters' meetings. But things can change. Some of us find fantastic women to marry, though I feel a little guilty because -- "I got the best one."

I never got around to writing my personal ad, and I'll never tell how closely I did or didn't get to sending one in, but I did know how it would end: "must be willing to be used -- in a speech."

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