"Gentlemen prefer blondes, and here I am looking for just one gentleman, 45-55, tall, sharp, good-natured. I am 41, petite, 5'2", attractive and have one dependent. Need someone to share a meaningful relationship with possibility of marriage."
IF THAT SOUNDS like a sales pitch, it is - an ad in the West Coast's leading newspaper for singles, the Singles News Register. How people go about selling themselves in this "heterosexual stock market" was a matter of interest to Catherine Cameron of La Verne College, La Verne, Calif., and Stuart Oskamp and William Sparks of Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, Calif. They analyzed 347 ads from one issue of the Singles News Register.
In keeping with the principles of exchange theory, most of the "advertisers" painted pretty rosy pictures of themselves as attractive, personable partners, with only 7 per cent of the traits memtioned below the neutral point on a standard scale of likeableness. Education, financial status and occupation, when mentioned, were nearly always high. Unfortunately, the letters to the editors were full of complaints about exaggeration.
The investigators also expected to find women selling themselves on appearance and men on occupational and financial status while desiring the opposite qualities in potential partners. More women than men did stress their own appearance ans slightly more men than women requested physical specific for a partner. Status, as defined by occupation, educaction by economic position, was revealed about twice as often by men as women and desired by women far more than by men.
Interestingly, men were less likely to rate themselves high on intellectual qualities and more likely to request an intelligent partner. Men also preferred women shorter and younger than themselves, while women wanted a man who was taller and older. Although these two sets of preferences would seem to male everyone happy, Cameron, Oskamp and Sparks note a small problem: The average age of women "advertisers" was more than nine years older than that desired by the men taking out ads in the same issue. Evidently, then, most matches have to come from outside the advertising pool - if they happen at all.