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As the annual love bug bites and the nation’s romantics see red, The List is launching a new concept in personal ads I Saw You. If you have ever fallen in love at first sight and fate has stepped in with jackboots on, this is your kind of ad. Kathleen Morgan reads between the lines.

stuff of someone else’s. To feel your pulse

quicken and your heart flutter as you read a description in the personal ads of what can only be you.

‘I Saw You on the top deck of the number five bus, just as it passed the Dennistoun slaughter house. Our eyes met across the aisle and you fell downstairs. Let me be your pick-me-up.’

With a jolt, you remember your heart hitting the ceiling just before your butt hit the floor. It had to be what they call love at first sight a desire to bond with this person any which way but politely. If you had kept your balance, your eyes might still have been locked with his and your dignity intact. You had put the experience down to another cruel twist of fate 3 might- have-been to mull over on a rainy day. Then love beckoned from the heart of the Classified section.

Love at first sight scenarios surface regularly in the personal ads sections of newspapers and magazines. They sit restlessly among lonely hearts messages, beckoning against all odds to one special person. Invariably, fate has briefly united two people, only to separate them before the ritual exchanging of names and telephone numbers.

Recognising the universality of this problem, the staff of one American publication decided to give a platform to such tales of love glimpsed and lost. I Saw You was born within the Classified section of Seattle’s weekly free newspaper The Stranger. Almost immediately, the column had Seattle in its grip and after two

It is the stuff of dreams. to discover you are the

years, it has achieved cult status. The paper receives between 40 and 50 1 Saw You ads a week in a city of 600,000 people.

‘A lot of people pick The Stranger up and that’s the first thing they turn to,’ says the paper’s editor S. P. Miskowski. ‘There’s a real sense in Seattle of this being a big town or a little city. If you go to the music clubs or out to films, you run into the same people again and again. People actually do meet each other through the I Saw You column.’

Launched in 1990, The Stranger was an attempt to give Seattle a kick up the literary backside. Its founders were determined to offer a radical alternative to established local publications and according to Miskowski. I Saw You was the natural extension of that revolutionary mentality.

Professor in anatomy at London’s St George’s Hospital, Noel Dilly has his own explanation for why the notion of love at first sight is so powerful. He believes the whole experience is a physical reaction which we intellectualise simply to make us feel more comfortable about it. ‘Many people have a daydream person they would like to fall in love with,’ he says. ‘Inevitably, something nearly fits the template and when we find it, we get excited. But one gets excited about innumerable things.’

He stresses the human body reacts similarly in a variety of exciting or stressful situations, whether it is pushed groin to groin with an Adonis or face to face with a high speed train. ‘There’s an extremely small difference between

love, hate and fear,’ he says.

Barbara Littlewood, lecturer in sociology at Glasgow University, believes men and women react differently to love. ‘Men are the last romantics,’ she says. ‘Women are fairly hard- headed. When they go to Four Weddings And A Funeral, they see it as a bit of a laugh. Men are more likely to muddle fantasy and reality.’

Paddy Lyons lectures at Glasgow University on 17th century Restoration literature. Renowned for its sexually explicit language, it charts a vicious circle of desire, pursuit, capture and boredom. Hopeless romantics and incurable realists, writers like the Earl of Rochester and Aphra Behn wrote of the relentless search for perfect love.

Lyons describes a division in male and female attitudes to love. Female writers like Aphra Behn were ‘shrewd-eyed girls’, says Lyons. ‘What sets them aside from the boy writers is that they were much shrewder about money. They saw that was part of life, whereas the guys like Rochester wanted to invest love in all its purity.’

Whatever our philosophy, most of us are partial to a dose of love. When it happens at first sight, it makes no odds whether it is a series of biological reactions or a life-changing experience straight from a Shakespearean sonnet. And if Cupid’s arrow has a personal ad wrapped round it, so be it. C]

Knocking love off its pedestal is True Love: At Last, Scientific Proof! on Radio 4, Thursday 14 Feb 8 pm.

V I no you with your head in your hands, the day Raith Rovers battered Celtic into submission. We talked about football, life and hot pies on the way out of Hampden. but lost

each other in the crowd. How about a rematch? Box No U/246/34.

V I “I you at Marks and Spencer’s express till in Glasgow. You dropped a

bottle of red wine and it splashed my coat. You apologised to me for nearly five minutes, but I had to rush. I‘ve got a dry cleaning bill and a crush. Please get in touch. Box No U/246/35.

V I saw you on stage at the Morrisey gig in Glasgow. The bouncers escorted you off the stage and you fell into my arms. Can we do it again? Box No U/246/36.

V I see you every day! Waiting for the bus at the bottom of Dundas Street around 9.00am. You, tall with blond curly hair, unbelievable blue eyes and black leather coat. Me, long blond/brown hair, also blue eyes. Why

don’t you cheer up the cold winter mornings and talk to me? Box No U/246/37.

V I saw you in Fopp on Cockbum Street on Saturday afternoon 4/2. Stood next to you for ages trying to find a CD and forgot what I was looking for. You, denim jacket. shaved head and definite funky taste in music. Did I imagine a vibe or was it for real? Box No U/246/38.

V I saw you looking at books in John Smiths, Vincent Street last Tue 28/1. You told me I should read The Shipping News. Thank you. [loved it but what next? Box No U/246/39.

V I saw you in Bar 10 on Sunday 5/1. You, small, longish black hair, brown eyes and wearing a sheepskin coat. Think I saw you at the Massive gig too? Me, tall, long hair, goatee. When will our paths cross? Box No U/246/40.

V I saw you at Edinburgh Airport. We chatted in the check-in queue, you were going to Paris for the weekend, me, London. I wanted to get on the flight with you. Call me if you remember! Box No U/246/4l.

no you have a secret admirer? For more I saw you’e, turn to page 81.

0 The List 10-23 Feb 1995