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Ah, Telepersonals.

Before PlentyOfFish and Match.com, telephone chat lines were all the rage in the 1990s.

I was single. Bored. A third-wheel when my best friend, *Lynn, and her beau, *Derek, would go out. So, Lynn recommended good ol’ Telepersonals.

Where women called free, and men paid per minute. Where you’d listen to pre-recorded messages until one piqued your interest: “My looks may not stop traffic, but they’d definitely slow it down.” Sorry, I was watching the lights. “People say I look like Brad Pitt. You be the judge.” Okay, five years for impersonation? “Let’s hook up and get acquainted over breakfast.” Let’s not.
telapersonals-blogBut I’ll debunk a myth. Often, that female voice you’ve fallen for isn’t half-naked or draped in silk or satin. They’re not wearing heels and drinking a Martini. I listened to messaged clad in flannel pajamas while laying on a futon mattress, stuffing my face with Old Dutch Double-Crunch BBQ chips, and cuddling a 24-inch teddy bear. Sorry to ruin the fantasy.

Remember the automated voice? “You have messages in your inbox.” Or the terrifying: “Box 666 would like to connect.”

Telepersonals’ code for “Someone wants to chat.” Person-to-person. It. Just. Got. Interesting.

The whole point of Telepersonals was to meet people. After some coaxing, I met three guys, almost four.

To avoid a cliché Dateline moment – what is it with Dateline – Lynn and Beau would be my secret chaperones.

I met the first guy in a lounge. *Professional Sam was a then 30-year-old former weightlifting champion. When I sat down, he practically shouted, “You’re as cute as a button,” turning my 19-year-old cheeks crimson. Over the next hour – while Sam nursed a Baileys and coffee, and I drank a Shirley Temple – we exchanged life stories. From the start, I didn’t feel that spark. That stomach-dropping, butterfly-flutter, or future soulmate Pinterest quote moment. Plus, we were like day and night. Sam was a nine to five accountant. I was a singer juggling shifts at a coffee factory. He was super uber established. I was super uber not. My life sounded like a Flashdance spin-off. He wanted to pursue a relationship. I declined.

But I asked Sam why Telepersonals? And what drew him to me? He said he tired of the bar scene, and I “sounded cute.” Brownie points, but still no deal.

Curiosity brewed. What prompted guys to inbox someone based on their voice, stats and a vague description? Were they drawn to a woman claiming to have “boobs with a shelf-life”? Or a girl “your mother will love.” We’re they looking for a type? Blonde? Blue eyes? Or was it a voice? Soft. Tender. Sexy. I experimented and changed my message. Exaggerations packed my inbox. An English accent made me very popular. A country accent? Not so much. It was a cool societal study, but I’m not a fan of the bait and switch.
telapersonals-blog3With my stats and voice back to normal, I met *Depressed Thomas and *Longing Louis. I invited Thomas to a bar where I sang. He was emo. Is that still a term? I asked him to a comedy club, where he barely laughed as my friends and I struggled to contain ourselves. After the show, Thomas said we were too different, and he drove away in his Pinto.

Longing Louis? We met in a mall. He showed up in a Winnipeg Jets t-shirt. Points deducted. All Louis talked about was his ex-girlfriend. “I don’t do anything unless I discuss it with her. We’re best friends. We’ll always be best friends. She said we might get back together. It just depends what happens with her boyfriend.” I see. I’m going to leave now.

My stint with Telepersonals ended with *Almost Andy.

Andy and I spoke through the Telepersonals system a few times, then we threw caution to the wind and exchanged phone numbers. Sight unseen – we spoke for nearly a month.

But shades of Professional Sam. Almost Andy was talking about kids. I was now College Tessa, complaining about business math. He played tennis with his co-workers. My cardio was running to class. Andy never revealed his profession or workplace, despite my taunts of “No fair. You know where I go to school.” Then Andy threw out the “m” word. Meet? We pondered the “You’ve Got Mail” moment. And I concluded we should end our “telationship.”

I was drawn to Andy because of his voice. It was familiar. Comforting. And we’d talk like old friends. About anything, everything and nothing. My Telepersonals’ track record spoke for itself. Meeting Andy would slay the magic. Smash the cocoons. Blow out the flame. I already put a face to Andy’s voice. In my head, that was Andy.

But as I said, the point of Telepersonals is to meet someone.

With no strings attached except a telephone line.

So, I cut the cord.