Paris has the Pont de l'Archevêché, a bridge where couples attach notes signifying their everlasting love. Verona has Casa di Giulietta, the supposed home of Shakespeare's Juliet, where lovelorn supplicants flock to offer their prayers. Dallas, well, Dallas doesn't have a grand, romantic locale of that order. But let's be grateful for what we do have: the missed connections section on Craigslist. It's not unique to Dallas, but it's a fascinating, sordid collection of testimonies to a particular type of romantic encounter -- the ones that never began.
I habitually read missed connections for entertainment, but this week in honor of Valentine's Day, I took a more investigative approach. I read every missed connection in Dallas in 2015 to figure out where they happen, who's writing them, why and -- most important -- if the seekers ever find who they are seeking.
When I was a kid, my mom always put on a full face of makeup before leaving the house, no matter where we were going. "You never know where you'll meet your fate," she'd say, to which I'd often reply with something like, "You're going to meet your fate at the McDonald's drive-thru?" Well, missed connections are proof that my mom was right.
Plenty of them happen in places you'd expect. The gym and the grocery store are common places to check people out, for example. (In one favorite, an admirer was too nauseated from his pre-workout to make a move.) But some are more unusual. It turns out you're just as likely to fall in lust at Burlington Coat Factory while waiting for a dressing room; with your Uber driver; or at 7-Eleven by the gyros. Maybe you're into the guy who brings paper samples to your office. (The name of that ad, "Trevor, You Sell Paper," has a weirdly literary ring to it.)
I picked up on a few trends. In just the last six weeks, missed connections posts have been written about Papa Roach concerts spanning multiple years. (I can't in good conscience endorse Papa Roach as an aphrodisiac, but do with that information what you wish.) A ton take place at King Spa and Spa Castle, which makes sense given that both have nude areas.
Most missed connections are raunchy. (The faint of heart should not click links that say "pic" next to them.) Many are about passing encounters with strangers, but some are poetic rants from longtime admirers, whether in the vein of "Jessie's Girl" or about former flames who got away. Still others are fictional, geared toward people like me, who read them for fun. The majority are written by men.
I spoke to Bryan, one of several posters to miss his connection at a museum. On January 16, he'd planned to meet an online date at the DMA's monthly Late Night event, but his date stood him up. "[I] saw this other girl also watching the same band in the atrium," he says. "I considered approaching her as she resembled the girl I was originally meeting, but I was 99 percent sure it wasn't her ... but she also caught my eye." The post he subsequently made was his second to missed connections.
His first was last July, after he met a girl at the snack bar of the year-round haunted house where he's a manager. "She playfully fed me some of her Reese's Pieces," he says. He didn't ask for her number because his boss doesn't approve of flirting with the customers or actresses. (Playful feeding of Reese's Pieces A-OK, though.)
Bryan didn't get a response to either ad, but he didn't expect one. "The chances are more than slim that it ever works," he says. "Consider the writing of the ad a little therapy to quell my 'could have/should have/would have' line of thinking after the fact."
Rodrigo wrote his in the parking of the Luby's on Mockingbird Lane, where he'd just had lunch with a friend, Juanita. She has a boyfriend, but Rodrigo has long had feelings for her. "It wasn't the fact that she was in a relationship," he says, explaining why he's never made a move, "it was rejection that I was afraid of." The post was Rodrigo's first to the personals section.
He knew that Juanita read them "to laugh and see other people's stories" and hoped she'd see it. She only did after he mentioned it to her and reposted it as proof. (The repost is the one I saw, the original was posted in July). Nothing came of it, ultimately. He "admitted it was shameful flirting," and Juanita has since moved from Dallas with her boyfriend.
Then there's Jay, who exchanged "moderately extended glances" with a girl he encountered at Spiral Diner, where she was on a date with someone else. "I could totally see myself with her ... I buy lottery tickets on occasion too, so why not try?" he says of his rationale for placing his first ad. He reads them from time to time, but has received no response.
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One sad story includes a $2,500 reward. Kevin is looking for a girl he saw at Whiskey Bar in the early 2000s. He says he was at a low point after the stock market crash, the death of his father and the burglary of his home, and he didn't have the courage to speak to her. Now he's rebuilt his life. "Each time I drive Lower Greenville, I still wonder," Kevin says. "Perhaps the embellished unknown is more interesting than reality?" He was looking for a handyman on Craigslist recently when he decided to give missed connections a shot. "I am realistic that I will never find her," he says. "Most [Craigslist] responses have been condescending."
Perhaps the most interesting poster I spoke with is Adian Hallman, who uses missed connections as an outlet for creative writing. Hallman, who manages a truck stop in Fort Worth, began writing lengthy fictional missed connections in December after reading one on the Best Of NYC section. "I Named My Cat After You" is Hallman's most popular post, although he has written 12 and receives many enthusiastic responses, he says. His writing is funny and surreal.
"Craigslist is the only place that I currently write," Hallman says. "I enjoy the thought of what audience I am writing to. Hopeful or sad strangers feeling like they've missed an opportunity, hoping that somewhere on the site is a special message put there just for them. Either that or, as I have been told numerous times in replies, people who are reading for the sake of entertainment."
Hallman's handiwork is fun to hunt for. Although I occasionally came across public replies to posts in my perusal of missed connections, I wasn't able to confirm that anyone made a connection with the object of their affection. If you're lonely this Valentine's Day, perhaps you should take a look. Dozens of missed connections are written every day, and one of them could be about you. You might even find one of Hallman's easter eggs while you're at it.