Knowing glances

Field notes
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  February 11, 2009


Admit it: Even if you've never posted a Missed Connection on Craigslist, or had one written about you, you've probably perused them. Perhaps you were in search of yourself? (If you don't want to 'fess up to that, say you read them for their entertainment value, like people used to say about Playboy.) I'll go first. I posted one, once. I got several responses, but none from the intended. Of course I read them compulsively. And yes, my reasons are mostly narcissistic.

I have no fear that I'm alone in my regular reading of CL's MC (insider jargon!). But in discussing with friends why they are so addictive, we've come up with some interesting observations and questions.

First of all, what constitutes a "missed connection" in one person's mind might not match another's conception. Passing someone in a car going 60 miles per hour and not making eye contact does not equal a missed connection, at least to me; but locking eyes with and smiling at someone at the gym does. There needs to be some semblance of mutual attraction, however fleeting. But not everyone adheres to a set of strict rules. For example, some "missed connections" are indeed between strangers, but strangers who see each other frequently (like the person who pours your coffee, perhaps?). And then there are the "missed connections" between former lovers, where a connection was more miss-ing than miss-ed.

Secondly, I wonder how many Missed Connections actually result in an in-person meeting. One friend read herself in a posting, and responded to its author; the mystery man has yet to re-appear. Another acquaintance, who found himself in an MC's pithy prose, contacted the author to let her know he's taken.

More than anything else, though, Missed Connections are intoxicating because of their inherent romance. They suggest that many of us wander the streets with our eyes and hearts open to potential love (and that we'd do so even if Craigslist didn't exist), hoping to be seen and appreciated. What honest emotions!

Those lacking flowery language are still somehow endearing, such as this matter-of-fact posting from earlier this month: "i helped you get your bike un-stuck from the bike rack, thought you were cute," one gentleman said of a University of Southern Maine damsel-in-cycling-distress. Or this guy, even blunter, to a woman named Jess: "You're really cute, I want to sleep with you."

No matter how crass, there's something charming, mysterious, and community-oriented about taking to the Internet to profess attraction to a stranger. Some authors seem to revel in that romance.

A lover of language with e.e. cummings's sense of punctuation had this to say about a fellow Whole Foods shopper: "You seem as original as you clearly are beautiful./As subtle and lovely as you are stylish./you left me full of words.../Shyness now the curse. I would like to see you."

And this, from a starry-eyed coffee drinker: "It is my escape./You work there./I've caught you looking./You've caught me looking./I'm slow to make conversation./If you start one I'll be likely to respond."

If you've had a successful Missed Connection encounter, please tell me about it. For that matter, tell me about some other stuff too. We here at the Phoenix are no prudes, but this column will only last so long if we base it solely on our own experiences. So please — send in your stories and ideas. (We'll keep your identity confidential, if you don't want your sex secrets spilled to the Phoenix readership at-large.) And really, don't be shy. Who doesn't love talking about sex?

Deirdre Fulton can be reached at

  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Romance, University of Southern Maine, Craiglist,  More more >
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