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Cover of the 26 July 1991 GUIDEPOST issue

A Reprint from GUIDEPOST

Ed’s note: A quarter of a century after “Looking for that Someone Special” was published in GUIDEPOST as cover story, the lovelorn scene in Spain is very much what it used to be. But the methods of searching for love have changed drastically.
In 2017, the overwhelming majority are wired to the Internet; that’s where you now look for that special someone. But not in 1991 when you look in quaint places!
See how and where.

Note also that the 26 July 1991 cover of GUIDEPOST would never have passed the press censorship during the Franco regime (up to 1975) when our magazine had had a few clashes with said censorship.
How times had changed!




26 July 1991


“Spain is the land of love” the brochures declare, and Spanish youth, wherever you turn, seem to be conspiring to propagate the image.  So what of the growing band of single people (fruit of the “urbanization and secularization of Spanish society”) not blessed with the joys of a stable relationship? In the USA such people are catered for in the personal columns found in all manner of magazines. In Spain, however, such extremes are frowned upon, and the columns have not yet shed their seedy image. Many people associate them with the proliferation of “specialist” magazines which cater for the marginalized. So where do lonely hearts turn if they are not subscribers to “Bondage Weekly”? To “Segundamano”, it seems, in which every week over 500 people advertise in one of its largest sections.

About 80% of ads in the personal section are from people looking for partners of degrees of stability ranging from marriage to “sporadic encounters”. Of these, about half are from heterosexual men (ranging in age from 19 to 75) seeking sex, love or both. Around 18% are from homosexual men; 4% of these are from young men hoping for a “first experience”. Only 8% are from women, a fact which puts into question the whole claim of a “sexual revolution” in Spain. Some 12% of the advertisers could be described as having “special needs” which might not easily be satisfied without recourse to this method – married men looking for young women; married couples intending to “broaden their horizons”; bisexuals already in relationships. Finally, 10% of the adverts offer and request services (where financial remuneration is not demanded, but often implicit): executives looking for “secretaries”, athletic young men offering to “help” older women.

Somewhat intrigued by the reasons individuals may have for using these columns, we decided to approach some of the advertisers. Heterosexual men were, on the whole, easier to contact and more willing to speak, so we restricted our research to that area.
Antonio, a painfully shy waiter and glass-worker from Usera, placed his advert in the paper on the insistence of his elderly mother who had earlier assured me he was “very good, and very handsome. A little bald, but very handsome.” Antonio is looking for a serious relationship which will lead to marriage and a family. He’s 36, recently separated from “una loca” (in the words of his mother) and feels unable to find a partner by any other means. He has already received several enquiries (all from completely normal women, he stressed), but has as yet failed to find an appropriate wife-to-be.

José-Luis is a 27-year-old graduate from Seville who is now working for Telefónica. He feels lonely, and although he has a large circle of friends, he cannot seem to find a regular partner. His problems are compounded by the fact that most of his friends are either married or engaged. He uses this system as his only alternative to the disco scene where, he says, women are very cold. He plays sport, and considers himself physically desirable. He has rejected all suitors, however, on physical or emotional grounds: he describes the majority of applicants as “very strange”. So his search goes on…

Pepe, a 24-year-old nurse recently returned from five years in Central Europe, has some strong criticisms of Spanish society. “We are”, he says, “too obsessed by appearances and status.” By advertising in the personal columns he aims to defy this attitude: “first, women read my advert, then they hear my voice, and the last thing they do is see me in the flesh.” He is a romantic, into literature, philosophy and theater, and looking for a “Joan of Arc”. Many interesting women have responded to his witty advert, but perhaps not surprisingly, none of them fits the bill. This is the second time he has used the columns. He’s still hopeful.

Perhaps Antonio, José and Pepe would do best to put themselves into the hands of the experts, and invest 70,000 pesetas [€421.00] in the membership of a “friendship agency”. “Tiempos Nuevos”, whose smart, highly-tasteful offices are based in Avenida de Brasil, is one of a small handful of agencies which have sprung up in Spain since 1970 to meet the increasing demand of a new “singles society” where (apparently) some 4,934,527 single people are currently looking for a partner.

Their glossy brochure is quick to stress their belief that “everyone can find love” but for the circumstances of modern-day life. Such circumstances are defined as a lack of free time, inadequate “singles” facilities in towns and cities, marital break-ups, the loss of a partner, and job transfers from one city to a new, unfamiliar one.

“Tiempos Nuevos” maintains that friendship agencies are becoming less and less stigmatized, and mark the way ahead for the world’s unattached cohorts who can, through this system, be honest about themselves and their preferences, and find a partner who matches their expectations.

Of their, 12,890 members, 52.5% are women. Clearly women feel safer using this service than the one provided by the personal columns, hence the huge difference in the ratio of female users. The majority have never been married (61% of women, and 58% of men). The agency is keen to promote itself as a service for professionals, and statistics available support their claim. About 60% of women and 55% of men fall into the categories of “upper” and “upper middle” cultural level (they have been to college). The economic level most prevalent is “middle” (those earning between 150,000 and 299,000 pesetas [€901.52 and €1797.00] monthly: 52% of women and 42% of men are in this bracket. It is indeed unlikely that lower-paid workers could afford the initial enrolment fee. As to age, 34% of female users, and 38% of men are between 30 and 39 years old. A great diversity of professions is represented by “Tiempos Nuevos” clientele. Teaching (16% of all members) forms the largest professional group, followed by civil servants (13%). Perhaps not surprisingly, 40% of both men and women describe themselves as non-practicing Catholics, and 68% of women and 60.5% of men are apolitical.

Each member fills in a detailed questionnaire not only about their own physical and economic situation, political leanings, general culture and religion, but also about their preferences in these areas for a partner. Forms are processed by a computer (of great capacity and high resolution). Selected forms are then compared by a team of “specialized staff”. The member then receives the contact number of potential friends by post or phone. It is now up to him/her to do the work. The agency also organizes social activities to allow members to widen their circle of friends.

They estimate a 62.5% success rate, success being defined as the client’s arrival at his/her goal, whether that be a partner, or just a new circle of friends.


Guidepost, except
Heart/JacobT_98 via flickr, CC BY-SA2.0

Guidepost was first published on 28 February 1958. It has been published uninterruptedly since then, first as a print magazine and later, in keeping with the times, as an online publication. It is Spain’s oldest existing publication in English.
GUIDEPOST is The Dean of English publications in Spain.