CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Mark Price and Maria David | The Charlotte Observer) - The plot of a holiday Hallmark Channel romance has become the real life script for a Charlotte woman's search for a boyfriend during the holidays.
Petra Sutherland put a post on the website Nextdoor.com with a simple request: "Wanted, a boyfriend for Christmas. Please send a message."
Sutherland, a 73-year-old grandmother, says she's completely serious about the post, because she saw it work on the Hallmark Channel.
"I was sitting here, watching one of those Hallmark Christmas movies, and I couldn't help but think it might work for me," says Sutherland, who lives in south Charlotte near Providence Road. "I believe in living happily ever after, which is what you see in those movies. I thought: Why not try it in real life? Maybe I'll find my dream guy."
On Wednesday, Sutherland says she got a Grinch-style note from Nextdoor.com, saying her post had been cited as inappropriate and was being removed. However, it was still up Thursday and she racked up a few dozen responses, some from people in disbelief, some from neighbors applauding her gumption, and a few from women who recognized where she got the idea.
"Sounds like a Hallmark movie I'd seen recently. Good luck," posted Deb Klick of Wendover on Nextdoor.com.
"Christmas wishes do really come true!!! I'm praying for you!!" posted Ashley Haze of Golfview.
"Fortune favors the bold, good luck with your manhunt!" wrote John Fry of Sardis Pointe.
A few people warned Sutherland of the dangers of meeting people online, but she says that's why she posted on a neighborhood website. It's a private social network, visited by the people who live around her and she'd like to believe they're friendly.
Sutherland says she has gotten at least three responses from a potential suitors.
Her dream man, she says, is someone fun, close to her age and honest, with honesty being the top quality. Sutherland has some experience with men, having once been married for 29 years. She has three grown children, one of whom is a police officer in Tennessee.
A native of Germany, she immigrated to Ohio in 1956 at age 12, and later moved to Florida. She came to Charlotte in 1989, because "Florida was too hot."
Sutherland describes herself as "a strong personality" and a huge Carolina Panthers fan. She built a career as a realtor, but now works full time at a home improvement store. She admits her daughter would "freak out" if she found out mom posted an online ad for a boyfriend. It's a risk Sutherland was willing to take.
Coincidentally, if you're trying to pinpoint which Hallmark movie her ad was based on, you might have to pick several. There have been holiday films based on women looking for boyfriends, mothers looking for son in laws, and children looking for a new mom or dad.
Among the most popular Hallmark movies being shown now is one called "A Boyfriend for Christmas," and the title pretty much explains the plot. The channel is notorious for merging the holiday spirit with romance, and has a slate of girl-meets-boy holiday specials that run back to back leading up to Christmas.