- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2001

We remain confounded by the oddities of love, it seems, despite persistent pollsters who plumb the paradoxes of romantic matters with regularity.

About a dozen major surveys surface in the global media each day on marriage, sentiment, desire and the frustrations therein, with dueling data and opposing conclusions. Oh, sweet mystery, indeed.

Just last week, People magazine honed in upon America's top 50 bachelors, based on the opinions of 47,000 readers. The magazine did not skimp on beefcake — the fellows in question were "sexy, single and sizzling," and their dashing photos came with height and age.

After last year's roster was published, the People Web site was jammed with some 14,000 inquiries from hopeful females; "the vast majority of last year's men view their inclusion as a positive experience," the magazine advised.

But "what do women want?" People staged a separate poll and determined that the ladies valued humor and sensitivity over money, and that the greatest faux pas a man might commit was to talk at length of his ex-girlfriend. Dinner, followed by a kiss on the cheek, made the ideal first date.

Over 76 percent of the female respondents allowed, however, that they would marry dashing Rhett Butler over nice guy Ashley Wilkes, given the choice of "Gone With The Wind" males.

In a survey also released last week, Gallup, on the other hand, declared that the "Super Relationship" was paramount among restless romantics, who wanted "an intensely private spiritualized union, combining sexual fidelity, romantic love, emotional intimacy and togetherness."

Over 94 percent of the respondents said that the "soul mate ideal" was the most desired marital partner, and 88 percent believed there was someone, somewhere waiting for them.

Curiously enough, Gallup found that just 52 percent of Americans believed in love at first sight in a survey taken on Valentine's Day, and only four out of 10 had managed to accomplish the feat.

Things are a little less delicate elsewhere, though.

A lengthy online poll titled "what guys and girls really like about each other" determined that men were attracted to face, "butt," chest and legs, in that order; women looked first to eyes, face, muscles and "butt."

Both men and women said "I love you" was the most romantic thing one could possibly say, though saying "nothing" ranked fourth in popularity for both sexes.

Another survey released in the past few days by Canadian researchers, on the other hand, reveals that women are most attracted to kind, considerate, altruistic men, because it demonstrated they would "invest energy and resources in the relationship and in children." These qualities were irrelevant to the men, however.

"It's a very curious finding," said poll director Pat Barclay. "Perhaps men think they're less likely to score with 'good girls.'"

London psychologist Robin Dunbar has a different take on it altogether: The he-man rules. According to Mr. Dunbar's new poll, women value "bravery above altruism" when selecting their man, because they interpret it as "evidence of his ability to protect them, and to obtain the resources they need."

But he had better not be too he-man.

To further confuse matters, a new survey of 18,000 European females by St. Andrews University in Scotland found that "women think more feminine-looking men are more likely to be in a committed relationship."

The square jaw and thinner lips of the manly man apparently signaled a "dominant but untrustworthy" kind of guy, the researchers said, though they were reluctant to explain why women were more attracted to masculine-looking men during the fertile part of their hormonal cycles.

"Whatever is best in an evolutionary sense is not necessarily the moral thing to do socially," hedged the survey's designer David Perett.

Meanwhile, women researchers who polled 3,000 other women at a "relationship" Web site found that "cuddles, affection and hugs were more important than sex," though given a choice, the women would choose sex over shopping.

"Certainly sex isn't the be-all and the end-all of a relationship," noted Sarah Stone, who compiled the poll.

And last but not least, one new poll has determined that in the choice of sexual partners, "men are more discerning than they're given credit for, going for attractive older women over younger women who could bear them more children."

"You'd think that men would always go for 20-year-olds, but they don't," evolutionary psychologist and poll director George Fieldman told New Scientist magazine. "Men prefer attractiveness over youthfulness when selecting a long-term partner."

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