- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2001

What's this? Men and women actually agree on something? It's all, apparently, in the numbers.

In an ideal world, ladies and gents hope to find the same traits in one another: smarts and humor, with good looks, athletic prowess and money lagging way down at the bottom.

And the numbers in question are eerily exact.

A new Harris poll has found that 79 percent of both the single men and women surveyed rated "intelligence" as the most important characteristic in their potential amours.

But wait, there's more of this double data.

Seventy percent of both sexes rated "funny" in second place. Both rated "attractive" in third place at 34 percent, "athletic" at 12 percent and "wealthy" at 6 percent.

Psychologist Joyce Brothers was not surprised at these duplicate sets of numbers.

"Not in the least," she said, as "mutual intelligence is most important for the long term."

The survey of 1,500 men and women was conducted for American Demographics magazine last month. But while the sexes may mirror the same ideals during their romantic reveries, it's a free-for-all after that beginning with the actual moment of truth: the date.

Seventy-six percent of the women, for example, dab on cologne before embarking on that meal out which is, incidentally, the most popular form of "special date," according to the survey.

Just 58 percent of the men do the same.

Meanwhile, a date is a shopping signal among females: 38 percent buy something new to wear, compared with just 12 percent of the men. More than a third of the ladies wear "special undergarments" on their date, while only 13 percent of the men were concerned about their underwear status.

Both men and women tidy their house before a date (52 percent and 58 percent, respectively.) And they come prepared; 69 percent of the men stop at the ATM on the way, as do 54 percent of the women.

It's the ladies, though, who are ready if things go awry.

Twenty-two percent of them said they had a "plan" in place should the date go bad. Men were more optimistic, with just 11 percent admitting to an "escape plan."

Of course, the study of date disintegration is a science unto itself.

"He dragged me to the electronics section to drool over computer parts," noted one mystified woman who had gone on a date to the local Radio Shack.

The potential man of her dreams, she surmised, "drinks with his computer. I wonder who proposes the first toast?"

Perhaps she should consult "Body Language Secrets: A Guide During Courtship & Dating," by R. Don Steele, one of about 1,500 books published in the past three years that offer hints to the dating-challenged.

It is a varied science, indeed.

Beware of those who touch their nose or mouth, tug an ear, rub an eye, pat themselves, close their eyes or do not rest both feet on the floor during conversation. They're lying, Mr. Steele writes.

Judge a fellow on how he "meets and greets," his telephone skills and first-date behavior, advises Wendy Walsh in "The Boyfriend Test: How to Evaluate His Potential Before You Lose Your Heart," a book published on Valentine's Day. Wait another five dates before evaluating him again, she added.

"A Man's Field Guide to Dating" by Robert Wray, on the other hand, has a different take on such things, as does "How to Know if Someone Is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less" by Neil Clark Warren and "Dating for Dummies" by Joy Browne.

And when in doubt, consult a dating survey of which there are hundreds.

According to researchers at the marketing group Simple Romance, men think an ideal first date should last an hour or less, while women thought 90 minutes was more appropriate.

Then again, 22 percent of the men said it took them only 15 minutes to "fall in love" with their date; 15 percent of the women took the same amount of time.

Needless to say, things can get confusing in dating science.

When is the best time to talk about "where the relationship is going?"

A poll from About.com, an on-line marketing group, determined that couples should wait until they've dated three months, though the second most popular answer was "never."

And when all is said and done, what about that critical follow-up call after the first date?

According to the new Harris survey, 64 percent of the men polled said they usually called "within a day" if the date was a success, while 29 percent said in two or three days and 2 percent after four days.

"Many men who have no intention of calling say they will, thinking that's being polite," said Miss Brothers. "But if the woman really likes the man, that's the worst kind of torture."

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