While researching what it is women want in a man, Andy Bodle discovers a desire for passion … and stumbles upon his alternate power source in the process.
“Marcia responded … that a man who had no abandon of feeling and no passion for anything was not altogether a man.”
James Thurber, The Breaking-Up of the Winships
Two months after my conversation with Jenny, I was passed over, for the seventh time, for promotion to a role I had repeatedly proved I could do in my sleep, and resigned from the newspaper on the spot.
It wasn’t quite the bold, spontaneous act it sounds. Largely because I had to serve out a three-month notice period. But also because my scriptwriting career was finally taking off—I’d just sold three episodes of a cartoon to an American cable channel, which had given me a foot in the door, and a reasonable financial cushion. I’d never have a better opportunity to pursue my dream.
But as the cartoon didn’t immediately trigger a deluge of work, and as I was still disillusioned with British TV after my double BBC disappointment, I decided on a temporary change of course. Remembering Jen’s advice, I flicked through my diaries in search of funny, sad or plain bizarre dating stories, and realized that she might actually have a point.
And reading back over all those baffling failures and even more baffling successes, I realised there were grounds for an investigation—for my benefit as much as anyone else’s. So I started reading feminist literature, obsessively stockpiling surveys, reading chick-lit, watching Sex and the City, devouring academic journals, and interviewing every woman who would talk to me in an effort to find out how I’d got it all so wrong.
Jenny suggested another source of information: online dating agencies. At first I thought she was just trying to get me back on the dating market through the back door. “No way,” I told her. “You know that scene at the end of Terminator 2, where the T-1000 smacks seven bells out of the Terminator, and the little red light in his eye goes out? Well, that little red light is my passion, my hope. I am done.”
But as Jen pointed out, what better way to find out what women want than to look at a website where thousands of women looking for their ideal man post exactly that? So I forked out the seventy quid and filled out a profile.
After a week or so, someone “favorited” me—clicked a button to say she was interested. No message, just a bald statement: you seem all right. I was flattered to bits, even if a quick scan of her details made me less than optimistic about our compatibility. I sent a polite note explaining that I was currently out of commission, and got on with my research.
But my list of fans cussedly continued to grow. After a while, I succumbed, and returned one favoriter’s favor by favoriting her. Then I favorited another, and another. I even entered into a few vaguely flirtatious correspondences—although I strenuously avoided any talk of dates.
Then, one summer morning, I logged on to find a new name on my list of admirers: CassandraP.
The words were witty, the picture pretty. And she sounded right up my street: instead of blathering on about all the things she loved—folk rock and extreme sports and Green Wing DVDs—this Gothy-looking 26-year-old had compiled a concise list of the things she hated. Somewhere deep inside me, the little red light flickered.
I sent a message immediately—well, as soon as I’d fashioned something with the appropriate balance of pith and facetiousness—and waited.
Sigh. Serve me right for thinking that virtual dating would be any less soul-destroying than the real thing.
Another eight days went by. I was having my morning cigarette on the balcony when a flying ant landed on the wall next to me.
Odd. Earlier that week, Cliff had finished his first novel, and called it Flying Ant Day. And I was sure someone else had recently devoted an entire diatribe to her passionate hatred for the things … oh yes. CassandraP.
I’ve never believed in fate. In fact, I’ve always believed that anyone who does believe in fate should be knocked down by a bus on the morning of what would have been the best day of their life. But this was the perfect excuse to give my sexiest fan one last try. So I logged back on to SoulMates and dashed off a note about my airborne visitor.
And lo, two hours later, my inbox was glowing. CassandraP had just got back from a fortnight’s holiday in Athens.
Messages darted between us for a week before I suggested meeting up. We met at Inn the Park, an open-air bar in St James’s Park.
As we were both new to online dating, we were cagey at first, but a bottle of wine soon changed that. Cassie, naturally, wanted to know what I was doing with my life, so I told her, with too much fervour and in too much detail, about the research I’d been doing into animal mating habits, mate preferences and the differences between male and female brains.
Somehow, this failed to put her off, and when the Inn closed, we moved to another pub for some atrocious food and another bottle of red. As we left, I felt an overwhelming desire to grab her hand. She took it and squeezed it; I squeezed back. Then I pinned her against the pub window and we snogged for five minutes solid. The little red light came back on with a vengeance. ALTERNATE POWER.
Our second date, a week later, was a meal at a relatively swanky restaurant in Piccadilly. Cassie wanted to hear more about the book, so I told a few more tales, in the course of which I let slip one of my personal golden rules of dating: I never sleep with anyone until at least the third date. When we emerged from the restaurant, Cassie hailed a taxi and bundled me into it. “I’m going to make you break your rule,” she said.
On our third date, she asked me what my ultimate sexual fantasy was. And then …
But that’s a story for another day.
♥ For the most part, on this blog, I’ve shamelessly borrowed other people’s painstaking research (although I hope I have always given credit where credit was due). But I’ve also made an effort to contribute something of my own to the corpus.
I’ve already shared with you the results of my survey, where I asked 100 women for the top five qualities they looked for in a man.
The other, more time-consuming task I set myself was to plough through 2,000 female online dating profiles, recording what qualities they were looking for in their ideal partner.
Now, it’s quite hard to pull hard statistics out of free-form prose, but I did make extensive notes—and I did notice some interesting patterns.
First, I can count on the fingers of one hand the occurrences of the word “nice,” “kind,” “thoughtful,” “considerate” or “sweet.” (Perhaps this is considered a given; or perhaps it’s just not high up women’s list of priorities.)
Other than that, though, the terms that came up most often generally mirrored the results of my poll. Sense of humour was obviously a biggie. “Tall” was probably the single most common word used; “rich” (or “ambitious” or “driven” or “generous” or similar) wasn’t far behind. “Sporty” was a little more popular than I expected, and there were good showings too from “able to put the world to rights over a glass of wine”, “just as happy yomping across the moors as chilling out in front of a DVD” and “can deal with spiders”. So far, so predictable.
There was only one word that cropped up with any regularity that took me completely by surprise.
“Zest for life! The best way to sum up my ideal match is someone with passion and energy to whom friends and family are important.”
“Someone funny, passionate, tactile, strong, confident, well-educated, driven, self-focused. Ideally, a soulmate, a friend, a partner in crime …”
“Intelligent-eyed, independent-minded, slightly rebellious, arts and music-loving, freckle-fancyin’, Yahtzee-playing, enthusiastic, passionate, honest hero/cool geek who can also see the funny side.”
“Fun serious silly attentive independent thoughtful chatty spontaneous passionate exciting calm relaxed happy sharp warm interesting responsible irresponsible adventurous witty …”
Andy Bodle is a UK-based scriptwriter and journalist who blogs at www.womanology.co.uk