Feb. 2, 2001 at 6:01 AM ET
It's a fact. If you walk past a group of guys, they are physically unable to resist the urge to ogle. Ever wonder why are men such boys? Do they ever grow up and notice the inner woman? After all, beauty is only skin deep, and we want a man to admire us for more than a seductive arrangement of body parts. As a public service, I conducted a poll asking men at different stages of their lives what attracts them to a woman. Their answers were very ... educational.
20: THE MORE THE MERRIER
"I'm a legs and butt man," says Andrew, a 23-year-old stockbroker. He explains, "My first thought when I see a woman is, 'Do I want to have sex with her?' That cuts out 70 percent right away. At this stage of my life I'm not particularly looking for anything long-lasting." That's probably because most male twenty-somethings have one burning desire: to build a successful career. In terms of women, well, the more the merrier. Men in their twenties want a pretty woman, an ornament on their arm to show their boss and the world: "Hey, I must be really cool to attract such a hot babe."
There's a hope at the end of this semi-shallow tunnel of youth: As men in their twenties age, they begin learning from experience. "You get knocked around a few times by women with big knockers and you realize a pretty face isn't everything," says 27-year-old Peter, a marketing consultant. "But I'm still initially attracted to someone's looks. So any busty blondes reading this can contact me through the Website. But I also want a woman who's sensitive because, hey, I got feelings."
30: STABILITY—AND SANITY
Jim, a comic, recalls, "When I was seven I wanted a girl who could make a good sand castle. At 17, she just had to be stacked. At 27, she couldn't want to be my wife. Now that I'm 30 I want somebody sane and stable. The bottom line: While a cute tush still makes my head turn, it's the gray matter that keeps me interested."
As he enters his thirties, a man's taste in women definitely changes. After the initial experimental stage where he dates a lot of people, he looks for a woman to fill certain roles, like wife and mother. Another way to put it: He's refining his taste. He knows he can't spend all his time in bed. The mid-to-late thirties are often the period when men give in to their urge to settle down. At 39, Paul, a computer consultant, is no longer looking to date, but to mate. "I want someone who looks like a good baby-maker, not an anorexic who's afraid to put a cookie in her mouth."
Men in this age range still think a roll in the hay is nice, but now they're more eager for substance. They want to be nurtured. If you're up for the job, the 40s man may be yours for the taking. Many of them are burnt out, making tons of money and lonely as hell because they have no one to share their success. Still not convinced? Listen to 41-year-old Stuart, a computer systems VP. "Now that I'm in my wise forties, I'm more interested in the character of the person than the package it comes in. Is she caring? Is she as giving as she is taking? Those are the questions I ask myself about the women I meet."
The aphrodisiac for Stuart, as for many over-40 men, is compatibility. If there isn't a certain comfort level with a woman at this stage of a man's life, a relationship can be very frustrating. Bob, a 41-year-old advertising executive, knows this frustration. "It would be easier to meet someone if my primary interest was looks. But if I don't connect with someone in a cerebral way, I lose interest fast. I want to be with someone who laughs at my jokes, who'll take care of me when I'm sick, and let me take care of her. This seems like a mission impossible."
Yes, the 40s man is sensitive, but he's also prone to mid-life crises and heavy-duty alimony payments. Find this disheartening? Just keep in mind that some of the most compatible love matches are between older women and younger men. Why? These two age grooves are actually the most sexually in sync of any combo out there. Coo-coo-ca-choo, Mrs. Robinson.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.