MAD DOG: Learning To Be Mr. Right

What do women want in a man? If I could answer this with any semblance of certainty I'd be rich, famous, and hated by women everywhere. Yes, hated. They relish the mystique, like keeping us guessing, and the last thing in the world they want is to think that we understand them. Trust me, they have nothing to worry about.The simple fact is I don't understand women any better than I understand quantum string theory, why you have to pay to lift free weights, or why anyone would think a remake of Charlie's Angels is a good idea. It would seem that after being around women all my life -- starting with my mother, who happens to be a woman -- I should have a clue, but I don't. The difference is, unlike other men, I don't mind admitting it. I'm perfectly content to shrug my shoulders and mutter a little "c'est la vie", "vive la difference", or "au revoir" as I hit the remote so I can watch another episode of America's Funniest Home Massacres, my favorite show as long as I'm not an active participant.But this doesn't stop researchers from trying to figure women out. They do this for several reasons. For one, there are those great big gobs of government and corporate bucks sitting on their lab benches which keep falling into their petrie dishes, and if they don't spend it the cleaning people will vacuum it up and then they'll just have to apply for more, and that's work. For another, no one really expects them to come up with a good answer, unlike searching for a cure for cancer, a vaccine against the common cold, or the reason why there's a never-ending string of best-selling fiction written by lawyers who already have more money than talent.But they keep trying. Not the lawyers, the researchers. In a recent issue of Nature (motto: "It's a natural!") a group of scientists reported that women prefer tall men. The next thing you know they'll decide that dark and handsome are desired attributes too. They figured this out -- the researchers, not the women -- by noticing that married men tend to be taller than bachelors, and fathers are generally taller than non-fathers. This brings up the question of cause and effect, which is to scientists what the chicken and the egg is to philosophers. The question begs: Do women really prefer to marry taller men, or do men just have a growing spurt once they get married because of the pent up hormones caused by a decrease in the quantity of sex? This, in turn, raises the discussion of quality versus quantity, but we'll save that for another time, preferably one when my testosterone level isn't doing an imitation of the Johnstown Flood.The scientists rationalized their findings by saying that as humans evolved a man's height became a good gauge of his ability to provide food and protection from enemies. According to this thinking a basketball player would be the ultimate husband, which is true when you think about how much food their astronomical salaries can provide and how they can kick their enemies' butts. Or at least slam dunk them. Of course there are exceptions to this, like Dennis Rodman, who may have the money but is his own worst enemy. And nothing says "lack of husband material" like someone who's too busy kicking his own ass to pay attention to his wife's. Or borrowing her dresses and make-up.This is all part of the branch of science known as evolutionary psychology, which is the concept that many of the patterns, habits, and things we do date back to the cave, where survival needs drove us, not SUVs. They say that, just as the fittest survived, so did their personality traits. This helps explain why men are naturally more promiscuous than women (it's a primal urge to sow our seeds often and increase the chances of our genes sticking around) and why women like Martha Stewart (those caves were pretty dark and dingy and there weren't any Pier Ones around). It doesn't, as popularly thought, explain why most men are fascinated by large breasts. That's simply because we're crude pigs.The problem with this, and any other theory that tries to predict women's likes and dislikes, is that women are fickle and change their minds more often than the color of their fingernails. To prove it, last year some researchers from Scotland and Japan got together and invented McSushi. Just kidding. Actually what they did was find out that what a woman finds attractive in a man's face varies according to her menstrual cycle. If you don't believe me you can read it in a July issue of Nature, which in case you haven't noticed is the Official Scientific Journal of This Week's Column.It turns out that when a woman is ovulating (or able to conceive) she prefers men with more masculine features. When she's menstruating (unable to conceive), she prefers more feminine ones. And right before menstruating a woman doesn't want to see a guy at all, though if she does she'll rip the chocolate out of his hands, slam the door in his face, start crying, and then not think anything of it because, after all, that's PMS.I can't help but wonder if I could put all these little clues to good use and turn myself into the perfect man. Yeah, right. As if I could be much more perfect. Even if I did try it wouldn't ring true, it would be too much like The Rules -- Role Reversal Edition. I'm not saying love me or leave me (though lord knows that's happened to me before), what I am saying is that if there's one thing I know about women it's that they aren't like fish who can be attracted if you have the perfect lure. Unless, of course you're tall, dark, handsome, and catch her at the right time of the month.

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