"Well-groomed. Nice clothes. Healthy physique."
So said Yvette, 34, in response to our questions: What attracts you to a potential dating partner? What makes a favorable first impression?
Yvette's list was not unusual. With few exceptions, Orange County women counted grooming, clothes and fitness as qualifying characteristics for prospective partners. Other factors single women evaluate in the men they meet include height, hairline, financial success and aggressiveness.
"I like a guy to be taller than me," said Yvette, an insurance underwriter from Costa Mesa. "It gives me a feeling of security and protection. It's just nicer to have somebody bigger than me to hug."
Karen, 33, agreed. "I'm looking for a guy 6 feet 2 or taller," said the 5-foot-11 Irvine businesswoman. Make that a tall guy with a good head of hair.
"Unless he had an exceptional personality, I don't think I would date someone who's losing his hair," she said. "I've never dated anyone who was going bald."
Both Karen and Yvette said it was important for a man to make the first move--strike up a conversation, ask for a dance, buy a drink, "show some initiative," as Karen put it.
"I've been told that I'm sometimes unapproachable, that I can be intimidating," Karen said. "Well, if a man doesn't have the guts to come up and talk to me, I'm not interested. I don't want somebody who's scared of me."
Kay, 40, said it "might be sexist or just plain old-fashioned" to let a man do the ice breaking, "but I'd be a nun by now if I had to make the first move. I'm more comfortable in a situation where a guy lets me know that he's interested and attracted to me," she said. "If there's no kind of sexual attraction, you might as well forget it."
The widowed teacher from Mission Viejo said she's attracted to "short, muscular men." Those who make a favorable first impression are conservatively dressed and whisker-free ("I find beards utterly repulsive!").
Older men--and younger men--need not apply.
"I'm looking for a man within a few years of my age," said Kay. "I'm not attracted to older men, and younger men don't have much to say that I'm interested in. Trouble is, there don't seem to be many attractive, available men between 35 and 45."
Which is no problem for Ingrid, 35.
"Lately, I've found myself attracted to younger guys," she said, "guys in the 23 to 29 range. I'm not really looking for commitment right now. I've been divorced for 10 years. I enjoy my life. Younger guys are just a lot more fun. They're more adventurous."
Ingrid, a mother of two and a waitress in Newport Beach, said she can "usually tell whether or not I'll like a guy by the look in his eyes." If she sees a good-looking young guy with "kind eyes," chances are Ingrid will step up and introduce herself.
"I'm real outgoing," she said. "I always put my hand out if I'm interested. I guess I'm just not real nervous about rejection--I think everyone's got something to give. The worst thing that can happen is you go up and talk with a guy and that's the end of it right there. What's the big deal?"
Men who capture Jan's attention "exude confidence. I like a man who's friendly and secure," said the 42-year-old college counselor from Huntington Beach. "And tall. I feel much more feminine and petite with a tall man. I also stand up straighter. It's good for my posture."
Like other divorced respondents, Jan described her ex--and said she's looking for his temperamental opposite.
"My husband was the pensive, serious type," she said. "He did a lot of reflective thinking and not much sharing. I'm looking for a man who can communicate his feelings and express himself. I think catharsis is real important. I think we were put on this earth to share this experience, not go through it in a hermetically sealed world of our own."
Out on her own for the past eight years, Jan has attended her share of singles mixers.
"You want to talk about first impressions?" she asked with a laugh. "I stopped going to those mixers when I figured out the equation.
"You go into a big room and there's maybe 300 people," she said. "Of the 100 to 150 men, I might see three who were eye-appealing. I'd go over and stand near one of them, or say 'hello,' shake hands. We'd have the 'what-do-you-do, where-do-you-work' conversation.
"Of the three men," Jan said, "one would be just an idiot. Nothing to say, not very bright, yuck. Another would be Mr. Egocentric. He'd start talking, and it would be, 'I do this, I do that, I-I-I.' The third would be a really nice, decent guy--with 120 other women clustered around."
Optimism and a sense of humor--that old standby--were among the attributes single women said they find attractive. And the majority said they're looking for a man who earns at least as much money as they do--preferably more. First impressions, it seems, include a quick assessment of financial status.
"I want somebody who can keep me in a better life style than I'm accustomed to," Karen said.