06/11/2008 02:15 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Truth in Dating

It is purely coincidental that I am writing a blog about dating while waiting for the start of Sex and the City, the movie (reviews be damned). I suppose I am a bit like Carrie Bradshaw: unruly hair (fewer roots), too many clothes, questionable choices in men. We'll see if Big is bad, once and for all. If he is, God help us if she goes back for more pain. Though I will understand. Another similarity.

So, dating for the middle-aged woman. I'm bored with the whole concept but resigned to its necessity and resolute in determination to broaden my romantic horizons. My last few relationships started as friendships so I already knew the requisite background information that gets trotted out on most first dates. But a recent date was pretty much a cold call so we were starting from scratch.

It helps if the guy is really bright. And he was. Not in anything I know much about or am interested in (economics and computer science. MIT, yet). Well-travelled, exotic background. Raised in England after parents sent him off to avoid the overthrow of the Shah. Not surprisingly, my first Iranian exile, and exceptional conversational fodder at that. Political, historical, psychological (what's it like to be shipped away at eleven never to return). Suggestion by me that the U.S. government must be sweet-talking him to use his Farsi, technological skills, and various passports, green card, etc. for the good of Uncle Sam. Coyness in response, though I think he was not fibbing and is indeed not with the CIA. I say it's only a matter of time.

We were both adept in the techniques of no-frills dating, getting past the mundane quickly. Work. Education. Fleetingly touching on siblings. (Who cares? Why does anyone ever ask this?! What, no second date if he's a...gasp...middle child?). Places we'd lived (him, London- Barcelona-Boston-New York; me, New York-London-New York-London-New York. A clear indication that neither of us is big on commitment). No discussion of age, though I know from...yes, Googling...he is seven years younger than I. We get through all this in the course of a few minutes, leaving more time to talk about God (me, agnostic, him, atheist), artificial intelligence (the Spielberg movie bore no resemblance to reality). And of course, ill-advisedly and contrary to all standard dating advice but way too much fun to avoid, relationship history. This required a bit more time. Really, the only rule of thumb here is to not speak badly of anyone in your past. And I don't.

It is perhaps both sexes who spend much of a first date only half-listening, with the other half of the brain trying to determine, "Could I sleep with this guy/girl"? Conventional wisdom would suggest that the man is wondering if she'll put out. The woman is deciding if he is f***able. Not that this is more important than compatibility and shared values.....but really, all things being equal, could you do it with this guy? I know they say attraction can grow, but we're busy. Is it really worth five more dates to find out? More Samantha than Carrie in outlook perhaps.

But every woman is looking at something different. For me, the first thing are the hands (well, after the face). Not with reference to that old wives' tale about size, but just....general attractiveness. Strength. Shape. Hygiene. Stubby, pudgy, dirty fingers make me cringe. You'll never get those paws near me! I don't care terribly if they don't have all their hair (as long as they are not trying to look like they do). They could be sexy in an Ed Harris sort of way (the patron saint of bald-men-dating). Gray is a-okay. And they don't have to be classically good looking, and might have a few extra pounds (though, if I'm honest, I don't, so why can't he cut back on the carbs?). And it's true, smart and funny are the sexiest things. And I almost forgot, kind. It didn't used to be top of my list. But we should all demand that (and give it).

Dinner ends. Amazingly, I allow him to pay for the entire dinner (I'm sorry ladies, but why should the man always do this? If we want parity in salary, why do we still expect a man to pay for dinner? It's archaic, as is taking your husband to the cleaners for no good reason when you get divorced, just because you can. But that's a whole other rant). He wants to go for coffee. I want to go for the subway. Interesting enough for a second date, but I'd had enough for the night. European two-cheek goodnight kiss. Just right.

A week later, after I'd turned down a late dinner mid-week (amigo, you're not in Barcelona any more, I gotta work in the morning), we tentatively booked something for Saturday and he said he'd let me know Friday if we were on. He did not. I texted him a question mark Saturday (temporarily abandoning my zero tolerance policy on this point). He apologized profusely, and in the next text, asked if I envisioned "us" as a relationship, a friendship, friendship with sex, or just sex. He said friendship with sex would be his preference. Even for someone who is notoriously direct, I was a bit taken aback.

I responded that as I'd only known him for ninety minutes, the length of our dinner, I hadn't really thought about it (though of course I had, I'm a woman. But I hadn't decided). He apologized profusely again, saying that due to the nature of our meeting (randomly in a West Village restaurant) he wasn't sure. So I guess actually the question wasn't that off base.

I'll see him this weekend. Still haven't decided what I would like "us" to be. I know women who say that if they become attracted enough to sleep with a guy but don't see a great future, they may be more likely to sleep with him sooner rather than later than if they were wild about him. This seems counterintuitive but the apparent logic is that if it's not going to be long-term why really bother getting to know him first. Just cut to the chase. If we all waited to fall in love with someone to have sex, we'd have precious little.

Funny, a male friend of mine does not get that last paragraph at all but the females do.

So, the jury's still out. Watch this space. I think we're safe here. He doesn't strike me as a Googler. And I will maintain his anonymity and not say anything unkind. But if you run into any Farsi-speaking, late-dining, tech savvy, English-accented men, mum's the word.

P.S. Sex and the City was flawed, but great. I'll let you decide on Big.