So what <i>do</i> women want?

A survey advises men against wooing a partner with expensive gifts - and instead pay for fine meals and exciting trips. Is this the right advice? And how do men like to be pursued?
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The Independent Online

My first date with my husband, Leo, couldn't have been more perfect. He asked me to come to the theatre to see Billy Liar, with Albert Finney in the lead role, I think. It was wonderful, and we then went to dinner at a restaurant where I remember they were serving huge Mediterranean prawns; it was so glamorous. Leo knew all sorts of people and he had a lot of life experience. What I hate are those horrible men who I called "half-bottle men": They'd take you to lunch or dinner and try to make you drink - half a bottle - and then get you back to the flat and lunge for you! I also remember one man who said to me: "You can never marry me because you're too common, but I'd love to have an affair with you." I wasn't impressed by that. The tactics I would use would be the same as Leo's. He was so generous, and what he did took a lot of thought and imagination. That's important. I don't think you can beat the theatre and a lovely dinner.

Charlie Higson, Comedian and novelist

I am wooed by the simple, direct approach, no bullshit or nonsense. I always liked to use the direct approach when dating. When wooing my wife, I simply said what I'd like to do. I said, "I'd like to have sex with you", and she seemed quite happy with that and so we took it from there. I can never be bothered with any nonsense. Being honest and sincere is how I always played things and I've never used any special techniques or chat-up lines. Sharing things is always important, and not assuming they always want you to pick up the bill. I had to be careful about these things in the 1980s. It was such a terrible, terrible time to be dating.

On attempting the old-fashioned, gentlemanly manner, you were often bewilderingly met with a lengthy discussion about a woman's need for equality. Sharing things often scored a lot more points at the time.

Jennie Bond, Television journalist

I was wooed by a moustache, twinkling eyes, a gravelly voice and someone who really made me laugh. I also have a bit of a cuff fetish; I love it when men have their cuffs showing. Anything intriguing and different about someone I find immediately attractive. I love it when someone presents a very different point of view to mine, it's much more interesting to be challenged. I don't really like the old-fashioned approach and am not at all won over by a man who holds a door open for me, in fact I find it quite annoying and would probably insist he walk through it first next time. Germaine Greer was one of my tutors at school, and so equality in a relationship was drilled into me from a young age. I would never like to be paid for in a relationship. I'd much rather just share time together at the beginning, and later if they want to spoil you with a small gift that's fine. In relationships I will always just be me and never play games. I keep lipstick on at all times.

Kathy Lette, Author of 'Dead Sexy'

My first husband organised for a string quartet to sneak into my bedroom so that I woke, gently, to the strains of Bach. Now that's what I call the rhythm method!

The worst gesture someone made was entertaining the restaurant with his quirky rendition of "God Save The Queen" in armpit-farts or burps. Others: Telling me, in the throes of passion, that I kiss even better than his sister; asking me to comb through his back hair for nits.

Women know that what excites the average man is food, Fosters, football and the Playboy channel. The trouble is, women often get all excited about nothing... And then they marry him!

But being a bonsai brunette whose bra cups do not runneth over, I have had to develop a black belt in tongue fu. My only commandment must be "thou shalt not bore!" Wordplay is foreplay after all.

Alex Zane, MTV and XFM presenter

The best thing anyone's ever done to woo me was on my 21st birthday. I woke up - I was living with my girlfriend - and I enquired about my present. I had a suitcase with a lock I couldn't open. She'd prepared a treasure hunt kit with a map of London's Underground and a card with a clue as to where the next card would be. The trip around London led me to the left luggage at Euston station where I found a key to unlock the suitcase. There was a video camera inside. The worst thing was when a girl mistook my morbid fascination with sharks - which verges on terror - and bought me a shark-diving experience.

I'm not very good at wooing. Without seeing the movie Grease I learnt the T-Birds' pledge for a girl who was a big fan. I took a girl recently to my stand-up show. Should it go wrong, and it has done before, there's nothing like your date needing to comfort you.

Martin Deeson, A founder of 'Loaded' magazine

I don't present any fronts, really, I just sit around drinking beer and telling the odd joke. If that works, that impresses me. It amazes me that some people approach dating tactically, perhaps reusing something they picked up on in an advice manual. I like an easy-going girl who doesn't take me too seriously. Doormats are unattractive - one of the things I'm most drawn to is a woman who won't be shy in telling me I'm talking utter bollocks. One problem with dating women in their late 30s is this recurring sense of urgency from those who bought into the myth about marquees at weddings and the need to have babies before it's too late. Women who don't get too stressed are good, and - without sounding too grouchy - it can get quite wearing talking on the phone endlessly and aimlessly. At the end of the day women just like to be made to feel like a princess and I do think it's nice to do old-fashioned things. It's sexy; men like it and women like it.

Michael Winner, Film director and restaurant critic

I don't get taken out. I've been given very nice and considerate presents such as ornaments that are not expensive. Normally people have given me teddy bears.

What wins your affections is people's attitudes and behaviour towards you. They say beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Well, I give presents. I have given diamonds to friends, but they have to be well along the line to get diamonds!

Lots of people have recommended dreadful restaurants to me. People often say this restaurant is wonderful, but it's dreadful and you can't look them in the face. My favourite restaurant in London is the Cipriani.

All you have to do to woo someone is make them laugh. You have to keep someone amused and entertained. You can laugh people into bed far more easily than go through these phoney seductions.

Victoria Coren, Journalist and poker player

In terms of what impresses me, a clean bill of health is a good start. I like a man who does not take a swallow of wine with his food for lubrication. Another bonus is when the book on his bedside table isn't Andy McNab or John Grisham. Somebody once took me to a theme park and I was very pleased! I would normally pretend I was too cool to jump up and down, but it was great. I wouldn't like to "accidentally" bump into a woman my date knows is into threesomes. I once went on a date where the guy insisted it was going to be one of London's most elegant bars and it turned out to be football. Also I was taken to a wine-tasting and, at the end of the evening, he said: "The tickets were £200, have you got your cheque book?" As far as my tactics go, I would pull my top off and shout: "I'm 31 - please, please marry me!" I think men might like that kind of thing.

DBC Pierre, Novelist

Extravagant gifts are always nice, but I'm impressed by girls who pick up on the little details. I smoke this rare Danish pipe tobacco and a girl once bought me a tin of it after seeing it in my flat. In terms of things that have not impressed me, I once went on a date with a girl who told me about her haemorrhoid operation. It's best when people pay attention to their dates and don't just talk about themselves. I grew up in Mexico City, which was a pretty corrupt place. On one of my first dates I managed to buy a police escort, which went down a treat, but you can't really do that here. It's horses for courses really; it depends what the person's like, but you can't go wrong indulging with gifts and stuff. But I think it's important that you get people out of their "comfort zones": you only create opportunities in times of change. You have to make an adventure.

Peter Stringfellow, Nightclub owner

I think women like a nice guy, nice to have dinner with. I think girls do like an old-fashioned gentleman.

I recently proposed to my fiancée, Bella Wright, over dinner but felt it was important to ask her father first. He is of a similar age to myself, and I felt that that was respectful.

Spending money does help when dating. I will always let the lady know that she can order the expensive champagne for example; generosity is very important.

Making your date feel very comfortable is essential for a relaxed evening; you should always offer the lady choices and let her know she can get home safely.

Personally, I'm drawn to someone with a good conversational manner, Bella's always very polite with anyone who comes to our table to chat. However, a loud girl who talks too much is off-putting.

Justine Greening, Conservative MP

Somebody once took me to "The Ivy" and that was very impressive. That somebody was actually able to get a table there was impressive by itself. A man has to make an effort and go that extra mile to do something special. When somebody has taken the time to think about something that you like doing, it's always good. A man should have a modicum of knowledge about my personality. Is that asking too much of today's man?

There was one date, well it was actually my birthday, that I think every woman will relate to. The man in question (he was a Chelsea fan) took me to see Chelsea versus Manchester United. Now it's not that I don't like football, it's that on my birthday he took me to do something he wanted to do.

In terms of what I would do to impress someone, it would depend on the person. A nice drink followed by a meal is always good.

Krishnan Gurumurthy, Television journalist

I used to be impressed by extravagant gifts and dinner. I've now come to the conclusion that that's all bollocks. I didn't really go on extravagant dates with my wife, and I certainly didn't do any extravagant showering of gifts. It was the little things that really impressed me, like when she'd pick something up for me and I'd think, "Wow! That's exactly what I wanted".

The theatre can be a disaster unless you know the person. I was "set-up" on a theatre date. It was really stressful - you sit together for a long time and afterwards you have to talk about it. In the past I would have bought ballet tickets. What I'm more likely to say now is, "I've got some freebie tickets for the cinema, do you want to meet in 45 minutes?".

You have to be thoughtful and spontaneous. My ideal date - with my wife! - would be eating at Heston Blumenthal's restaurant, the Fat Duck, and taking long country walks.

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