by Tom Blake
Recently, I published this comment made by a widower: "I think the Internet is not for me when it comes to meeting women. I prefer to meet the person first to see if there may be chemistry between us."
An innocent-enough quotation, I thought, but the word "chemistry" triggered strong responses from women.
Shirley, mid-60s, of New York City e-mailed, "I find the word chemistry loathsome, because it is adolescent and dishonest. Men have often used it, and I resent it. Somehow, they seem to think that they make all of the choices about dating. But love, affection, goodwill, kindness and friendship are as important, and that romantic, superficial, instantaneous spark may occur in a different way now that we are seasoned adults."
Jennifer Marks of Orange said, "Chemistry is a combination of physical and emotional/mental attraction between people. When you first meet someone, each person senses the physical aspect of the other, but the emotional/mental aspect isn't known yet.
"Some men make the mistake of relying solely on the physical attraction. Men who have never been married or who have had several failed relationships often do this. They reduce 'chemistry' to sex appeal alone. These men go from one short-term, disappointing relationship to another."
From Tallahassee, Fla., Belinda e-mailed, "I hate it when someone is looking for 'chemistry.' When a man says 'chemistry' it means only one thing. I've been on too many first dates that went nowhere because the man didn't feel 'chemistry' or physical attraction. You can talk with someone for months on the Internet and on the phone, and suddenly when you meet in person, that special chemistry you had together vanishes."
Edie of Raleigh, N.C., said, "As a woman, I feel that chemistry is physical, emotion, etc. – that woman 'thing' about connecting on many levels. Chemistry is important, but not the end-all be-all."
Men rarely go into as much detail as women when defining chemistry. Recently, I asked one of my single male friends - two unmarried women were seated at lunch with us - what the word meant to him. Without hesitation - he didn't even put down his sandwich - he said, "It means you want to take someone to bed." The women seemed shocked that he didn't feel there was more to chemistry than that.
Not all men define chemistry so bluntly or narrowly. Most view chemistry as physical attraction, but they also want to be with women with whom they share common interests, backgrounds and goals. But men definitely feel the old spark has to be there.
Regardless of a person's definition of chemistry, both sexes tend to agree that in the long run, a relationship without it will lack spark. "Chemistry is the 'word.' The guy may be rich, handsome, etc., but forget it if you don't click," said Kathleen of Aliso Viejo.
Anna, 49, of Talent, Ore., a widow, e-mailed, "Chemistry is essential for me, and a certain amount of intensity is also attractive."
Differences in men's and women's definitions remind us why middle-age compatibility between the sexes is so elusive.