William Farthing put to the scientific test words like sexy, impulsive, emotionally stable and conscientious.

In a paper for Evolutionary Psychology that he titled "Neither daredevils nor wimps," the University of Maine psychology professor quantified what women find attractive in a long-term mate when it comes to the male penchant for risk taking. He used several scenarios and scholarly language.

After offering examples, he asked ladies to judge the fictional men and their fictional deeds on scales of sexiness, foolishness and bravery.

His findings: "Women's concerns over risks to their mates overrode any positive signal value of men's risk taking, when the acts were highly risky and had no redeeming practical value."

In short: A man willing to charge onto the ice to rescue a drowning skater? So hot.

Someone who swims a half-mile in choppy water just to touch a boat and swim back? Not.

The 76 female undergrads in the study wanted their fellows to be the hero when necessary and live to tell about it.

In his study, Farthing's research did not address the lure of bright blue eyes, door-opening aptitude or shoveling prowess.

Maybe next time.

Till then, on the eve of Valentine's Day, the Sun Journal asked local women what they were after in a mate for long-term bliss, and heard all that and then some.

"He goes out in the cold, snowy morning to start my truck. He is a keeper," said Deborah Belanger of South Paris.
"I wanted a nonsmoker - that was at the top of my list. And I wanted a play buddy - a man who was willing to share his weekends with me by trying new activities . . . like kayaking, mountain biking or even shopping," said Laurie St. Pierre of Auburn.

It took 20 years. Then she found Dan.

"If he hadn't been open to new experiences, he might not have accepted my invitation to the first annual 'I hate New Year's Turkey Bowling Party.' That would have been a shame because it was the night of our first kiss," St. Pierre said.

For Mary Jane Newell in South Paris, the criteria was charming, funny and honest.

For Debbie Eaton in Lewiston? Best-friend material.

"I want a man who listens, and then responds. He's not there yet, but I'm working on him," said Kelly. (Wisely, she didn't offer a last name or hometown. We'd hate to jeopardize any strides.)

Sharon in Strong will celebrate her fifth anniversary with beau Bob this Valentine's Day. She was looking for sweet, generous, kind, attentive.

When they started dating, "He said, "I don't want things to get too serious,' but I knew," Sharon said. He's 76, she's 57. The pair were set up by his daughter-in-law.

"It took me my whole life to find a man who takes out the trash and is so romantic," she added.

More keeper qualities, in their own words.

"Holding hands for no reason at all."

- Marie Hale, Lisbon

"He's my best friend, my daredevil, my port in a storm. He takes care of my parents, loves my siblings as his own. He takes care of his family. He's funny and witty and smart. He works so hard every single day. He's loud and brash and brave, and cuddles the kitties. He's a great daddy, and my whole life. We've been married going on 12 years. We actually renewed our wedding vows just this past fall. I didn't just fall for him once, but twice! My mom told him he's really stuck with me now."

- Jan Bachelder, Turner

"A woman needs a man that is a jack of all trades. That's my husband. We've been together 19 years. He does it all: car mechanics, home maintenance, trash, baby-sitter. I don't think there's much he can't or won't do."

- April Smith, Lisbon Falls

"I have found the dream guy: He's intelligent, humorous, sincere, honest and faithful. He clearly 'walks his talk.'"

- Genise Knowlton, Otisfield

"I was looking for and found a man that knew when to say 'Yes, dear.' I'm sure that helped us to stay married for 56 years."

- Rae Lawrence, Lisbon Falls

"It was the beautiful blue eyes that first got my attention, but most of all it was the RESPECT that I received from him!"

- Kathy Barker, Farmington

"I have found my best mate. He is loving, funny and not afraid to talk about his feelings. He is very strong and sexy. We compromise and work as a team. He takes care of the trash, cars, shoveling. Well, we do the shoveling together."

- Pamela, Poland

"As a senior widow, with a new beau, I am looking for a sensitive man, alert to my feelings and needs, who can celebrate Valentine's Day by buying a small memento for me. On the other hand I also want to be that same person for him. I think I am lucky enough to have found such a man."

- Ruth Linehan, Lewiston

"How about a guy who has a sense of humor, loves to laugh and joke, and still opens doors for ladies? (Clearly I have not found him.)"

- Steph Gray, Gardiner

"A friend called and asked if I would go on a blind date with (my future husband). I'd had a crush on him for a couple of years and I was ecstatic. I was 15. He was 20. I still have a crush on him. He is still handsome, charming, funny, honest and hardworking. He takes good care of me, as he did our four children. I am a lucky woman. This year we will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary."

- Mary Jane Newell, South Paris

"My perfect mate has the biggest, most beautiful heart. She simply loves me beyond words, and that's all I could ask for. She's honest, romantic, caring, funny and sweet. I'm so lucky to have found her. And she has totally completed me."

- Audrey Fortin, Dixfield

"What I look for in a man is nice eyes, a strong personality, a great sense of humor and a man who's not afraid to be a man's man, who's strong and at the same time protective and comforting of his girlfriend and, yes, I have already found mine."

- Heather, Lewiston

"A genuine true man with home values, doesn't drink, doesn't smoke. He has to respect her. The woman also has to give and take, it should go both ways. Having fun together, that's very important. They're very hard to find out there. My husband was very special."

- Juanita Haines, West Bethel