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Romance is in vogue - hot stuff these days.

Not the steamy, extravagant stereotype of romance often found in popular culture, but the old-fashioned, hearts and flowers kind. Passion plays a less important role than thoughtfulness. Emotional is more important than physical attraction. Spontaneity is prized over planning. And a single red rose can be more romantic than a dozen.At least those are the conclusions of a survey of contemporary attitudes toward romance conducted by the Wirthlin Group for Haagen-Dazs, in connection with the company's introduction of a new line of "romantic" deep chocolate ice creams.

The survey reveals some interesting notions about love and romance - just in time for Valentine's Day.

Just how romantic are Americans?

A majority of the respondents felt that they had grown more romantic in the past 10 years. And more than half also envisioned their own generation as a more romantic one than that of their parents - regardless of the age group.

Just as conservatism is popular in the political area, it is popular in the social arena. However, while the majority of those interviewed considered themselves "old fashioned," that doesn't mean they are not receptive to new dating patterns or new symbols of romantic culture. The majority, for example, thought it was perfectly acceptable for a woman to ask a man for a date. And traditional gifts of candy and jewelry were seen as not necessarily the most romantic gifts.

According to the survey, sharing is considered a key element of romance. And people are always looking for new ways to be romantic.

However, men appear to be more receptive to new romantic patterns than women. The survey provides evidence that men may be tired of bearing the prime responsibility for romance in a relationship. As one participant said: "Women expect romance, but men are the ones who have to provide it." A majority of men expressed interest in being the object of romantic attention, "for a change." Men also said they would not be embarrassed by a woman sending them flowers at the office. (Men as well as women felt receiving flowers at the office was more romantic than receiving them at home.)

The emphasis on thoughtfulness and the de-emphasis on traditional gift-giving patterns may indicate that people are increasingly responding to one another as individuals and not as the "male" or "female" in the relationship, say the surveyors.

Thoughtfulness was a more important romantic concept than passion, adventure or lust to the majority of the respondents. Only 46 percent agreed with the statement "good romance always leads to passion." A similar number also agreed that "romance is an adventure. The more exotic and far away the setting, the more romantic." Sixty-six percent of the respondents felt that "romance has nothing to do with physical attraction; it's more emotional." And nearly three-quarters agreed that "romance is just thoughtfulness. Washing windows, changing diapers or performing other chores can be romantic because it shows that someone cares enough about me to do something I don't like to do."

When women, aged 40-55, were asked about the most romantic thing that had happened to them in the past few months, there was no talk of flowers, champagne, lingerie or Frank Sinatra. Instead, the discussion focused on husbands doing things the wives didn't like to do. For example, one woman talked about her husband organizing the kids and having a "cupboard clean out." As a result, they were able to put the kids to bed early and have a quiet meal together. Another talked about her husband bringing her coffee in the mornings and meeting her at the train at night.

And just as romance doesn't have to be passionate or adventurous, neither need it be expensive or extravagant. Ninety-six percent of the respondents felt that "a good Valentine's Day present doesn't have to be expensive to be romantic," and 84 percent agreed that "a single red rose can be more romantic than a bouquet of a dozen roses." Ninety-one percent felt that getting gifts for "no special reason" was more romantic than getting gifts for Valentine's Day and other special occasions. And 92 percent felt that the most romantic gifts are gifts that are shared.

Don't count chocolate out, however. On Valentine's Day, approximately 58 percent of Americans will give or receive chocolate in some form - from chocolate candy to chocolate ice cream.

When it comes to a romantic dinner, respondents had varying tastes. But the most popular menu seems to be a shrimp appetizer, a beef main course, and ice cream for dessert. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents named chocolate ice cream as the dessert of choice for a romantic dinner.

Although winter had a strong showing, spring rated first as the most romantic season. Responses were widely scattered form the most romantic city. San Francisco has the largest response, 17 percent. Fresh flowers are considered the most romantic gift, and "a quiet dinner at home" the romantic date of choice. A tropical island was considered the most romantic setting for a vacation.

Respondents were asked to rank themselves on a scale of 1 t0 10 on how romantic they felt. Thirteen percent of the respondents see themselves as "somewhat romantic." The majority (62 percent) rated themselves as "somewhat romantic." while 24 percent said they weren't romantic at all.

On this self-perceived romance scale, New Englanders scored the highest, with an average score of 7.2; while respondents from the Farm Belt scored lowest, with an average score of 5.9. Mountain Region folks came in at 6.4.

As for a romantic date, New Englanders are more apt to want a quiet dinner at home, while Mountain Region people listed a movie, followed by ice cream, as number one.

In general, older Americans are less likely to see themselves as romantic -- the score for self-perceived romance declined with age. Newlyweds, bachelors and single heads of households saw themselves as most romantic.

There is also a feeling that romance breeds romance. The more romantic the respondents saw themselves, the more romance they wanted. *****

(Chart #1)


One a scale of 1-15 score how much you agree or disagree with the following statements (1 means strongly disagree; 5 means strongly agree).

1. I am always looking for new ways to be romantic.

2. I am more romantic now than I was 10 years ago.

3. Giving a traditional gift such as flowers, chocolates or jewlry is not necessarily the best expression of romance.

4. A good Valentine's Day present doesn't have to be expensive to be romantic.

5. When it comes to romance, thoughtfulness is more important than passion, adventure or lust.

6. Things that happen on the spur of the moment are more romantic than occasions that are planned as romantic.

7. I enjoy getting gifts and little surprises for no special reason as much as for Valentine's Day or other occasions.

8. Having flowers delivered to the office is more romantic than getting them at home.

9. Spring is the most romantic season of the year.

10. My idea of the perfect getaway is a tropical island.


40-50: Consider yourself very romantic - and enjoy your day tomorrow.

30-49: You are somewhat romantic - but there's room for a few more hearts and flowers.

10-39: You not very romantic. The mundane details of day-to-day life may be chasing away the spice.


(Chart #2)


The Haagen-Dazs Nationwide Romance Survey identified the following categories ofromantics. See which category you most closely match.

THE YOUNG TRADITIONALS: (17 percent) Tend to be young and upscale. They are moreeducated than other respondents, and a higher percentage of them are employed full-time. They are more likely to be married and tend to have no children or young children.

Young Traditionals consider themselves old-fashioned and have conservative attitudes. They like receiving gifts, especially on special occasions. They feel more romantic now than they did a decade ago.

SATURATED ROMANTICS: (30 percent) These respondents are more likely to feel thatthey have enough romance in their lives and are not actively seeking more. They feel less romantic than they were 10 years ago. To them romance requires thoughtfulness, not hard work or planning. They are more likely to think that the fun of Valentine's Days is in the giving. They like to plan surprises for the specialpeople in their lives.

FINIKY ROMANTICS: (2 percent) Are most likely to associate romance with exotic settings and adventure. They have high expectations: a single red rose won't do, they want the dozen. They are least likely to be disappointed if they don't receive a present, but if you want to send a finicky romantic a romantic present, make it expensive.

Finicky romantics are less likely to think of romance as spontaneous. To them, romance takes hard work and planning. However, they are most likely to prefer a quiet evening at home to a fancy dinner out.

ROCK-N-ROLL ROMANTICS: (42 percent) Age-wise, Rock-n-roll romantics are contemporaries with the Young Traditionals. They are more likely to be single. They are continually looking for new ways to be romantic. They are most likely to believethat romance leads to passion. They are more likely to select prime rib or filetmignon for the main course of a romantic dinner.