Two Adonis-types pace the treadmills in front of me with rigs that would give Chris Hemsworth a run for his money. One turns to his mate and asks:
'How did World War I start again?'
Mate replies: 'Wasn't it because they were fighting over oil in the Middle East?'
I exercise self-restraint and say nothing. A difficult feat. No matter how many blocks of cheddar I could've grated on mate's abs, nothing would have thrilled me more in that moment than hearing him say the words: 'Archduke Franz Ferdinand.'
Science and evolution tell us that physical attraction is – always has been, always will be – the most important variable when considering the desirability of a partner.
Thanks to social media and the associated mania of all things 'insta-fit', a so-called ideal of masculine physicality is constantly sold to us. Now it seems like every second guy is a PT, a gym junkie, or well on his way to uncovering that fierce ten pack (cheers Conor McGregor).
But there's one fairly important body part that seems to get neglected in the circuit of deadlifts and lat pull-downs.
Hint: it resides upstairs. Hint hint: when it fires, women dig it.
Beneath the surface
A recent study by the Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki found that intelligence in men was positively associated with 'indicators' that signal an appealing partner; things like income and social status symbols such as a car or a large house.
The study goes on to suggest a link between intelligence in men and long-term relationships. So if one had to choose between the guy who's hand writing me a letter of deep admiration, and the one who's bench pressing 100kg, which way would you swing?
For me, it's not rocket science. But the idea that intelligence in men doesn't necessarily seize our attention as instantly as a flexed pec means is an alarm bell. I'm not alone when I say, it's generally worth the effort to dig a little deeper.
Sarah Cohen – Executive digital marketer and host of the podcast The Things You Can't Face – reflects that intelligence in men can be noted in everything from the ability to sustain good conversation, to that knack for making you laugh when everything else has gone up the creek.
"My husband was a golden boy when he was younger so by all accounts he should be as entertaining as a high school violin performance. But somehow, he found time to work on his banter in between growing his shoulder length bob and getting a pirate earring," she says.
"He hooked me in with this skill which gets us through high risk situations like navigating through France in a hire car."
I knew him not well
A recent experience at a cocktail function affirmed my own inclinations about the allure of a guy with the subtle smarts.
A few G&T's into the evening, an acquaintance I had known for several years decided to burst out into an impromptu (and quite frankly, flawless) recital of Hamlet's fifth soliloquy. Not a single, melancholic syllable was out of order. Trust me, I'd know if it was.
It was one of the rare occasions when I was completely lost for words. While this guy might not be considered an Adonis in looks or stature, something about his performance – and the refreshing unexpectedness of his love for Shakespeare – made his attractiveness skyrocket on my radar. I never looked at him in the same way again.
Horses for courses
Granted, Shakespeare isn't everyone's cup of Gin. The desirability of a male partner is ultimately determined by a woman's personal interests and beliefs. If the forces of attraction to a potential companion appear to be working on a purely physical level, marvellous I say.
I'll reiterate: a smoking-hot bod is nothing to scoff at.
But at the end of the day, how much does it really mean if you didn't pay attention in history class? How much does it really mean if you can't crack a joke at exactly the right moment, disarming her in a manner most irresistible?
I'm inclined to offer hope that there must exist a rare species who are in fact the ideal balance of brain and bod. Surely there must.
I'll keep looking.