The scene: A typical party, cocktails, chitchat and chip and dip.

First man: Have you seen the movie "10"?

Second man: Yes, great movie, great movie.

First man: Well (sly smile), what did you think? Would you give her a 10?

Second man: I wouldn't kick her out of bed (a quick wink) but I think I'd give her a 9.

Third man: I'd give her a 10.

Fourth man: You're the guy who gave Jo Anne Worley a 10.

Third man: I guess I'm eclectic in my tastes.

Fourth man: I give her an 8 for body, 10 for legs.

There are women in the room but they haven't the same dialogue. The men continue. Every man in the room wants to record publicly his assessment, Is Bo Derek a 10 or isn't she? It has become common party conversation.

But the real humor in all this is somewhere else -- it lies in this: Are these men 10s or just 9s? Could they lope down a beach and capture someone's fancy? No, no, no. These are 5s and 6s (maybe one or two 7s). Hoi polloi. fAlways the fantasizers, never the fansy. Maybe they should retire to Camp David and thrash it out. Oh, the pressure.

The possible historical precedents for numerical ratings boggle the calculating mind. Was Mona Lisa smiling because Leonardo just told her she was a 10 or is she just wondering if he said that to all his models? As Lady Godiva rode through Coventry, were the local yokels whispering, "And we thought all the 10s lived in London"? When Cleopatra rolled out of the rug, did Caesar shout, "10 for the Bohkara, 9 for the Queen of the Nile"? Did John Alden say to Priscilla, "Miles Standish thinketh thee a 10"?

But the real rating game is not new; it's just been dormant. Just when women were starting to feel in control, and some changes had been made, along comes this Bo Derek movie and legitimizes the old 1-to-10 system, setting us back years.

And this may just be the beginning. Strict rules for judgment will come out. The next "Book of Lists" will probably include 10 all-time 10s. Is there a personalized license plate out there with "I'm a 10" on it? Oh, the T-shirt slogans we'll have to endure: "10s do it better," "10s have two digits."

Enough of the 10s. Who are the 1s? Maybe they're all institutionalized. Will 1s be the next minority? Will 1s sue for equal rights, equal opportunities? Of course, we'd have to see a point distribution chart to deal with this. Is the world 10 percent 1s, 10 percent 2s, evenly up to 10 percent 10s? I don't think so. It's probably the old bell curve: a few 1s, a few 10s and a lot of 5s and 6s.

Speaking of 5s and 6s, back to the party. I just used to sit it out, one of the feckless females waiting for the subject to run its course. But no more. Just when the ratings game is going full tilt, I yell out, "What about male 10s?" Silence. Then the women perk up, clear their throats and take over. They're so ready with candidates they must have been thinking the same thing. Off the top of her head, every woman in the room can name two or three possibilities.

We really start to get serious. The men squirm. One woman thinks we need guidelines. Are we basing it just on looks? Do we have to rule out smarts or personality? Much debate. But we decide that since Bo Derek, our point of reference, is not exactly a Rhodes scholar, we should keep this strictly physical.

More squirming from the men. They start to mutter, refresh their drinks, a few are chain-eating the Cheetos. The tension mounts. The same names keep cropping up. Schwarzenegger, Nureyev, even John Derek.

One man says, "I don't think this is really necessary." Oh, really, necessary. "Is Bo Derek necessary?" the hostess asks.

Another man resorts to an approach that worked so well in kindergarten: "We'll stop if you will."

It still works.