So what if my other half in an Arlington house is another woman. She, newly separated after a 10-year relationship. Me, newly arrived in Washington after a lengthy stint as a non-connected transient in the New York City area.

So what if we're 31-year-old single women?

Tell that to all the well-intentioned family members, friends and friends of friends who press our telephone number into the hands of Washington's few eligible men. They, in the oldest of traditions, come courting.

The phone rings on a recent Tuesday evening. The male voice on the other end is hesitant. He finally blurts: "You don't know who I am, but . . ."

So what if the opening line isn't warm enough to melt Jell-O. You learn quickly how to provide the logical follow-up line: "So what do you do?"

He asks me the same question. "I'm a writer," I say. "Often on the topic of commercial fishing."

This confuses most Washington men, who immediately envision a grilled trout fillet oozing white chunks of crab meat.

No, I contradict. "It's about boxes of iced fish being passed across slimy docks."

Moving right along in our initial te te-a -te te -- vis-a -vis the telephone -- he suggests that we get together for a drink, perhaps? Or a bite to eat? After an evening and time are arranged, the conversation terminates. No sparks flying. No pangs of passion. I realize that I don't even know the color of his eyes.

A few minutes later the telephone rings again. This time it's for my roommate. The litany is repeated. I hear her try to explain how she makes a living in Washington.

"So what if he's a lawyer in the Justice Department," she says when she hangs up. "I'll still have dinner with him."

To think that for years I had depended on my own day-to-day social and professional interactions to meet men. In New York, we met at parties. Inevitably there would be music, dancing, a keg of beer and endless bottles of Soave Folonari wine. We would dance, talk, exchange telephone numbers, perhaps even split a taxi cab from the uptown party to our downtown apartments.

But going to a party alone in Washington is hopeless. Before I knew better, I did venture from the Virginia suburbs to the Maryland suburbs for a dinner party. I was the only single in a room filled with couples. Being polite, the hostess mentioned that the chef, the one who had just cooked course after course of delicious Chinese food, was available.

Did I want to meet him? Well, he can cook.

Meeting men through work -- especially my line of work -- is also a problem in this city. Although not as sticky a problem as it could be if the situation were otherwise.

Along the coastline of Eastern Long Island, where I just spent two years, there was another writer hanging out on the docks, drinking beer with the fishermen and reporting back to the local papers. The ocean breezes and salty air only heightened the romance. But in the end there weren't enough stories, or a wide enough bar, for both of us.

Not long after I found out that the chef at the Chinese dinner party had a girlfriend waiting at home, I accepted my first blind date. It meant nothing at first when he told me that he was a lawyer for a federal agency.

But after a few dates, I begin to detect the chronic lack of enthusiasm symptomatic of a federal worker who has plugged away at his job for years, making it to his early forties without even one marriage, tragic or otherwise.

"So what are your passions in life," I finally ask him as we sit down in yet another restaurant in yet another suburban shopping center.

"Tennis," he says, "but I don't play anymore."

The next man I met in Washington had a most definite passion. Turtles. In a one-room apartment off Dupont Circle, he kept box turtles, soft shell turtles, turtles in aquariums, and turtles that roamed the room and slept under the bed.

Passions aside, politics may be the key factor to pulling people together -- or apart -- in this city. It's a topic that can't be circumvented by the most clever of conversationalists.

"Just think," says another blind date toward the conclusion of our first and last dinner. "The whole time you were demonstrating in Seabrook and organizing protest against nuclear power, I was traveling around the world promoting nuclear technology."

If not blind dates or dinner parties, how does a single woman cultivate a social life in Washington?

It took some coaxing, but one night I finally convinced my roommate that we should dress up and go dancing at Cagney's, a new-wave bar with giant-sized video screens. We both opted to dress in bright reds and tight-fitting black to mingle in what we thought would be the night scene at this "in" spot.

Taxi cabs stopped. Cars stopped. People walking on Dupont Circle did half-turns. My roommate, the same woman whom I had known through college in nothing but jeans and flannel shirts, cut quite a striking figure in a belted red dress, black boots, red earrings and a black jacket. But inside the bar, none of Washington's new wavers had the nerve to approach us.

The next Friday night, in more somber clothes, we sat through an entire Sabbath service to participate in the Oneg Shabbat for singles that Temple Adas Israel throws once a month.

We drank punch and ate cookies in a brightly lit auditorium, again watching frightened-looking men walk around us. One State Department official did pause long enough to mutter a comment about the scene, which he referred to as a kosher meat market. We concurred, and he strolled off.

"So where do you party?" asks a waterman in Annapolis I'm interviewing for an article on oysters.

Party? I hadn't downed three beers in a sitting since I left the Long Island coast.

The waterman points out some places on the waterfront that have live music every night, as we pass them in his boat.

"Come on down some time," he says, "and bring your roommate."

Leave Washington and those nice, eligible dinner dates behind?