First she taught elementary school, but switched to social work because her social life was going no where. She met a lot of people at the hospital five days a week, but was soon reassigned to an adoption agency. Counseling anxious married couples from 9 to 5 "almost," she recalls, "drove me out of my mind."
* At 26, she changed careers again. Where were all the men? The answer, she figured -- television. Within a year, she was producing New York City talk shows every morning and making the Studio 54 scene every night. But the men she met were all the same: "married three times, egocentric, drank a lot and moved fast through life." What she really wanted was "the white-picket fence, two kids and someone intelligent with tons of books on the walls."
Her third career move: consulting on how to behave in front of TV cameras. Ninety-eight percent of her clients were high-powered, successful men.
"I was always aware of where the guys are," says Shelley Klein, 36, who married a commercial real estate executive two years ago. Her first child is now six months old. Sales of her book, Fringe Benefits: The 50 Best Career Opportunities for Meeting Men (Donald I. Fine Inc., $16.95) have been "moderate and steady," according to the publisher, despite charges from some reviewers that it sets the women's movement back 15 years. Maybe more.
Although Klein and coauthor Anita Gates defend their book in promos as "a book for feminists and nonfeminists alike," when asked point-blank if it is sexist, Klein answers with a mischievous "probably."
That's a "probably" with an asterisk.
"Yes," admits Klein, at a time when American women have succeeded in freeing themselves of many of the shackles of workplace stereotypes, when feminists have made great strides toward promoting professional attitudes among and about women, here come two enterprising gals telling young women to what?
To base their career choices on where the boys are. To stack the odds that they'll meet Mr. Right in the next cubicle. To fashion their professional lives after a Debbie Reynolds script.
"Yes," Klein pleads guilty: While the book is a tip sheet on sex and the single career girl, it offers no hot prospects for single men -- not a line.
*No apologies. the modern woman's difficulties in finding a mate as akin to a national disaster. "The reality is there are approximately 16 million more women than there are men. The second problem is there are tons of women -- the baby-boomers between the ages of 27 and 38 or so -- in the marrying age bracket where the shortage of men is greatest.
"To make it even worse, in the major cities where all the women with their wonderful college degrees from Vassar and Smith go running, the problem is compounded. In Manhattan 88.3 men to 100 women , Chicago 90.5 men to 100 women and Washington 86.1 men to 100 women , the women outnumber the men even more."
So while the statistically pampered male grows nonchalant about mating, "You have a lot of women approaching or already in their thirties who have biological clocks that are pounding now," says Klein, "not just ticking, and they wanna grab the first guy they see on the street. These women are feeling very desperate because they're in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Klein insists the book's advice is ahead of the times, not behind. Today's emphasis on career, she says, has changed the rules of mating. Increasingly, men and women are fulfilling personal needs in professional settings.
"You spend at least 50 percent of your waking hours at work, and so does the man of your dreams -- wherever he is," says Klein. Real men are not out eating quiche, not hanging around church socials, not at singles' bars or at coed health clubs. The few reported incidents of traditional courtship she calls "mere subterfuge on the part of cruel gods, taunting us . . . with false hopes of candlelight and romance."
Instead, men of the '80s are courting money and status, and work is where women are going to find them. "Nice girls now marry the man in the office next door rather than the boy next door," says Klein. "And because more women today are career-oriented, they are likely to marry later -- meaning most of their contact with men will come on the job."
Realistically, eyeballing colleagues as potential mates is common enough. But isn't basing career decisions on that premise a little like equating an IBM interview to "The Dating Game?"
No, says Klein. "If a woman wants to be a nuclear physicist, by no means am I saying go into commercial real estate instead 'cause that's where you'll meet a lot of men. Many American women, like most American men, start out unsure of exactly where and how we want to make our marks professionally. And most of us could be good at any number of careers.
"So why not take advantage of the careers in which you can end up surrounded by prospective lovers? Why not add one more variable into the decision-making process? Instead of blindly and stupidly going into a field that has no men, why not consider where the men are?
"The reason we call it a fringe benefit is because it is something that along with Blue Cross and Blue Shield every single working woman should consider."
Besides, adds Klein, the advantages of meeting a man on the job are considerable: recognizing potential in the light of day rather than in a dimly lit and crowded bar; sizing up a man by working with him and seeing what he's like under pressure; getting feedback from colleagues on what he is really like, and asking him out under the guise of business. "And marriages and relationships with people who have something in common are more likely to stand the test of time."
*And time, she says, is of the essence. "Be forewarned, when you make a career choice, you're making more than a career choice. You are deciding what kind of people you are going to come in contact with from 9 to 5 for the next 30 years of your life. That's pretty heavy.
*"The way the world has changed is that people work through their lunch hours, they work until 7 and 8 at night. It has become very competitive. If you are working in a career, who in their right mind, over the age of 18, has the energy to go racing to a bar at 7 or 8 o'clock at night?"