Tanzi West and her friend Darlene Stukes are clear about the kind of men they don't want to make time with. A few weeks ago, West was at a bar, minding her business, wearing a fitted baby-doll T-shirt with a red satin alligator across the front. A guy standing nearby with a bunch of his buddies zoomed in on her chest. He stared at the alligator for a second, then drunkenly called out, "Here, lizard, lizard, lizard," and they all started cracking up.
Stukes was picking up her daughter from day care a while back when a guy hung halfway out the window of his friend's 4-by-4 yelling, "Pssst, pssst, come here, girl!"
Men, if you want to talk to these women, there are certain rules. Don't catcall, never lean out of a car window and gesture frantically. Have some means. Some ends. Make them meet.
Don't be such a scrub.
I don't want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me
Hangin' out the passenger's side
Of his best friend's ride
Trying to holler at me
The song "No Scrubs," by the Atlanta-based female trio TLC, is riding the top of the pop and R&B charts -- and seems to have struck a chord, and a nerve, with listeners all over the country. It has coined a new term for guys with limited money, ambitions and romantic vocabulary, and who mostly still live at home with Mom. It has provoked heated radio debates, and prompted furiously penned answer songs in New York and Los Angeles.
And it has especially ratcheted up the level of male-female invective, proving demonstrably that while trifling, broke-down, no-account men are from Mars and vapid, money-grubbing, "chickenhead" women are from Venus, both have had close encounters all over the Washington area. It's a debate that has women feeling particularly empowered while scrubs everywhere are feeling unfairly singled out.
"It's our new anthem," deejay Jeannie Jones declared on WPGC-FM last week. The host of the late-night "Love Talk and Slow Jams" says the women who call her show often are frustrated: "Just like as little girls, you dream of the complete family. . . . What I constantly hear women saying is that the men are coming up short." They don't want millionaires, Jones says, but they do want a guy to bring something to the dating table.
And while she's had women tell her the song seems overly harsh and divisive, most of them are married. "They've got theirs," Jones says.
Tuesday during "The Russ Parr Morning Show" on WKYS-FM, co-host Olivia Fox read an e-mail from a 31-year-old guy who lived at home, didn't have a car and had just lost his girlfriend of six years as a result. That prompted nearly an hour of point-counterpoint about what single women are looking for, and what they are entitled to financially expect from men. And a lot of talk about scrubs.
"Guys living at home with Mom seems to be a thing in D.C.," said Fox.
I don't want your number (no)
I don't wanna give you mine and (no)
I don't wanna meet you nowhere (no)
I don't want none of your time . . .
As a pop song, "No Scrubs" has more going for it than just slick production, a hook and a beat you can dance to. It's also topical social commentary. These sorts of songs have been popular before: Gwen Guthrie's 1986 "Ain't Nothin' Goin' On but the Rent," which advised suitors, "Got to have a J-O-B if you want to be with me." And Madonna declared in "Material Girl" that the man with the cold, hard cash is always Mr. Right.
In the all-about-the-Benjamins '90s, as in the greed-is-good '80s, money reigns supreme.
"It speaks to a lot of men -- black, white -- cats who just ain't got their [act] together," says hip-hop writer Kevin Powell, author of the book "Keeping It Real: Post-MTV Reflections on Race, Sex and Politics."
It also is a reaction to 20 years of hip-hop misogyny -- and an expression of frustration by black women who've found, in many ways, that they have outpaced the social and economic progress of their male counterparts. "A lot of us are stuck in some very archaic ways of seeing women," Powell says. "I hear this everywhere I go, that a lot of sisters are very tired."
The single, from TLC's third album, "FanMail," comes after group members have had some well-publicized contretemps. In 1995, after a label feud, the group declared bankruptcy. In 1994, member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was fined and put on probation for burning down the million-dollar home of her then-boyfriend, former Atlanta Falcon Andre Rison.
It's the kind of drama that has provided fodder for backlash against the song.
In the San Francisco Bay area, a parody of "No Scrubs" called "No Hoochies" has gotten heavy airplay. And in New York, the rap trio Sporty Thievz has penned an answer song, "No Pigeons," which will be released nationally next week.
Among other things, "Pigeons" calls for an end to gold-diggers. It is rife with references to "bitches" and "hos" and includes a cost-benefit analysis of sex. It is largely profane -- out of necessity, insists one group member.
"The females took this and just ran with it," says Shaarrod "Big Dubez" Ford of the TLC single. "A lotta fellas was feeling real messed up about it. Real sour."
Aaron McGruder, 24, lives in Columbia with his parents. He just got his car back in working order this past week. An artist whose comic strip, "The Boondocks," is set to have one of the largest launches in syndication history next week, he's about to make big money. Even if he is kind of scrubby these days. McGruder says when he first heard the song, "I said to myself, `Well, they're not talking about me.' " Then he listened closely:
You live at home with your mama
Oh yes son, I'm talkin' to you "There is just no need to be that antagonistic," says McGruder. "The song bends female minds toward materialism and male minds, too. They obsess over trinkets that have no real value, because that is what they think they need to do to get women."
Sigh. This battle of the sexes has been raging since some caveman first competed to provide his woman with the biggest moose pelt. Money on a man is like pretty on a woman. Both are biological hot buttons.
Tanzi West, 27, and Darlene Stukes, 32, plan to hit their favorite clubs this weekend. And wherever they go, no doubt, the deejay will be playing their song. They want men with benefits. A dental plan. Maybe a 401(K). And scrubs need not apply.
"That's my jam," West says, and when it comes on, "I'm going to be right out there on the floor. Dancing. Hard."
And where will West be? "I'm right beside her . . . giving each other high-fives."
(To hear a free Sound Bite call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8164.)
CAPTION: TLC's Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes, Rozanda "Chili" Thomas and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, from left, turn hip-hop misogyny on its head in "No Scrubs."