Why is it so hard to meet women in Washington?

That is the question I and countless other women -- and, yes, men, too -- have been asking since "Thelma and Louise" hit the big screen.

Cool-looking femmes abound in D.C. I see them shopping in Georgetown, rocking at the Black Cat and jogging along the Mall. But are they calling me to share cocktails and conversation, or to attend a lecture at the National Gallery, or to help them buy their first pair of Jimmy Choo boots? Well, no. At least not yet.

For women who are looking to make some platonic gal pals, we now have a new matchmaker.

Meet Farrah Ashline and her "friends," the 4,000 members of her online social club, GirlsGoingOut.com. "It's hard for women to bond together. When I moved here from Boston, the women I was encountering weren't very receptive to being friends. They were all about their careers," said Ashline, who has the moxie of a young Gloria Steinem. "But there had to be a way to break through that."

Rather than moping over her far-flung friends, the 28-year-old transplant decided to reach out to Washington area women who shared her nostalgia for childhood girlfriends and her penchant for new experiences. Relying on the Web's wide scope, she created a girls-only group -- men are admitted on occasion -- that would bring together women via the Internet and then introduce them at "real time" events.

"GirlsGoingOut.com gets women out of the house. I pick activities that I would want to go to myself. I combine events that are exciting or challenging, or let you learn something or do something new," she said. "And I think more women will be willing to try it out because they will have a group of girls to do it with."

Like perhaps going hot-air ballooning in the Blue Ridge Mountains or attending a performance at the Czech Embassy?

"To make girlfriends, follow your mother's suggestion on how to meet boys: Just do what you are interested in," advised Tamara Traeder, author of the "Girlfriends" book series. "Your friends will find you -- a lot of it is fate -- but you can put yourself in circumstances where you are more likely to meet them."

And that is exactly how -- and why -- I found myself belly down, butt up on the floor of a tiny yoga studio in Adams Morgan, surrounded by smiling Buddhas and laughing women twisted like pretzels.

GirlsGoingOut.com posts a newsletter and calendar of events on its Web site, including details on its weekly outings and a monthly new-members workshop. The diversions cost anywhere from $10 to a couple hundred dollars (for out-of-town excursions), on top of the $60 annual membership fee. The meet-and-greet, however, is gratis and open to all.

The first half of the session began with a few of a girl's favorite things: chocolate, Diet Coke and talking. The second part included a half-hour yoga session -- no better way to shed your inhibitions and bond with your sister swamis.

The event was held at the Girls' spacious Adams Morgan office, where we idled somewhat awkwardly by the food table, a buffet of healthful and diet-busting fare. Ashline then ushered us over to a conference room to tell us about the group's origins, starting with Cyndi Lauper.

The concept for GirlsGoingOut.com traces back to a shopping trip at Target, where Ashline heard the '80s Lauper ditty "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." The song's lyrics became her anthem and inspiration; soon after, she started plotting the Web site -- official launch date, February 2001 -- and planning events.

"I wanted to provide women with a safe, positive environment where they could come together and meet other women, break the barrier and make female friendships," she said. "Of course, we are also all about going out and having a good time."

The menu of events taps into the region's varied activities as well as the interests (and needs) of its members, who range in age from 18 to 60. On any given month, you can eat brunch served by drag queens, hobnob at an embassy party, channel Pauline Kael at a "Screen Siren" movie viewing or indulge in manicures and martinis at a local salon.

To be sure, when I showed up one Thursday for Manicure and Martini night, all bedraggled and cranky, the girls knew exactly what to do: They handed me a candy-sweet cocktail and showed off their sparkly nails. Sometimes you just want to skip the shop talk and discuss, say, the finer points of waxing.

"No man can know what it's like to be a woman. They don't know what it feels like to find a lump in your breast, or have menstrual cramps, or have someone hit on you at work in a suggestive way," said Traeder. "It's a whole different kettle of fish. But with a woman, it's instant empathy."

The group, though, is not just Party Girls Central. It also aims to create a supportive, even therapeutic, community for women -- a safe haven of sorts.

On its Web site, a virtual meeting place for its members, women can consult Ms. Muse for her wisdom on diet, sex, relationships and other concerns. There's also a consignment shop, political column, financial and medical advice and, for a bit of ogling, Bachelor of the Month bios (with hunky photos to boot). The business has also spawned a prototype for a magazine and is poised to expand to other cities.

At the new members' conference, the Girls' softer side shone through. After explaining the group's Magna Carta, Ashline then went around the table asking questions taken from a "deep thoughts" book: If you found out you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do for the rest of the day today? If you could conquer one fear, which would it be? If you could better yourself in one way, what would you do?

Yet many of the events are unabashed escapism -- the kind of frivolity that only a free-spirited woman could love. Like the "Sex and the City" powwows. On a late summer evening, a gaggle of women packed into an upstairs room at a downtown sports bar. While the guys downstairs slugged beers and jeered at the baseball game on TV, we Girls settled in for a night of girl talk a{grv} la Carrie Bradshaw.

"I told my guy friends that I was going to go do a girl thing tonight," said Rebecca Palmeri, 26, a Fairfax graphic designer. "I've been hanging out with my guy friends so much I'm starting to talk and act like them. But tonight, my testosterone levels are going to go back to normal."