Afriend recently told me that for single, heterosexual, 20- and 30-somethings in the Washington area, there is a ratio of three women to each man. Say it ain't so! And if it is so, why?

Megan Nortrup, Washington

It ain't so. This a common urban myth, discussion of which is perhaps more appropriate for Carolyn Hax's column than Answer Man's. But we will delve into it nonetheless.

The ratio of men to women in the D.C. area is not vastly different from that of other large cities. Yes, there are more women overall, and more women in that age range, than there are men. But, said Martin O'Connell, chief of the Fertility and Family Statistics branch at the U.S. Census, "There's always more women than men."

Things start out the opposite: More male babies are born than female babies. But around about their teenage years, males start doing stupid things and getting themselves killed off. The older they get, the more men keep dying, from motorcycle smashups, heart disease, ill-considered bar bets, etc.

The question, though, comes down to this: If you're a gal looking for a guy, is it worse to be living in Washington than elsewhere in the country? The answer is, it depends -- and if it is worse, then it's only slightly worse.

The United States as a whole is 49.1 percent male. Overall, Washington is 47.1 percent male. The ratio gets a bit "better" when you include the entire Washington area, which encompasses suburban Maryland, Virginia and part of West Virginia. It's 48.7 percent male. That's more male than the New York area -- 47.5 percent -- or the Boston area -- 48.1 percent. But it's less male than the Los Angeles area, which is 49.4 percent male. (Anchorage is 50.5 percent male but has the drawback of being Anchorage.)

What about single males in the money demographic, the age range that everybody from radio stations to malt beverage manufacturers wants? Well, the percentage of D.C. area men aged 20 to 34 who are eligible (never married, currently divorced or widowed) is 48.1 percent. The Census Bureau doesn't track sexual preference.

So: More women? Yes, slightly. One-third of a man for every woman? No.

Still, for those who think there's something out of whack about Washington's male-female balance, Martin did offer this: "There are a lot of schools and universities in D.C., getting a lot of people who are students. Add up the thousands and thousands at Howard and Georgetown and Catholic and you have massive numbers of people in those particular age groups."

And why should we care about college students? Nationally, said Martin, 56 percent of college students are women. So the many colleges and universities in the Washington area might be contributing to the femalification of the younger demographic.

Answer Man is married and therefore never thinks about ways to meet women. However, he occasionally thinks about ways other men could meet women. And what he thinks is this: It's like fishing. You go to where the fish are.

Answer Man thinks that if a male friend of his needed to meet women, he would suggest going to places where women are known to congregate, specifically the fabric store and the discount cosmetics warehouse. When Answer Man has been dragged, er, taken, to these places by his lovely wife, he has noticed that they are full of women. And they are women who care about their appearance.

(Another place to find women would be the lingerie department of the department store, but Answer Man has never actually been able to follow his wife in there, since the bra and panty section seems to be protected by some sort of invisible barrier that repels him, forcing him to wait in Housewares.)

So where can women look? It's hard to suggest anything that wouldn't sound too sexist (kickboxing tournaments? drag races?). But don't let that stop you. If you have a suggestion on a nontraditional way or place to meet the opposite sex, let me know. Send your ideas, with "Meet" in the subject line, to answerman@washpost.com. Or mail them to John Kelly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your name and the town you live in.

Street Smarts

One of the great joys of living in, working in or visiting Washington is mastering the way the streets are laid out. It's an amazingly straightforward system, but it's still satisfying when you can turn to an out-of-town acquaintance and say: "It's really quite simple. Numbered streets run north to south; lettered streets run east to west, followed by alphabetical words of increasing syllables."

You become a veritable Magellan in his or her eyes.

Kathleen Kotcher of the District said her neighbor Clark Matthews once learned a poem that described in memorable fashion how the streets are laid out. Or rather, the native Washingtonian almost learned it. Clark was a child when his mother tried to teach it to him. "As with most bits of information mothers try to impart in order to make life easier, he has forgotten it," said Kathleen. "Do you know this poem?"

I don't. But then again I can't remember that simple mnemonic about days of the month. My brain shuts down somewhere around "hath."

Do you know this poem of which Kathleen and Clark speak? If you do, e-mail it, with "Streets" in the subject line, to answerman@washpost.com. Or write John Kelly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

Researcher Alex MacCallum contributed to this report.