When Audrey Chapman, a counselor at Howard University, noticed a recent increase in women with complaints about men, she decided to hold a workshop and entitled it, based on the nature of the complaints, "Man-Sharing."
About 120 women--aged 20 to 70--showed up seeking ways to find a man, then keep other women away from him. They did not want to share, and some of them gave heart-breaking testimonials about the frustrations, some almost ending in suicide, associated with losing the manhunt.
I will not quote from case studies, (frankly most are of the cheating heart variety), but suffice it to say that many women in Washington either have stopped dating or have resigned themselves to the notion that no relationship will last more than three months.
Perhaps, I can be of some help. Allow me to don my Andy Landers hat and tell you, ladies that, as quiet as it's kept, there are many men who feel the same way. And yes, I know where they are.
Before I subject any of them to the hurt and frustration of a scheming woman, however, you should know what some of them say they want. You don't even have to be that pretty, so put down the mirror for a moment.
Take one I shall call Ivan, about 36, good-looking guy with wit and a certain amount of charm. Likes to cook. Fries the hell out of scallops and sets a right nice dinner table, with flowers and strawberries. So what does he get: a girl who breaks out in a rash when she eats scallops and strawberries.
For a premier-chef-to-be, this should drive him crazy, but no, he hangs in there, enduring frowns and rashes, waiting for her transformation to Ms. Right. You like scallops and strawberries? I know how to reach Ivan.
Maybe you don't like scallops. Maybe you like money? I know another guy I'll call Hal who has bucks. So what does he want?
"I want a woman who will be my friend," Hal told me while counting his money. "That way I won't have to spend so much."
I understood what Hal meant because once he fell in love with a woman and she took his money. Then she moved out of the house and took everything else; left him with an echo. Maybe if a woman showed an interest in a book or the news, anything except his money and his BMW, Hal would gladly spend a few bucks.
There are countless such men right here in Washington, ready, willing and able to please a woman--even one-on-one. An examination of Census Bureau figures shows that in the age range of 25-29, the most socially active group, there is a surplus of single men. Even between 30 and 34, there are l00 men for every 102 women--which is not bad given the males' naturally higher death rate.
So what we're talking about here is a mutual feeling among men and women that is as old as Cleopatra and Marc Antony. Although Chapman maintains that women outnumber eligible men because of the increased gay and prison populations, she also admits that the problem does not rest solely with men, and never did.
Most women, after all, still insist on "marrying up," that is, seeking men more successful than themselves, thus creating an artificial shortage of "desirable" men. Also, women in their mid-30s want to marry men at least two or three years older than themselves. Therefore, according to William Novak's book, "The Great American Man Shortage," these women find themselves in a "marriage squeeze" because of a shortage of pre-baby-boom men.
At the workshop, Chapman noted that the men and women who do best, given today's realities, have high self-esteem and a "sense of who they are." For those who understand the value of platonic relationships, she says, man-sharing is not at all threatening.
"What happens when two people find they can share emotion without sexual activity can be a deeply spiritual and intensly satisfying relationship without the usual jealously," Chapman says.
Of course, this takes time, say five to 10 years for the guys I know. And it's certain to be as rough on women, as Chapman found out.
"The first thing you must know," Chapman told the workshop, "is that the answer is not in the man, it's within you . . . ." To which the women responded woefully, "Awww, shucks."