After reading the results of Ann Landers' sex survey, in which 60,000 women said they would prefer having a man cuddle and treat them tenderly as opposed to going "all the way," I couldn't help but think that many women in Washington don't even have the choice between cuddling up to a man and engaging in "the act," simply because they don't even have men.
It's not because these women are unattractive, or uneducated; it's not because they are frigid or afraid of passion; it's not even because they are looking for Prince Charming that they don't have a man. They simply can't find any.
For them, the question persists; where are the men? The answer to that question may be that there aren't many. Indeed, relative to the numbers of unattached women, there is a man shortage nationally.
As the Census Bureau states, in 1980 there were slightly fewer than 30 million unmarried women in the United States, compared with 21.5 million single men, a difference of 8.5 million women. In the case of black men, who have become something of an endangered species, because of social problems, the ratio is even greater.
But the fact that black men are often victimized by our society offers little consolation to a woman looking for a man; she still has to face the world alone and try to keep her composure as her childbearing years slip away.
Many women complain that in Washington there is no place for a decent woman to meet a decent man. Some of the popular bars, these women say, are nothing but "meat markets" where men who want a hot night meet women who want the same thing and where substantive conversation never proceeds beyond, "What is your GS rating or what do you drive?" It's a sad state of affairs.
None of this is to suggest that these difficulties are exclusive to black women. White women, of course, have problems with their men. But because of socio-economic factors, black women and men are far more often confronted with these barriers.
Also, we cannot overlook that men are in no way immune to loneliness. In fact, it may be even harder for them to develop genuine and substantial relationships because they can more easily substitute the superficial coupling that women often disdain.
Perhaps men and women, in general, know too little about each other's needs.
As one black man told me recently, "It's amazing what we don't know about the female, her psyche, her nature, her intellect, even her spiritual and social needs, and there is nowhere for us to develop a certain type of finesse, style and class in dealing with her. We boast of being great lovers but that is more fantasy than fact, and with time it wears away. . . . there are certain techniques that need to be learned . . . but we have picked up a lot of bad habits from the streets and television."
While relationships are difficult everywhere, they are acutely difficult in Washington, because government is the dominant employer here and because employment so dominates other facets of one's life.
After 5 p.m. and on weekends, when employes return to their high-rise apartments or houses in suburbia, they have no social outlet to bring them into contact with a diversity of people. One single woman told me, "There isn't any way to meet new people here. You rarely get a chance to touch base with people in different worlds. People who work at the Pentagon rarely get to meet people in retailing or advertising. Black people in particular haven't found the way to cross these barriers."
Although the city is 70 percent black, Washington has few black-owned restaurants, no country clubs and even fewer singles' clubs where people of similar dispositions can meet without screaming over the blast of raw music, and quietly converse as they get to know each other.
Unless they belong to clubs, sororities, fraternal or church groups, many are totally excluded from the city's social life.
Rather than yield to the despair that has forced a few women to give up on finding serious relationships, Washingtonians, particularly blacks, need to take better advantage of the social and cultural outlets that the city offers.
As entrepreneurs, they need to develop restaurants and coffee houses in which to spend their leisure time. They need to support the arts and expose themselves to positive experiences that at first sight may seem foreign to them. Finally, both men and women need to retain a belief that it is always possible to find someone to love.