No matter what designer genus they're going by these days -- the new celibates, the significant solos, or the downside Yuppies (the Young Un-Partnered) -- they're still the same Saturday Night Singles.
"Nobody likes to admit they stay home on Saturday night, but they do," said Phyllis Himelfarb, who organizes seminars for what she calls the "Geographically Desirable Singles" of Montgomery County, one of an amalgam of nonaccredited courses offered by Open University of Northwest D.C.
Himelfarb's classes, which have drawn as many as 60 registrants, mostly in the age 25-40 range, are part meet-market, part group therapy. For a $15 fee (wine and cheese dip), singles compare notes on opening lines and fertile hunting grounds.
"I have no successful approach," said computer programmer Michael Shulman of Rockville, one of 30 GDS hopefuls who gathered at Himelfarb's Rockville home Sunday night.
"I'm terrified every time I start to address a single woman. The best I can do is clown around in front of a large number of people -- as I do here to a certain extent -- but one on one, I have no technique."
"I have found my braces a bit of a conversation piece," said Jeannie Gormley of Rockville, smiling broadly.
Said others: "I met my last date at a meeting of the Washington Ski Club" or "ballroom dancing at Glen Echo" or "on a blind date in New York." (He drove from Washington, she from Vermont).
"I met my last date right here, at the last session," said Terry Tucker of Laytonsville, Food and Drug Administration staffer and a widower. "We just broke up, just in time for this class. In fact, I fully expected her to walk in here tonight."
"I don't know many people who meet at bars," Himelfarb told the circle. "That's partly how this whole thing started."
"I stayed for seven years with a woman I met in a bar," Bob Martin of Wheaton shot back. "We were both really drunk at the time."
Being "geographically desirable," according to Himelfarb, is not a matter of upward mobility or of intellectual stimulus. (Though Shulman says, "What I really want, is to meet a woman at a bar who wants to discuss George Bernard Shaw.")
It's a question of logistics, says Himelfarb. A commuting relationship, she believes, quickly runs out of steam.
"It's like the woman who went to Directions in Rockville and met a guy from Centreville," Himelfarb explains. "I mean, you might be gone for 48 hours. 'Should I pack a suitcase? There's the dog. . . . ' It shouldn't figure in, but it does."
Himelfarb has had singles sign up who live in Greenbelt or even Columbia. No one is turned away: The Open U catalogue invites those who "live, work and/or play in Montgomery County . . . or wish you did."
Participants run through turn-offs and put-downs: the astrological opening (" 'What's your sign' and I'm gone"); the hot-tub bachelors whose leave their rings in the locker room; the 20-questions quick grill ("What do you think about marriage?"); and the brand-name game. "He said, 'You wanna see my Guccis?' He actually took off his shoes and showed us the label," one woman marveled.
"One man responded to my ad and put in his letter than he didn't have a phone," warned Himelfarb, who is divorced, "so I assumed he was probably married . . . and I was right."
The participants have often tried other methods, placing or responding to classified ads, calling recorded messages, or attempting a two-step with the improper stranger at a weekly singles dance.
"The problem with a lot of these dances is that the women are afraid to ask the men to dance," said Tucker.
"I asked a guy to dance once," responded a woman wryly, "so while we're dancing, he says, 'Oh, I'm really drunk.' I said, 'Uh, that's nice.' "
Himelfarb's Montgomery County classes have been so successful that Open U has scheduled a Northwest Washington GDS class for Feb. 24; the next Montgomery class is set for March 31.
"It's just another way of meeting people in an unstructured atmosphere," Himelfarb admits. "I've looked a few of the men over myself. . . . I just never got around to calling anybody."