Whenever I leave this city, no matter where I go, friends eventually ask the same question: Is it true what they say about women in D.C.?

What they say is that black women outnumber black men in this city by a ratio of something like 10 to 1, making women so desperate they will do anything to keep a man.

To set the record straight about this so-called abundance of women and especially to shed light on the question posed in last month's Ebony magazine, "Has the black male shortage spoiled black men?" let's take a closer look at the most recent figures available.

As of July 1985, there were about 245,600 black women in Washington, compared with 212,500 black men. In the optimum mate-hunting age range, 25 to 29, the ratio is even closer: 24,700 women to 21,100 men.

Given the happenstance manner in which many couples meet, this disparity simply is not large enough to give men a comfortable edge, let alone the satisfaction of a sure thing every time they step out.

But the myth persists.

"Since there is such a multiplicity of women, men feel that they don't have to . . . {do} as much," clinical psychologist Nathan Hare told Ebony. "They will frequently remind the woman of the man shortage and tell her that if she will not do what they want, someone else will."

UCLA social psychologist Belinda Tucker has a more accurate perception.

"There is no shortage for those black women who look a certain way {more about this later}, who are more assertive, more gregarious and those who happen to be in circles where there are more men," Tucker said. "For others, the supply of men is not as small as some have led us to believe. It depends on how you define 'eligible.' Actually, you can define yourself right out of a man."

Here is the crux of the matter: eligibility.

Listen to how some women I interviewed define a "good" man.

"He's got to have money, a good job and a nice car," one began with a laugh. She was serious.

"Looks don't matter," said another. "But he's got to be honest, caring, trustworthy, dependable . . . . "

"I want a man who knows how to give love and how to receive love," another woman added. "He can't be out trying to get a little taste of everything. And he can't expect me to be home cooking, because we are equals."

And what do these women bring to the table except an appetite?

"What you see is what you get," said a particularly attractive woman. But beauty doesn't pay the rent.

Which brings us back to Tucker's statement about there being no shortage for black women who look a certain way. I did not take this to mean "cover girl" looks, for I know of women who do not fit any traditional beauty molds who have men stumbling over each other to get to their doors.

Generally these are women who understand the importance of being a friend before becoming a lover.

The numbers show that the men are out here. Not all of them drive fancy cars and carry briefcases. Indeed, for many black men, some of whom work nights and go to school by day, finding a woman who won't turn up her nose at dirty fingernails is a major problem.

For those who are seriously disturbed by this alleged male shortage, consider this: Up to age 4, black boys outnumber black girls 15,400 to 15,200 in Washington.

If black men and women would just team up to keep more of them alive, black women could find themselves with a surplus on their hands in no time.