In every female life there is an inevitable confrontation with something called The Secret All-Male Club. For most of us, the big moment comes in fourth grade when the boys who can say no more about the opposite sex than "Girls are yucky!" suddenly hang a notice on some door or other that rules: NO GIRLS ALLOWED.

This is the one crucial bylaw of every male club.

Well, for a time, the fourth-grade boys succeed in making their female classmates mad and little sisters sad. But one day the girls find out what is going on inside the club. s

What is going on inside is this: the fourth-grade boys are sitting around, giggling and telling dirty jokes. Stupid dirty jokes.

This discovery prepares women for the future. From then on, whenever faced with all-male societies, they are equipped with two crucial pieces of information:

1) The most important word in the expression "Old Boys Club" is "boys."

2) What they are probably doing inside is sitting around, giggling and telling dirty jokes.

The "old boys" who moved into power last week also have their "club." It appears that the president, the vice president, the attorney general and the secretary of defense all belong to an exclusive male society in San Francisco known as the Bohemian Club.

The Bohemian Club is so all-male that its members do not even hire women to work at their 2,700 acre redwood retreat. They are so all-male that they are being sued for sex discrimination. This they admit, with nary a blush.

Their defense rests on the sole idea that the club members would be "inhibited by the presence of women." Inhibited from what, you ask?

Well, it appears that one of the Fun Things that the upper-crust Bohemians do is produce dramatic events where members dress up as women, and you've got it, tell dirty jokes.

The club's attorney, for example, a distinguished silver-haired fellow, recalled in detail his own artistic triumph as a wood nymph. "We wore wings and body stockings." This, he maintains, he could not have done comfortably in front of women.

Do not be alarmed. As far as I know, none of the august members of the Cabinet has donned the old tutu and taken to the kick line. At least there are no photographs extant.

They are merely following tradition. The truth is that the more upper-crust, top-drawer, preppy and elite a man is in America, the more likely he is to belong to a club whose basic ritual is cross-dressing and telling dirty jokes.

In my own town, which drips with ivy, the exclusive Tavern Club holds theatricals during which assorted sober souls who turn the financial wheels of the Northeast can be seen in what they do not call drag.

At Harvard, the exclusive Hasty Pudding Club has existed for years on the single joke of all-male and relatively blue-blooded chorus lines. In such places do the future leaders of America kick up their legs and let down their hair, so to speak.

No less an expert than John Spooner, stockbroker, author and Duchess of Woppery in the Hasty Pudding Production of 1959, describes all this male activity as a throwback to dubious prep-school practices. I am more inclined to pathos; it occurs to me that the elite are so self-controlled that their female side can only burst out into these hysterical rituals of release.

But I don't want to suggest that all men do when they get together in their clubs is play dress-up.

They also play sports, and sports fans. For many years the big event of the season at The Harvard Club of Boston was an all-male Boxing Night. On that evening, some of the most highly respected professionals in Boston -- men who transplant our kidneys, transform our laws and translate our finances -- would don black tie and sit down to dinner while two less-fortunate souls beat each other up in the center ring.

Boys, as they say, will be boys.

Out of these places and out of this mind set, the chains of the old-boy network are forged. It is surely no surprise that these chains reach all the way to Washington. But perhaps never has the cast come in such numbers.

If the Boys from the Bohemian are true to their society, keep your eyes on center stage. This Cabinet may put on quite the show.