Nothing recently has aroused more diverse comment than a Newsweek article analyzing a woman's chances of finding a husband.
Among other improbable statistics, it said that a woman over 40 has about as much chance of getting married as she has of being murdered by a terrorist. That doubtlessly caused many single women to start thinking seriously about men.
As we might have expected, someone has already come out with a book contrived to exploit this panic.
It is called "Single, Straight Men" (St. Martin's Press), and it is written by Dr. Diana Sommerfield, who is described as "a psychologist and cultural anthropologist."
Dr. Sommerfield dismisses video-dating services, classified ads and prowling "the places men go to find women," such as singles bars and singles cruises. "Those are actually the worst places," she says.
What Dr. Sommerfield offers instead is 106 ordinary places in which she guarantees that women will find the kind of men they want to marry. (I don't know, though, how she can guarantee that they will be single and straight.).
Although she carries it further, Dr. Sommerfield verifies my own conviction that nothing beats the old-fashioned "cute meet" in the library, in the museum, on a bus or in any public place where men and women are likely to collide.
Dr. Sommerfield urges her readers to take the initiative, walking right up to a suitable-looking man and saying, "Hey, I'm lost."
The main thing, she says, is "good eye contact." The woman must make "good eye contact" so the man will get the message that she is making an approach, not just asking for directions.
These meetings may take place in any one of 106 "guaranteed places" or activities, she says, such as the grocery store, the laundromat, men's stores, the golf course, the library, night school, the park, standing in line, coaching a child's team (good place to snag single fathers), bookstores, a lumberyard, an auto supply store, a computer store, the zoo.
Get the idea? The predatory woman stalks the places where single men might be found. Not men specifically looking for women. Men doing their own things.
She suggests an approach for a bookstore: "Remark to the fellow glancing through a book in a soft chair by the window, 'Is that Johnson's latest?' "
Of course, the trouble with that approach is that the fellow may say, "Lady, Johnson has been dead for 200 years."
Dr. Sommerfield notes that young cops make good husbands and suggests that our young heroine drop in at a doughnut shop where cops hang out late at night.
She's supposed to pick out a likely-looking cop and say, "Hi, Officer, I'm trying to find Hennepin Avenue."
"Make good eye contact and thank him when he says, 'Take a left at the corner and go three blocks.'
"But don't leave. Order a jelly doughnut or two and something hot to drink and sit down with him and his buddies and chat for a bit."
I don't like to be pessimistic, but it seems to me that a woman who made that approach to a bunch of cops late at night might wind up in the slammer.
For real daredevils, Dr. Sommerfield suggests sky diving. "It's really a man's sport. Recently-divorced men seem to especially enjoy it. Jumping from a plane is unlike anything you've ever tried."
It seems to me that a woman is indeed desperate for a man if she is willing to jump
from a moving airplane to catch one.
I'm curious, though, whether recently divorced men go in for sky diving because they have a death wish. What other motive?
Dr. Sommerfield suggests going to a golf course alone and getting into a foursome. "The other three players will probably be men."
Unless this young woman plays as well as the men, she might become a nuisance. I can hear one of her partners complaining to the starter: "Hey, can't you do anything about that crazy female that keeps turning up in our foursome?"
Dr. Sommerfield even has a ploy for that most common and frustrating of encounters: "You're walking down a street and you suddenly see a man ahead of you that you'd just love to meet."
She says: "Don't let him get away. . . . Go up to him and ask him one of the two foolproof things you can ask any stranger in America: the time or directions. Make eye contact when you ask."
Assuming that Dr. Sommerfield's book sells 100,000 copies, our streets and libraries and sky-diving planes won't be safe for single men.
Of course, I'm no longer young, supple, quick, bushy-haired and handsome enough to attract young women hunting for mates.
So if one comes up to me and says, "Do you have the time," I'll know she wants to know what time it is.
Unless she makes good eye contact. Then I'll be alarmed.