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Number 6, see below 

There's a joke in the lesbian community that there are really only 12 of us, and the rest is all done with smoke and mirrors. My favorite joke, though, is that lesbians don't really date at all: If we meet someone we like, we just hit the button for U-Haul on the speed dial and go for it. Which is an unfair assessment because I know one couple personally who waited until the third date to move in. Okay, the joke about smoke and mirrors is an exaggeration, too, but I swear it's not that far off the mark. I'd like to think that there are a few more than 12 of us, but in general, most of the women I meet fall into one of these categories:

1. With someone.

2. In the process of breaking up. (And can someone please explain to me why breaking up needs to be "a process"?)

3. "Not ready to be in a relationship," which could either: a. Be true, or b. Be code for "I'd like to be in a relationship. Just not with you." In either case, run.

4. Between jobs (which is fine, as long as they're actually looking for the next one).

5. Living with an ex, although they "lead totally separate lives." One woman said that to a friend of mine, and then--and I swear I am not making this up--told her in the very next breath not to leave a message on her home answering machine because her ex "was a little funny about that." Yes, I'm sure she's a laugh riot!

6. Carrying so much baggage that you feel an overwhelming urge to tip her.

Show me a stable, single, mature, emotionally available lesbian who doesn't fall into one of those categories and I'll ask her how long she's been in town.

I've been to Visions, the venerable but sole lesbian bar in the Triangle area, several times in the past 12 months. On one recent visit, the first woman who approached me had tattoos from wrist to shoulder on both arms and was wearing a helmet that said "Satan is my co-pilot." "Grace" said she was a musician who had just left her rock band. (Riiiiiiight, and I'm an underwear model!) When I asked what her plans were, she responded vaguely that she was thinking about opening a gallery, or perhaps taking an extended motorcycle trip through the desert (number four, see above.)

Good kisser, though ... I mean, I heard she was.

My next time at the bar went a little better. My stars, what a hottie there was at the pool tables: Abercrombie baseball jersey, eyes as blue as the Danube and a grin just as wide. I grinned back, and she gave me her phone number. We dated a couple of months, and then one night she called and with all the sensitivity of Donald Trump informed me she wasn't over her ex yet and couldn't see me anymore. (I almost expected to hear the words "You're fired!")

Another one bites the dust, courtesy of number three, see above.

A while back, I thought I'd try the Internet, figuring it would be a time-efficient way to meet women in my area. Plus, I figured a computer-savvy woman was less likely to show up for a date wearing a T-shirt that says, "If you can read this, the bitch fell off." I duly posted a profile (which it appears nobody actually reads) and before too long, e-mails started appearing in my inbox. I picked out two women, "Chris" and "Liza," to meet in person. My first date was with Chris, a divorce lawyer in Greensboro who had a vacation home in Key West. It went well and when she asked if I would have dinner with her the following week, I gladly accepted. At last, I thought, a professional woman who is looking for a relationship and has no visible baggage other than her Prada purse.

The day before my second date with Chris, I met Liza for lunch. She was nice (kiss of death), but seemed a bit distracted and down. Midway through lunch, she apologized and said she just wasn't quite over her ex yet (it seems I am a number three magnet), who was a selfish, materialistic egomaniac prone to fits of rage. Of course, I had no way of knowing who was in the wrong--Liza or the ex herself--but it didn't matter because I wasn't going to be dating either one. Liza's tirade continued for another half hour or so before she ended it by sighing, "I guess I should have expected it; she's a divorce lawyer."

My stomach lurched, and it wasn't the pastrami. "Oh really?" I asked, "Here in Durham?"

"No," Liza replied. "In Greensboro. But she has a vacation home in Key West."

Sheesh. Maybe there are only 12 of us.

My friends have told me that it might increase my odds if I looked gay. I've actually gone to singles' mixers only to be asked what a straight woman was doing at a lesbian meet-and-greet. Maybe my friends are right, or maybe I've got "Number six, see above" stamped on my forehead, but in any case, I'm hedging my bets. I'm shopping for some new, non-femme clothes at Old Navy tonight, and I've got an appointment with my stylist later this week. Wonder if I'd look better in a mullet or a buzz cut?

Meanwhile, the dating game continues. I thought I'd found a terrific potential date a few weeks ago; I was at a business dinner and the guest speaker was obviously an absolute gem. I overheard "Connie" say that she was single, and she was just my type: athletic build, sharp wit, brilliant conversationalist, and practically oozed confidence from every pore. Plus, our glances across the table were enough to make the guy next to me inquire sotto voce as to whether he should call us a taxi or a U-Haul. We left without exchanging anything other than glances, so I did a bit of sleuthing, found Connie's e-mail address, and we commenced a scintillating correspondence ... but the U-Haul will just have to sit idle awhile longer.

She's a number five, see above.

Leslie U. Goodwin is a freelance writer, enthusiastic cook and hopeful romantic. She is not, nor will she ever be, an underwear model. Write to her at caedmon@mindspring.com.

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