Fat chance: Dating pointers at Weight Watchers

I've been wondering where it is a middle-aged single guy can meet women. It's an age-old problem. You can't go to nightclubs without appearing to be a father waiting to take his daughter home, or at best, the performing group's lawyer. PTA and community meetings are out, lest you wish to develop the reputation of being a lone wolf among your neighbors. Gatherings sponsored by religious institutions... uh... no, on religious grounds. And I will no longer allow my friends to fix me up, because their choices in the past have been so off the mark that I began to question how well my friends really know me.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself recently as the only male in a roomful of women, many of whom were single, available, and age-appropriate. Imagine my deflation, too, when I tell you I realized this fantasy of mine at Weight Watchers.

Not that I have anything against the fuller-figured woman; I'm most sympathetic to the battle of the bulge, as it's been an age-old problem for me, too. But a well-known diet club is perhaps not the setting I had in mind when I imagined such an abundance of options. The whole context of a Weight Watchers meeting is about losing, after all, even if you can meet tons of women there. A social milieu that underlines women's greatest neurosis, on the face of it, feels like the textbook definition of anti-erotic.

But it is quite amazing how those odds can mollify a man's greatest insecurities. By the second meeting, I had surveyed the lay of the land and sized up my possibilities, and I felt like the cock of the walk, albeit a somewhat stuffed one. Everyone was so friendly to me I could hardly believe my luck... until I started losing weight at a more rapid clip than the rest of the group. Men just do.

This decidedly male attribute immediately gained me the enmity of at least half of the women there, who'd been doting on their blenders for weeks and weeks in the hopes of magically canceling out the point value of food they can't seem to leave alone. Me they mostly left alone by the third week.

And the ones who I presume had been members for a while, and looked to be successful in their pursuit, weren't about to take on someone who reminded them of where they'd been. But by then I had already convinced myself that the old Weight Watchers' aphorism, ''a minute on the lips, forever on the hips'' referred not to the pitfalls of dieting but to my chances of scoring big.

Yet I couldn't figure out what my first move should be, since it seemed counterproductive to invite a Weight Watchers woman out for dinner. Imagine my surprise when, a month into it, a rather attractive woman approached me at the end of a meeting and invited me out to a social function... at her synagogue.

Oh, I just can't win for losing, it seems.

This essay first appeared as a radio broadcast on "Been There / Done That," on station WHYY-FM in Philadelphia.