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A 'woman shortage'? Reports shift men's views on dating

Few are panicky, but some worry about marriage prospects

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Pity the modern male.

Since Sept. 11, men have read story after story about women chasing Ground Zero rubble-clearers and cat-calling construction workers. But just when single guys are all set to strap on a tool belt and adopt that tousled, unpolished look, they encounter articles about how women want chivalrous men, a la Meg Ryan in the new movie, "Kate & Leopold."

To make their dating woes worse, they're seeing this alarming news: The number of available women is reportedly shrinking.

Little wonder men are losing their hair.

For both men and women, the formula for finding and keeping a mate has become, in recent years, a topic of fascination in books, movies, and the media - even more than usual, as the number of single Americans has grown. But all the analysis - such as using gender ratios to predict marriage possibilities - is starting to make some guys rethink their own dating lives and how single men are portrayed in the media.

"There just seems to be this surge of coverage.... If you're single, it can mess with you," says Jeff Martinez, a 30-something professional in Aurora, Colo. "I think the singles reading these stories - myself included - might be inclined to jump in as soon as they can, believing they'll be alone unless they connect immediately."

It's not just the reported rush toward couplehood, but men's prospects, too, that is making news. The Wall Street Journal recently used birth rates and census figures to predict a shortage of marriage-age women in the next 10 years for guys who are in their 30s and 40s. Currently, it said, numbers of single men and single women ages 30 to 44 are about the same.

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