I'm considering a new name for this column - You-Don't-Have-to-Be-a-ChickWit. I'm thinking this because recently I've had a few men tell me that they like the column, but they feel funny reading a column with the word


in the title. This is a problem because I want men to read me.

I'm a big fan of men. In fact, I'm a major man fan.

So either it's time for me to clear this up, or I have to ditch my column name, which took me a really long car ride to think up.

Let me explain what I intended by the title "Chick Wit." I never thought this column would be for women only. The chick is me, and the wit part means that I'm supposed to be funny. Thus, to clarify, no one reading this column has to be 1) a chick or 2) funny. Both of these are my jobs, and I'm consistently successful in only one of them.

The bottom line for you, dear reader, is that you can just sit back and relax with your reproductive organs, whichever they may be.

I've had this problem before, with my books. The main characters in the books are women, but that's just because I write what I know. It doesn't mean that the books are for women only. In fact, more than half of the people who read my books are men. Smart, cool, handsome, sexy men.

I'm positive that the same is true of the men who read this column. In fact, I can smell the testosterone, welcoming as morning coffee. You're smart, cool, handsome, and incredibly sexy. Confident enough to know that reading a column by a woman doesn't compromise your masculinity. Open-minded enough to defect from the sports and op-ed pages on occasion. Spontaneous enough to appreciate a chuckle now and then. Real men read "Chick Wit."

Unfortunately, not all men are man enough to read me.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate my point: A few years ago, I found myself in a newsstand at the Atlanta airport while I was on book tour, and I happened to see a man pick up my new book from the rack, to decide whether to buy it. I hid behind the candy counter and watched him, waiting to see what his decision would be. Some people might call this stalking, but they don't have my mortgage.

This is what happened: He looked at the cover of my book. He read the inside flap copy about the plot. He skimmed a few pages. He even checked out my author photo on the back. And then he made his decision. He returned the book to the rack.

Noooooo! I screamed in my head. I'm rejected! I'm a loser! And I paid two grand to Photoshop that picture!

Then I calmed down. I thought to myself, What did I do wrong?

There was only one way to find out. So I bought a copy of my own book and brought it to the man in the store. I said to him: "Excuse me, sir, but I noticed you were looking at this book for a long time. I'm the author, and I'd like you to have it, as my gift."

"You're the author?" he asked, in disbelief. (I could read between the lines. What he really wanted to say was, "You're the broad on the back of the book? How can that be? You look nothing like her! And what's up with your roots? Have you been incarcerated?")

"Honestly, I am the author." I signed the book and handed it to him. "But I do have a question. I'm wondering why you didn't buy the book. Would you mind telling me?"

"OK," he answered. "I didn't buy it because I never buy books by women authors."

Ouch. "Well, I hope you give me a chance and read it. And if you do, please drop me an e-mail and let me know what you think."

Three days later, the man sent me an e-mail, which said: "I really liked your book. You write like a man."

I took it as a compliment, though I'm not sure I completely understood his meaning. I'm not picky about compliments. If your sentence starts, "I really liked your . . ." then you're all right with me.

But in my view, although there are differences between men and women, I'm not sure anybody writes like a man or like a woman. And by the same token, women will like writing by men, and men will like writing by women. I suspect this has to do with the fact that we're sentient human beings. I write for a sensibility, not a gender, and if you like this column, you share that sensibility.

So welcome, gentlemen, and come back every Sunday.

You're man enough.