LUANNE, 40,owns a chic boutique,where she worksmornings sellingchunky jewelry andbeach clothes. Shepractices Tai Chi anda few of the moreesoteric healing artsand raises her 15-year-old daughter.Alone.Patsy, in her mid-50s, does a gruelingworkout at the gymfour days a week, teaches English to businessmenand volunteers at her church. A lot.Pamela, 43, retired way early from anexecutive job in the United States and camedown here looking for Señor Perfecto. Iheard she threw in the towel and became alesbian, whose fondness for margaritas tookher down new and darker alleys.The latest dirt: she’s joined the thrivingEnglish-speaking Alcoholics Anonymousand is having a ball in sobriety. So to speak.AS for me, I learned to give one helluvamassage, paint nudes in oils, sing lusty solosin a blues band and renovate my house periodically.On my own.This is the story of the single expatriatefemale in Costa Rica. Sometimes it’s notpretty, but usually it’s flat-out exhilarating.Now, before you go thinking that wewomen are hard-luck uglies with no talent,taste or tenderness, let me set you straight.We are women of a certain age (as theFrench so delicately put it) with a greater thanaverage (yet less-than-devastating)measure of wisdom, beauty and joyous hipness.We just happen to live in a country oftraffic-stoppingly gorgeous native tootsies –all of whom seem to have been raised in theGeisha School of relating to men. Added tothe grim fact of hordes of hideously beautifullocal women is the culture gap in theother direction.It works like this: An expatriate manwith a Costa Rican woman is a combinationthat seems to sing!THE northern men are clearly starvedfor adoration and submission, and the lovelyTicas they hook up with appear delightedwith these Gringos and their odd way of askingwomen’s opinions and turning over theircheckbooks and credit cards to them.But the mix doesn’t usually cut it theother way. A Latin man may be franklyalarmed at the many aberrant behaviors of anorthern woman. She is so damned independent!She expresses her views relentlesslyand often insists on making (and keeping)her own money, friends, plans, you name it.No matter how many dates he has tobreak with her, a foreign woman does notseem to understand or appreciate theLatino’s relationship with other women. Hismother, for example – a sacred link, anundying bond, stronger than any mereromance could ever be. And his girlfriends,well … it’s a cultural thing – just somethingto accept, really. Aman is going to be a man,after all.Get the drift? So, certain obstructionsstand in the way of true, deep, lasting, or evenfalse, shallow, hot, love. And yet …LIVING the celibate life can be such athrill. There’s all that unspent vim, vigor,rarin’-to-go energy that just pops you out ofbed to enjoy the dawn with a strong cup ofcoffee, brimming with frothy cream.Life in Costa Rica fosters creativeexpression, and classes, exhibits, performancesin all the arts abound. With the expatpopulation a relatively small proportion ofthe four million inhabitants, it’s easy to be abig fish in this tiny pond.Got a hankering to act? Join the LittleTheater Group. You’re guaranteed to performbefore most of the English-speakingresidents in one play or another.Outdoorsy folks hook up with the hikingor birding clubs, or trek the country’s lushgeography solo.WHATEVER you choose to do withyour time will get noticed. It’s hard to beanonymous and, because most foreigners arehere without their extended families, peopletend to get real close, real fast, no questionsasked. Friendships are rich and last as longas the tourist visa or residency status permits.But ladies, please. If you’re planningyour trip here based on some Fantasy Islanddream of meeting Ricky Martin or RicardoMontalban, and you’re over, say, 18 years ofage, think again. Think farther north, perhapsAlaska. They say the ratio there of mento women favors us. Of course, you mayhave to trade in your bikini for a pair ofmukluks, but a furry man on a cold nightmight be worth it to you.I’m content to be an Eve in the Garden ofEden – hanging out with the snake, and themonkeys, and the spiders, and the parrots.