WHEN YOU'RE single and caught up in doing your thing, it can be all too easy to let your love life take a proverbial backseat.

Come Friday night, you have better things to do than, say, experiment with speed dating or go on yet another disastrous blind date. When I was single, I know that I often felt that way.

But one thing I've learned from interviewing dating experts and writing about relationships these past several years, is that you have to stay in the game to even think of winning it. And it's hard to be successful from the sidelines of your couch. Besides, it's pretty bad if you can think back and realize that the last decent date you might have had was in a year that started with the number 19.

That's why I'm devoting this entire column to the Daily News' upcoming Sexy Singles issue, where we spotlight the area's leading bachelors and bachelorettes. More than 500,000 people read the People Paper each day. And nobody does a better - or more tasteful - job than we do of showcasing local singles. Fans of our annual Sexy Singles feature know this. Some have been writing or calling to inquire about the contest since shortly after the start of the year.

Competition to be among the 20 or so men and women featured in this two-day feature can be intense. We get hundreds of applicants. Every application that's submitted is considered. Those who wind up getting selected are photographed in a glamorous photo shoot and feted at a party in their honor. Excuse the comparison, but if you're lucky, it can feel like being the star of ABC's "The Bachelor" for a day.

But you don't have to look like a model to be considered - although having six-pack abs certainly won't hurt your chances. Hey, the Sexy Singles judges are human, too. We're looking for

real people - not just for hard bodies.

Previous Sexy Singles have been everything from police officers to weathercasters to tile installers. Some were recently divorced and looking to jump-start their social lives. Others were just looking to make new friends. And we've had some Sexy Singles who just did it as a lark.

Many are nominated by family and friends who think it's time their loved ones started dating again. A lot of singles nominate themselves. The reasons why don't really matter. What does count is that those selected are willing to appear in the newspaper - and are legally single. (We define single as anyone who's not married or living with a partner.)

So, let us know if you have a friend or loved one whom we should consider.

Send photos and contact information and a line or two about why that person should be selected to:

Sexy Singles, c/o the Philadelphia Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Phila., PA 19130.

No phone calls or e-mails, please. You have until 5 p.m. June 1. *

Have you peeped a hot trend that hasn't been reported? E-mail heyjen@phillynews.com and let me know what you know.