Hot and Bothered in the 216

2015-01-28T17:43:07+00:00October 7th, 2013|

By Christine McBurney.

So, Cleveland is your Paris? Ok, I get that. We share a sophisticated arts and culinary scene with the city of light. We’ve got killer croissants and even our own I.M. Pei pyramid. But if Cleveland is my Paris, where is l’amour? Where are the lovers sitting on park benches? Where are the dozens of public display of affection spottings? More important, where is my lover?

This is not a question of civic engagement. This is about personal engagement. Specifically, my engagement.

I am looking for a man. There, I said it. There isn’t a day that goes by when I say to myself, “Where is he?” Will he be at a gallery? A festival? A bar?

I love Cleveland. I’m just not in love in Cleveland.

To be honest, until recently, I was one of those Rust Belt ex-pats who didn’t dare claim her roots. A closet Rust Belt Chic chick. Full of Rust Belt shame. When fellow Belters found out that I grew up in the Youngstown suburb of Struthers, literally across from the steel mills, filthy window sills until the mills shut down in 1979 and all, I’d whisper, “Oh, I don’t like to talk about that,” and gently refocus the fact that I was born in New York, and lived there until I was five, visited every summer thereafter, and moved back for eight years for college and beyond before relocating to Cleveland.

I used to be as desperate to get out of town as one of Chekhov’s pining sisters: “To Moscow, to Moscow” — or in my case, “To Soho.” But to be honest, these days, on my few yearly pilgrimages from the north coast to the east, I’m more energized by the re-urbanization of Cleveland than the suburbanization of New York.

But where are the men?

They certainly aren’t online. A recent browse for who is online in Cleveland, after the obligatory sorting through photos of shirtless guys in baseball caps taking bathroom or garage selfies accompanied by their various pet reptiles and/or motorcycles, produced nil. There was the guy who had white hair but whose photo showed him with dark hair some twenty years younger. There was the great guy who matched me in all his sensibilities, but with whom there really was no chemistry. Fair enough.

Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing men in Cleveland. They are real. And they are usually — wait for it: married. Or gay. Or both. Or well beyond my late 40s. The reverse brain drain seems to be working to keep 20-somethings in town, but so far I don’t know that I have any cougar tendencies.

The last blind date I had with an online guy ended as quickly as it began. Turns out the potential paramour in question found out that I was his nephew’s teacher. Thanks, Google. In what can only be described as a grueling 45-minute job interview, I found myself leaving in a huff, exhausted, as if I’d just worked eight hours and then had an evening of parent-teacher conferences.

I feel alone more acutely now than ever, since my only child went away to college. Nothing says you will die alone and with cats like an empty house. And a cat. Another debt I owe to Cleveland. Where else could I, after a divorce, with no money and only part-time adjunct and creative work, raise a child alone, exposing him to all this area has to offer? Not in New York. It wasn’t until my son was a teenager that he realized he spent the majority of his early childhood hovering around the poverty line. Thank you Cleveland for helping me create another entitled middle-class kid on a lower-middle-class income.

And I am not alone. Well, I am, but I am not alone in my predicament. I have several girlfriends — incredible, strong, smart, caring women — who are in the same proverbial boat. We don’t want to leave Cleveland, but if the city doesn’t start attracting some available, viable middle-aged male candidates soon, we will. While Cleveland is in the news, as being hot and coming back, I as a single woman, can only cheer half-heartedly.

You’ve got me, Cleveland.

Is it asking too much to want to share you with someone?

Christine McBurney is a theatre artist & educator in Cleveland Heights.

Top image: Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Karin McKenna)


  1. Valerie Salstrom October 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Come swing dancing! The Cleveland swing dance scene is full of quality people and some of them are men…and quite a few of those men are single. We have a dance this Friday at the Lakewood Masonic Temple. I’ll leave a few free tickets for you at the front desk. 🙂

    • Christine October 11, 2013 at 3:05 am

      Thank you Valerie for the tip! I’ve dabbled in swing, salsa, and contra dancing and will have to return to the dance floor. Wish I could make it but I have plans this Friday!

  2. Tom Geller October 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    I feel your pain, sister, and believe the biggest cause is… children. I don’t know the statistics, but it seems like people here have more children, and at a younger age, than anywhere else I’ve lived. And it’s not a culture that supports parents (openly) dating, single or not.

    So that takes a big chunk of the population out of the equation for a long time. Some are out for good, of course, as they stay in the relationship that created those children. Others experience life changes foreign to childless people like me. Our priorities, goals, outlooks, and behaviors simply differ.

    My point of comparison is admittedly unusual: I lived in San Francisco from 23 to 40. It’s a place where people my age regularly go out on the spur of the moment, trade numbers at events, and talk openly about their sex lives — things parents (and former parents) aren’t used to doing.

    A rough check: Of the 20 or so friends I’ve visited during my last three-week SF trip, average age 35 or so, only five have (or have had) children. What’s the Cleveland percentage?

    • Christine October 11, 2013 at 3:17 am

      Thanks for the comment Tom. Interesting idea that perhaps the CLE doesn’t support single parents dating. I should’ve included my “Parents Without Partners” experience in the essay. I’d forgotten all about it until I read your comment. My NYC sounds like your SFO, but alas, we were younger then, too…

  3. Joseph Wilson October 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    First: Ditch the cat.
    Second: Unfortunately this is a huge sporto town. 95% of the men are wearing sneakers and jerseys when they go out, so your options are very, very limited.

    Third: Ditch the cat

    • Christine October 11, 2013 at 3:09 am

      Thanks for reading Joe. Ditch the hat and I’ll ditch the cat?

  4. Dave Hopkins October 7, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    I have a few female friends in the same predicament, Christine. And I am one of those “viable middle-aged male candidates” you mentioned. The lady-friends I have are fantastic. But, to use your words, “(they) matched me in all (their) sensibilities, but …there really was no chemistry.” I enjoy sports. Hell, I played them in high school and college. But I would rather play my way these days than watch others play theirs. I’m involved in theater and would rather attend a show or visit a gallery than hang out at the house or the bar watching millionaires act like Schoolyard Supermen. And I’m not such a bad guy to hang out with. Still, I guess there’s more to chemistry than meets the eye. Guess I’ll keep dating (when I can, with a busy schedule and all) and, one day, perhaps, I’ll get to go on more than a first date!

    • Christine October 11, 2013 at 3:11 am

      Thanks for the comment Dave & good luck to you!

  5. Dan November 19, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Just wanted to chime in. It actually cuts both ways. I’m a 40 something single, straight man who lives in Tremont. I am a member of the Cleveland Museum of Art and other various arts organizations. I have a good job which allows me to travel quite a bit. I’ve been around the world and have criss-crossed the country a few times. I’ve also tried the online dating thing with no success. It’s hard and at times frustrating. So I feel your pain just on the opposite end of course.

    • Christine December 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      Thanks Dan. I too am a CMA member. Let’s compare notes at the next MIX!

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