“Are you my Juliet?” “Divorcee, 52, looking for the right man.” “I wanna meet u 2nite.”

Ranging from innocent to explicit, hopeful to desperate, eloquent to grammatically painful, the pleas of local singles aren’t easily ignored. The listings are scattered throughout local personal ads, but the struggles to date in Cincinnati exist far outside the printed lines.

A 2004 Forbes magazine article warned Cincinnatians that, “If you are young and single in Cincinnati, your best bet is to move.” Have we improved since then? Or is Cincinnati still truly a wasteland for singles?

For young and old, new daters and veterans alike, finding love in the Tristate isn’t always easy, but it helps to look in the right places.

The Trouble with Tristate Dating

Tabari McCoy, 32, thinks the perfect person is out there for everyone — though sometimes he wonders if his ideal woman is trapped overseas, fighting a foreign war.

As the current director of public relations at the Cincinnati Museum Center and a former reporter at the ill-fated CiN Weekly, McCoy has come to know the city rather well. When he isn’t working his day job, McCoy performs stand-up comedy routines, in which he sometimes gripes about the dating world.

“A lot of us, I think, are still looking for someone that’s perfect,” McCoy explains. “I think I’ve almost been rejected by every race, creed, color and religion on this planet at some point.”

Still, he gets out there, in spite of the obstacles to meeting singles in Cincinnati. For one, the East/West rivalry and a clique-like mentality can be frustrating.

“If you’re trying to find someone that’s on the same intellectual level as you and you don’t enjoy the typical bar scene, or you don’t know everyone from the same high school — and I’m a native when I say that — it can be extremely tough,” McCoy says.

He has also noticed the tendency for Cincinnatians to “get a diploma and then immediately get a ring.” He sees that many people here are preoccupied with or are rushed into marriage.

“The one thing I do when I meet women is I always stare at their left hand, because A, it will keep me from saying something stupid to a woman who’s not available and B, in Cincinnati, if they’re a cute, smart, non-crazy woman, they’re usually taken. They do not tend to stay on the market long,” McCoy adds.

McCoy says he is not interested in playing games and is hoping to find the right woman. “I’m not into it for quantity, I’m into it for quality. What would you rather have? Ten $1 hamburgers or one really good $10 hamburger? Sometimes the dollar menu isn’t the best place to do your shopping,” he advises.

Jennifer Mayer, 33, was feeling the same frustration with the dating scene, as well as the online dating world, when she decided to try the dating service It’s Just Lunch. Mayer teaches health and fitness at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, does consulting work, and is an avid athlete.

“At the time, I was doing consulting full time, so I was traveling a lot, and their tagline is ‘dating for the busy professional,’ so that worked for me,” Mayer says. As “first date experts,” IJL staffers meet clients in their office and set them up for a meal or drinks with compatible singles.

During Mayer’s meeting with IJL Director Cristin McCarthy, she expressed a desire to find a man with strong character that could be her best friend, with whom she felt strong chemistry. Mayer went on 16 dates with eligible males in Cincinnati, but didn’t feel a spark.

When Seth Hall, 35, stumbled upon the IJL office last July, matchmaker McCarthy couldn’t be more excited to set up the two Miami University graduates. She arranged a date for Mayer and Hall at Teller’s in Hyde Park, and the rest is romantic history.

“I was going to meet my sister after for dinner, and I said to her that night, ‘Oh, I’ll meet you in an hour and a half, it won’t take long. We can get some dinner,’” Mayer says. “[Seth and I] had met at 6, and I looked outside and it had already gotten dark. It was 9 o’clock.”

For Hall, the situation was too good to be true. Even as a Cincinnati native, meeting the right woman proved difficult. “I think it’s harder for an outsider that comes to Cincinnati to meet somebody,” he says. “But, in terms of meeting someone here, I think if you’re in the right place, then you’ll meet the right person.”

Hall recently proposed to Mayer at Mirror Lake in Eden Park, in a move that could be mimicked in a future romance movie. The park was a favorite date spot for the couple to eat sushi and see movies.

So far, Hall and Mayer have found an abundance of spots for dates . “Cincinnati is great because it has so many places and things to do,” Hall says. “People move back from places like Chicago and say, ‘Oh, Cincinnati is so boring, there’s nothing to do here.’ I’m like, are you crazy?”

For Hall, finding a partner meant venturing out of his comfort zone.

“Explore the city and take chances,” he says. “You’ll meet people that way, and you’ll meet somebody you’ll connect with, whether it’s just a friend or a date.”

Getting Back in the Game

Growing up, Ray Miller, 54, was told he could marry anyone he wanted — as long as she was Jewish. Miller, the superintendent of utilities for the University of Cincinnati and a metal worker/artist, was ready to start a family in his 30s, and took on a personal quest to get married within a year. Looking back, he admits his dating views were a bit skewed.

Miller and his first wife separated in 1996 after seven years of marriage. While in the process of moving out of his marital house, Miller’s mother died; he had to bury her on Mother’s Day.

Needless to say, Miller was not chomping at the bit to get back into the dating scene. He went to bars with friends half-heartedly, as he says that’s where many believe the dating scene exists.

“I don’t really think there’s any good excuse to complain about Cincinnati as a hard place to meet people and date and have relationships because there’s really plenty of opportunity. It’s really a mindset thing,” Miller says of his experiences.

When a friend’s dad called to set Miller up on a date he was hesitant, but ended up meeting Debbie — his soon-to-be second wife. After eating Japanese food on a sleeting November day in downtown Cincinnati, they walked around and talked for hours and knew it was a good match.

While getting back in the scene was hard, Miller found that he learned what didn’t work in his first marriage, and decided not to repeat those mistakes.

All in all, he credits Cincinnati’s industrial diversity and rich cultural opportunities for making this a good dating city.

Miller once did job training in a town where about three-quarters of the population worked for the same corporation — forget six degrees of separation in a town like that, where everyone is up in everyone else’s proverbial (and literal) business. A town with P&G, Cintas, universities, Kroger, and an abundance of other companies, is a preferable “melding pot” for metalworker Miller.

“I have friends my age that are single and they complain that it’s hard to meet people. OK, are you talking to people in your church or synagogue? Are you doing social activities that you’re interested in with other people? Or are you sitting in your house moping around, complaining that it’s hard to meet people?” he asks.

As Miller mentions, religious situations can be a good place to meet like-minded singles. The Rev. Jim Clark, 58, was divorced when he met his current wife, JoAnne, at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church’s Singles Ministries.

The group was started in the 1970s and hosts activities for singles who are divorced, widowed or never married. While being single later in life used to have a stigma attached, Clark says these days, the Singles Ministries promotes the joys of “singledom.”

“It’s not necessarily harder to meet older singles,” Clark says. “It depends on your self-esteem and independence, no matter if you’re 25 or 55.”

That’s not always easy for divorcees, Clark says. They might struggle with self-doubt and a sense of failure. But as for getting out in Cincinnati, Clark has heard the bad press, but doesn’t believe it.

Even Forbes has come around, recently saying that while Cincinnati might seem mediocre, it has some cultural bright spots.

So while big, flashy cities like New York and Miami might be veritable smorgasbords of eligible singles, we as Cincinnatians will just have to settle for world-class art and music, professional sports teams, funky shops and good old-fashioned Midwest humility.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find someone special along the way — without running an ad on Craigslist.