When you're alone, whatever city you're in is the worst place for singles.
But in Pittsburgh, at least, if you're feeling sorry for yourself, you aren't really alone. Lots of other people feel sorry for you. Like Davide Dukcevich, a writer at Forbes magazine, who for two years running has put Pittsburgh at the bottom of a list of 40 cities for singles. In 2002, Dukcevich derided the city as "square" -- this from a guy who writes for Forbes -- and said Pittsburgh was "the worst place in American to be stuck with a lonely heart." Based loosely on jobs statistics and some other more subjective measurements, Dukcevich's story generated a lot of controversy, as such things do in Pittsburgh -- a city that takes even jokes in obscure comic strips personally. Dukcevich's e-mail in-box was soon clogged with angry letters from loyal Pittsburghers, so when it came time to write this year's list of cities, he came for a visit. And all of that lobbying by Pittsburghers paid off ... with another last-place finish.
This time, Dukcevich praised the city's "authenticity" ... which is something you find highbrow-types doing when they visit, say, encampments of Inuits or Kalahari bushmen. Dukcevich praised Pittsburghers for wearing clothes that "New York's trendiest bohemians will be wearing in the coming months," the key difference being that while New Yorkers wear trucking caps and mullets ironically to prove their "post-modern credentials," the yokels here wear the stuff and mean it.
What have we learned from all this? Here's one tip for all you lonely hearts -- and a few regional marketers -- out there: Stop taking rejection so personally. Play hard to get. If Davide Dukcevich can't get laid here, that's his problem, not ours.
Unfortunately, it's not just Forbes magazine writers who say Pittsburgh isn't making it. The U.S. Census Bureau has offered data that, at first blush, seems to confirm the perception that this is a lousy place to be single. In November, the Census Bureau released a report titled "Migration of the Young, Single, and College-Educated," and according to the report, out of 276 metropolitan areas, Pittsburgh lost more young people than all but one. Between 1995 and 2000, the city attracted 11,441 single folks between the ages of 25 and 39, but it lost near 19,000 during the same time.
Now ordinarily, when employees of the Census bureau think you're dowdy, you've really got a problem. But here's the thing: Pittsburgh lost so many singles partly because it attracts so many in the first place. It's just that when they come here, they aren't in the 25-to-39 age group ... they're 18- or 19-year-old college kids. They might hang around a bit after graduating and then leave town ... but while time often seems to stand still here, the fact is that while they remain, these kids actually do get older. So when they leave, they are in a different age bracket than they were when they came here -- a demographic trend that exaggerates fears of a "brain drain."
It's sad to see all these young and pretty people leave, of course. But if you're a single -- as opposed to, say, an economic development expert -- it's not as tragic as it looks. Consider that the one city that lost more young people than Pittsburgh was Gainesville, Florida -- home of the University of Florida. And based on a careful review of Girls Gone Wild videos, I have concluded that Gainesville is not the most difficult place in the country to find some action.
So you could find love by scoping out impressionable college students of either sex. Optionally, you could take the opposite tack: In a separate report, the Census Bureau noted that Pennsylvania has the second-highest percentage of widows in the United States, and accordingly Allegheny County has a percentage of widows higher than the national average. Some of them may even have money.
If both of these options strike you as being a tad, well, sleazy, there are other options. You could do the bar scene and all, sure, but perhaps the healthier approach would be to sublimate your angst and desperation and use your nervous energy to help others. That's the concept behind the upstart Pittsburgh Singles Volunteer Network, which helps single folks find ways to help their fellow humans while seeking companionship at the same time. You may or may not find love at PSVN, but you'll be helping someone either way. And if you are going to age alone and bitter, perhaps some bright young volunteer will be helping you someday. You can find information about the group at www.psvn.org, or call its director, Julie Ransom, at 412-773-0155. Julie's charming and energetic -- by which I mean she'd kill me if I didn't mention her organization here. Last time I checked, however, she wasn't single.