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The Dating Game

You don't have to be single to take a by-the-book approach to romance, Cleveland-style.

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"Valentine's Day is just a heightened date day," declares Nancy Kirsch, co-author of The It's Just Lunch Guide to Dating in Cleveland. "And sometimes the expectations are very high." Remember that as you prepare for Monday.

Also remember to wash your hair, trim your nails, and freshen your breath before your big date. Those are just some of the tips found in the Zagat-style guidebook put out by the 14-year-old dating service (which has more than 70 offices around the world, including one in Cleveland). The book, similar to those released in other cities -- such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Seattle -- "is not just a guide for dating," clarifies Kirsch. "It's good if you're just looking for an interesting restaurant that you might not know about."

And you don't have to be a singleton to find something in there to spice up your romantic life. Sections like "Ten Great Dates" (the Ritz-Carlton tops the list) and "Five Best Cheap Dates" (hooray for Cleveland Public Theatre!) are also designed for "couples who've been together awhile," explains Kirsch. "There are some wonderful tips in there that are little reminders: 'Oh yeah, I remember that from dating.'"

While Kirsch says there's nothing wrong with making a Valentine's Day date, she does acknowledge the bundle of pressure that accompanies it: Does a holiday rendezvous mean that you really like a person? Furthermore, is it so wrong to want to stay home and cuddle up with a bag of Pirate's Booty and CSI: Miami? "There's all this hype about couples and dating and Valentine's Day," she says. "I would have no problem spending Valentine's Day with my mom."

But that's not likely to happen; it's still a very special day for Kirsch. "I got engaged on Valentine's Day," she says. Besides, the love business has been good to her (Kirsch is a senior vice president at It's Just Lunch). "I was put on this planet to do what I do," she says. "You have to have a special gene to want to fix people up. My very first fix-up was when I was 10 years old. You can't go to school and learn that."

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