From Cleveland With Love

Three local luminaries judge Clevo-centric ways to pop the question

The problem of the marriage proposal is often a problem of production value. At least in this day in age, when the proposal has essentially become a formality, when the force of the proposition itself has lost some of its naked thrill; anymore, the How is just as critical as the What.

And that burden – the burden of concocting (if not a spectacular then at least) a meaningful proposal – generally falls on the shoulders of guys. It's not that the guy necessarily needs to be the one popping the question. But for as far as we've come in terms of gender equality, the guy-asking-girl paradigm remains a fairly stable tradition. A totally non-technical poll among our non-married friends corroborated this assumption.

Point is, after you've been dating a year or two or four or 12, the burden only gets more oppressive. We tracked down three Cleveland females who know a thing or two about proposals: longtime local anchor Denise Dufala, 102.1 morning-show host Jen Toohey, and municipal court Judge Pinkey Carr. We asked them to rate (on a scale of 1-5) some theoretical proposal scenarios to guide the gentlemen out there who may be searching for the perfect way to ask their girlfriend for her hand.

Down on one knee on the observatory deck of Terminal Tower?


JEN: 4


Denise: "That's a five. Absolutely."

Down on one knee at a fancy restaurant?


JEN: 4


Jen: "I have to change my score! I was gonna say four-and-a-half but

I don''s not as good as the Terminal tower."

On the scoreboard of a Browns / Cavs / Tribe game?


JEN: 2.5


Pinkey: "Only problem is, you have to say yes or else you're going to end up on SportsCenter."

On a Lake Erie boat ride (setting sun in the background)?


JEN: 4.75


Pinkey: "These are all so romantic!"

In your apartment/house, just the two of you, absent fanfare, intimately?


JEN: 3


Denise: "Mine was a version of this so I have to say five. But yes, I think that's really nice."

After a choreographed flash-mob style song/dance with family and close friends?


JEN: 5


Jen: "Oooooh. Yeah. That's amazing."

Among family members at a holiday gathering, announcement style?


JEN: 0.75


Pinkey: (With tempered enthusiasm.) "Umm. Okay."

Their Stories:

Pinkey Carr has been engaged twice, but never married. Turns out, one of her proposals occurred on the Cavs' scoreboard (see above), and she felt she had no choice but to say yes. At this stage of the game, if she were to get engaged again, she'd definitely opt for a Cleveland theme.

"I'm a hometown girl," Carr says. "It would have to be in Cleveland."

After thinking for only a moment, she chuckles and admits that she has the perfect spot for a proposal: "I know my friends are all going to laugh at me," she says, "but I would want it at the Horseshoe Casino. I would find it romantic, and there's that 'it's a party' feel."

Jen Toohey has been married for two years and her husband opted for a theme we didn't touch on above: the reenactment of a first date or memorable moment.

Jen and her boyfriend's first date was at Bonefish Grill, down in Independence. "It was all about the Bang Bang Shrimp," says Toohey. They met there and – cinematically enough -- it was pouring down rain. He met her at her car with an umbrella, and the date was a smashing success.

Two years later, he invited her to Bonefish Grill again. As they were walking to the restaurant, he ran back to the car and returned with an umbrella, though the skies were clear.

At the time, they were sort of ironic fans of "The Bachelor" and he had presented Jen with a rose like they do on the show.

"It totally had that element of funny that we love," Toohey says, "plus that element of doing something from our past. It was awesome. I mean I hugged some random woman in the parking lot."

Denise Dufala got engaged in an intimate setting, right at home. She and her husband had been planning a trip to New York City and his original plan was to propose atop the Empire State Building – universally regarded as a poor man's Terminal Tower.

But as he came to pick Denise up, he was nagged by certain calamitous fears: What if he lost the ring en route? What if he had it in his pocket and it caused a security snafu in the airport?

When he thought about it, he realized that asking Denise to marry him at her house was perfect.

"He chose the home because he thought it was representative of the home we'd share together," Dufala says. "We actually still have the chair where I was sitting. We have two that are the same, so we labeled the one with an X on the bottom."

At the airport, they got a celebratory drink and called their family and friends to relay the good news. Now, every time they go to the airport they remember fondly the day of their engagement.

"It was nothing flashy," says Dufala, "but it was perfect."

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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