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the death of a dream
why it's so hard to be left in the dust
by yasameen sharif

As I look back at my 31 years, I wonder if I should pat myself on the back, or hit myself in the head with something very hard and extremely painful. You would think by the bruises all over my body that I had chosen the latter, but in fact that's just evidence of my klutzy demeanor.

Maybe that's why I'm still single.

My single nature is both something that I am proud of and something that haunts me. In my up moments I am fabulous - I epitomize the "great catch" that all my friends and family claim me to be with my wit, my smile, and my warm and caring nature. In these moments I agree that any guy would be lucky to have the wonderful, good-looking, sexy, smart, funny, spunky, down to earth girl that is me. In my down moments I can see the things that prospective partners might find wrong with me. I'm sarcastic (not the most feminine of qualities), I'm independent (which some guys don't care for), I dress for cost and comfort (the GAP is my friend), and, like most women, I'd like to lose a few pounds (15 would be fine, but I'd be happier with 20).

But I think my very worst quality is that I'm frustrated with the fact that my life has not gone the way I wanted it to, which comes across at times in the things I say and do. I call it "the death of a dream" and I mourn it as if it were a real death in my life.

I had my life all planned out in my head a long time ago....college at 18, engaged at 24, married at 26, family at 28 (although 28 was actually older than I had originally wanted to have children) and then a long life filled with joy and happiness and good times. That sounded damn good to me - it still does. But now I'm 31. Unengaged. Unmarried. Unchildrened.

So how does one come to grips with the death of a dream 31 years in the making? No matter how far women have come, there is still somewhat of a stigma about women who are in their 30s and unmarried. I know, I know, times have changed ....but have they really? On ABC's "The Bachelor" the bachelor's mother asked his potential bride "How is it that you're 27 and haven't found a husband yet?"...that made me feel ill. An ex-boyfriend in a particularly cruel comment informed me that "if you're not married by 30, guys wonder what's wrong with you"...which made me wonder if, in fact, that was really true. My friends, who are all married, give me that "poor single girl" look when we talk about our lives...which, after suffering through all of their weddings and showers, forking over thousands of my own dollars for gifts and pastel bridesmaid dresses (with matching shoes, of course), and wondering why it is that no one wants to marry me, makes me want to scream.

So dealing with my mixed emotions is difficult. On one hand I really love being single. I love having time to myself and living alone where the only mess is my mess and I don't have to deal with anyone else unless I want to. I love being independent and going out wherever I want, whenever I want, with whomever I want, and not having to tell anyone anything. I love that I am not married to "the wrong person" which I know many people are. I love the thought that the best is yet to come. But I hate worrying that my dreams may never come true.

They say the best place to meet someone is in college, and I met a lot of great guys in college. I dated one in particular for 5 years and then I decided that if we weren't going to be getting married we should break up. (Which we did.) So there went my chance of meeting someone in college. Other couples meet at work. I'm a teacher, so the only boys I meet at work are 14 or younger. (They don't quite fit the "potential partner" category.) Sometimes people meet while they're out on the weekends. I met a boyfriend in a bar when I was 26. I guess a bar was an okay place to meet back then, but now everytime I go to a bar I feel old - or at least significantly older than the guys stumbling around, so that's not really a viable option either.

No matter where I end up meeting someone, or finding the one I am supposed to be with, I think a few things are vital. I need to stop beating myself up about choices I have made in my life. I need to stop my "what ifs" which make me crazy. What if I had never ended things with my college boyfriend, would I be happily married now? What if I had gone into medicine like I had originally planned, would I have met someone in medical school or wherever I worked? What if I hadn't spent the last years of my 20s with a guy who didn't want to get married, might I have met someone destined to be my husband? There's no way to know.

I don't regret the time I spent with my college boyfriend, or the time I spent with my most recent boyfriend. The time together was good, even if the outcome was not what I was hoping for. And though it's hard for me to see all the engagement and wedding announcements in my college magazine (which now feature those happy couples who graduated 8 years after I did) I still look, and hope to someday have something really special to smile about, too.

Here's what I know. It's hard to be single while the rest of the world moves on around you. No matter how many things are great about being single, I still desire a partner in crime. I know some of the looks from my married friends are of pity, but you know what? Some of those looks are of envy. I am still single, having a ball, and for me all the best is yet to come. As much as I am ready to be part of a duo, I do truly cherish my life as a single. I'm not going to hit myself on the head with that hard and painful object, cursing myself for making bad life choices. I'm going to pat myself on the back because I think for the most part my choices have been pretty good...and if my choices are the reason I am single today then so be it.

I guess my dream is not really dead, just...different. I can still have all the things I dreamed about if I accept that life has its own timetable, different than the one I laid out and maybe even better. The time I've spent on my own in my 20s, and now early 30s, has helped to make me who I am. If I'd gotten married younger, I wouldn't have had time to figure that out. (Or to have the huge amounts of fun I have had in these past years!) So, I guess it's okay that my original dream has come and gone...it leaves room for new dreams to form in its place. I'd like to think I won't be single forever so I may as well enjoy it while I can.

Or at least put my on dancing shoes, stay out all night, and try to!


Back in the good old days, you could find Yasameen and her full head of "big hair" wearing jellies, Madonna bracelets and rocking out in the allotted share-with-your-brother car to Depeche Mode, The Cure, Salt N' Pepa and Michael J. Things were positively smurfy. Today, Yasameen is a bedraggled middle school science teacher who spends her days breaking up fights and dreaming of summer vacation while educating the youth of America.

more about yasameen sharif


matt morin
1.19.03 @ 7:39p

I know what you mean about how hard it is to be single while everyone else gets married around you. I'm 31 and that's completely happened to me.

But what I've come to realize it that no matter how good of a "catch" someone is, not everyone gets married and has a family. There are a ton of great people out there who just never meet that special someone. It's taken a while, but now that I expect to be single forever, the thought of not getting married or having a family doesn't seem quite as disappointing.

russ carr
1.19.03 @ 9:23p

From "Four Weddings and a Funeral":

[At a wedding]
Old lady: Are you married?
Fiona: No.
Old lady: Are you a lesbian?
Fiona: Good lord! What makes you ask that?
Old lady: Well, it is one of the possibilities for unmarried girls nowadays, and it's rather more interesting than saying, "Oh dear, never met the right chap," eh?
Fiona: Quite right. Why be dull?
Old lady: Thank you.
[long pause]
Fiona: I was a lesbian once at school, but only for about fifteen minutes.

robert melos
1.19.03 @ 10:19p

When I was 18 I saw several of my friends get married. By the time I was 25 all of those friends were divorced, and a few trying marriage for a 2nd time. By 30 those 2nd timers were divorced and a couple going for 3rds. I'm gay, so marriage was never an option in my life anyway, and now that so many homosexuals are fighting for same-sex unions I find myself thinking, what excuse will I have for being single if, by some miracle, same-sex unions do become legal across the board? At least right now I have an excuse for being single.

Sure I'd like a partner to be there for me, and with me, many times. It just seems I'm comfortable being single, not having to answer to anyone, and enjoying my life. Yes, I'm lonely sometimes, but I've been on dates where I've felt lonely, bored, or just wondered what I would be doing in a few hours after I got rid of my date?

I think you've got the right idea about enjoying the single life while you can. Have fun with it, and when your friends start divorcing, throw them big divorce parties and call it Welcome to Singlehood. I'll bet, after the first party, all of your friends will be wanting one.

matt morin
1.19.03 @ 10:30p

Oh, and of course as you get older people wonder what's wrong with you. It doesn't necessarily mean there is anything wrong, but people still wonder.

I know when I'm on a date with someone who seems great I find myself wondering why they're still single. But if they have issues, they usually don't take too long to become apparent.

russ carr
1.19.03 @ 10:33p

That's really pretty cold-hearted, don't you think, Robert? Just because you've associated with couples in the past who couldn't make it, to patently anticipate (or in this case, encourage) other couples' dissolution sounds to me like the attitude of someone who, for lack of a relationship, would rather sit vulture-like, waiting for others misfortunes and raising his martini glass in salute when they arrive.

tracey kelley
1.20.03 @ 9:47a

Matt's heard this song and dance before from me, but I can't stress enough the value of volunteering. You just never know who you'll meet on a committee for the arts festival or sharing a waterbooth at a 5K run or whatever. Common interests help to bridge a gap.

My husband and I met at a wedding reception. What are the odds? The bride worked with him, but never thought it introduce us because our politics were too different, yet he and I hit it off right away because of our shared humor.

Your friends, they don't always know what's best for you.

matt morin
1.20.03 @ 3:42p

Volunteer...find someone when you least expect it...blah, blah, blah.

Just kidding.

True, there are a lot of ways/places to meet people. But as my summer dating explosion proved, just because you go on 25 first dates it doesn't mean you're going to find the love of your life. Or even someone for a 3rd date.

OK, another dating complaint: Why is it that if you're married and want to set up a single friend, the only criteria seems to be - are they both single?

Married people think, "Hey, he's single and she's single - they'd be PERFECT for each other!"

Every married person I tell that to disagrees with me. And every single person I tell that to starts laughing hysterically because they can totally relate.

wendy p
1.20.03 @ 10:12p

It was hard enough for ME to find someone I thought I could spend 5 minutes with, much less the rest of my life.

I don't fix other people up, it's a big pond, you either fish or you don't.

robert melos
1.20.03 @ 10:37p

sounds to me like the attitude of someone who, for lack of a relationship, would rather sit vulture-like, waiting for others misfortunes and raising his martini glass in salute when they arrive. -- Russ Carr

*Nods head vigorously, and raises a glass as a new person enters the lounge area.*

Somehow, Russ, I always suspected you could read me like the cheap dime store paperback I am.

Truthfully, I am extremely cynical about marriage. I know if it were legal for me to get married I most likely wouldn't do. We're talking about sharing a level of trust, of which I don't think myself capable. I might overlook an innocent flirtation, or a missing few hours from a schedule every now and then, but in the back of my mind I think I would always be looking for proof my lack of faith in my fellow human beings is justified. I honestly do envy couples who can make it work, becuase deep in my heart I feel I will never be able to make it work. I don't like being all this cynical, all of the time, it just comes naturally. Sorta like that scorpion and frog story.

Don't get me wrong, I wish I could allow myself to believe in Prince Charming, but take away his title and he's just another guy formerly known as Prince.

adam kraemer
1.21.03 @ 10:36a

Tracey, you suggest volunteering as a way to meet people, because "common interests help to bridge a gap."

What if volunteering isn't one of my interests?

erik myers
1.21.03 @ 10:54a

I think she means volunteer to do something that you find interesting.

adam kraemer
1.21.03 @ 11:52a

I find it interesting to get paid.

erik myers
1.21.03 @ 12:01p

So they question is would you rather get paid or get laid?

matt morin
1.21.03 @ 12:03p

Technically, there's a way to combine the two. Adam Kraemer - Male Gigolo.

And now, having uttered those words, the Universe will end.

adam kraemer
1.21.03 @ 12:05p

Hey - in my defense, Rob Schneider didn't technically get laid in that movie, either. And I've never produced anything as rancid as The Animal.

erik myers
1.21.03 @ 12:07p

And now, having uttered those words, the Universe will end.

I think my visual imagination just went blind.

I'd be interested to know the average annual salary of a gigolo. I can't imagine it being a very lucrative career.

matt morin
1.21.03 @ 12:10p

I make about $195,000.

tracey kelley
1.21.03 @ 12:14p

Mock not, single boys. I met a wonderful man at 25. I married him at 28. After many stupid decisions, I loosened up, took some of my own advice, and 'voila! Just because Matt* and I met at a wedding doesn't mean we didn't have to put into practice some of the other things.

We were also 2 hours apart when we started dating. A single male friend of ours actually said last week, "Well, she's fun, and cute, and smart, but she's over an hour away. That's just too far." Lazy bastard. His loss.

He's 34.

On the contrary, not all married people want to set people up. That's a powder keg if ever there was one. Ironically, none of my single friends would be good mates for the others. So they know when they come to my house, or we go out, that it's all for fun. No set ups. Consequently they relax and act normal and have a good time.

mike julianelle
1.21.03 @ 12:54p

It's ridiculous how much attention columns on relationships get around here.

heather millen
1.21.03 @ 1:19p

You know what they say...Misery likes company.

mike julianelle
1.21.03 @ 1:32p

Isn't it really: Misery is the coolest thing since sliced bread?

heather millen
1.21.03 @ 1:37p

OR Mike Julianelle is the worst thing since misery.

Maybe you should be schooling the world in the way of relationships.

adam kraemer
1.21.03 @ 2:28p

We should build a factory.

yasameen sharif
1.21.03 @ 3:09p

Can I work at the factory? Maybe I can meet my dream guy there....and with luck he'll have some of the really positive and uplifting thoughts about relationships that the cynic, gigolo and misery-lover above have! (but only if I'm really, really lucky...)


michelle von euw
1.21.03 @ 4:12p

I like Tracey's idea, and I've seen it work: a friend of mine met her boyfriend while volunteering for a Senate race. I still think Matt had the coolest idea, detailed in his speed dating column.


heather millen
1.21.03 @ 4:22p

Yes, definately check out some of Matt's stuff. You may relate to his experiences, there's another dating article as well. When I first read this I thought... "Look! A female version of Matt!"

Believe it or not, just recently before his newfound cynicism and self-loathing, he was putting a lot of encouraged effort into dating.


tracey kelley
1.21.03 @ 4:43p

Oh no - let Yasameen retain her own identity. Don't compare her to Matt.

heather millen
1.21.03 @ 4:51p

My apologies. I merely meant subject matter.

Yasameen, I look forward to hearing more from you.

erik myers
1.21.03 @ 4:55p

Don't compare her to Matt.

Nobody should have to sustain that kind of abuse.

But seriously folks...

Doesn't always have to be volunteering, though. Just go do the stuff you like -- eventually you meet people that you like through doing it, right?

I've found that one of the best ways to meet people (just in general) is theater. I've never made so many connections so quickly as I did when I started doing theater in Boston when I moved in. I went from knowing nobody to knowing like 40 or 50 people in under a week. Great stuff.

tracey kelley
1.21.03 @ 5:13p

And it's a fun, diverse bunch of people, too. I've met a lot of folks through volunteering at the 3-day Arts Festival here, because there are parties, artist-greets and such - always a blast.

Some of Matt's* closest friends he met while playing in racquetball leagues, and most of my good DSM friends I met through writing clubs, business organizations and book clubs.

adam kraemer
1.21.03 @ 5:13p

I need to get back into a band. That's what I think.

matt morin
1.21.03 @ 7:24p

Isn't it really: Misery is the coolest thing since sliced bread?

Holy crap that was funny.

Yes, I spent a ton of time and energy this summer/fall trying to meet someone. Nothing worked. And now I am out of energy. That's why I've given up. It sure beats two or three dates a week that end up going nowhere. That was just depressing.

But if you haven't tried SpeedDating or Match.com, I'd suggest giving them a shot. They didn't work for me, but I know a lot of people they did work for.


heather millen
1.21.03 @ 8:07p

Has anyone seen the new television commercials for Match.com? I'm all for mass production of love and all, but the spots just suck.

matt morin
1.21.03 @ 8:18p

Yeah, that spot sucks. And I'm surprised. The agency here who did it is one of the best in the world.

robert melos
1.21.03 @ 10:18p

I need to get back into a band. That's what I think. -- Adam Kraemer

Yeah, just look at Vince Neil and tommy Lee. And if you manage to look skeevie enough, I hear Pamela Anderson will automatically show up on your doorstep.

But seriously folks... I don't buy that bit about musicians getting laid more than any other non-musically talented guys.

tracey kelley
1.22.03 @ 10:45a

I just got a call from a male friend of mine who is 35. He just proposed to his girlfriend, who is 38. It's the first marriage for both.

They used to date each other about 8 years ago, then she transferred to Denver while he was still in Iowa and they kind of fizzled. He moved to Denver 2 years ago while in a torrid relationship. He got rid of the psycho, got his head together and looked up his old girlfriend. She hadn't been dating for a bout a year.

They dated for about 10 months, then moved in together last fall, and now will get married this summer.

Love stories happen all the time. There's no expiration date.

sarah ficke
1.22.03 @ 11:01a

My dad got remarried a couple of years ago. It was his wife's first marriage and she was in her 40's. And I've got a 42 year old aunt who just started dating someone, so there is hope.

adam kraemer
1.22.03 @ 11:01a

That's so cool.

I need to write another relationship column.

sarah ficke
1.22.03 @ 11:03a

Adam on dating: "It's not all about breasts... women have legs too!"

steven goldman
1.29.03 @ 11:55a

Spring Street Personals (http://www.springstreetpersonals.com, which are tied into a lot of magazines, like The Onion, Salon, and Nerve) seem to have done wonders for a lot of New Yorkers I've met.

The one true "trick" to meeting folks (if there can be said to be one) is leave the house. Go to any kind of event other than a movie — concerts, clubs, coffeehouses, any other artsy nonsense — and be friendly and a bit fearless. Nothing keeps you single more than not being able to say something to the girl/guy smiling at you from across the subway car.


oliver james
2.17.06 @ 1:49p

So it's 2006. Three years later. What happened?


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