21 Things

Do you know the Alanis Morissette song "21 Things I Want in a Lover"? In the song she lists 21 things she wants, "not necessarily needs but qualities that I prefer."

I don't take lovers, but every friendship is a partnership that's important, and I too have a list of qualities that I prefer (even if I don't look for partners in the traditional sense). Here they are!

21 Things SwankiVY Wants in a Close-Relationship-Of-any-Kind:
("not necessarily needs but qualities that I prefer")

  1. She is honest. With others and with herself. This is very very important. She can't feed me lines because she thinks I'll like her better if she pretends to have an opinion she doesn't have, and she can't hide things from me that I need to know. And besides being honest, she deliberately includes me; she opens up and tells me what she wants me to know. She never sits back and expects me to root out the truth, or considers it a sign that I don't care enough if I don't try or don't get it right; conversely, she WANTS me to know the truth and is all too happy to give it to me.

  2. He is not manipulative. He does NOT play mind games. I mean it. This is on the "not necessarily needs" list and all but I think this might as well be a must. He does not tell me one thing is wrong when it's really something else, because he knows I'm asking because I really want to know. He does not attempt to bait me into asking the "right" question or do the "right" thing before he lets me in; he doesn't expect me to pass tests. He is an open book and I can trust him to never try to use my emotions against me or elicit me to feel something for his own purposes.

  3. They share a huge number of my interests in entertainment--enough to catch most of my references, and delight in that--and they match my taste well enough that they know which of their interests that I *don't* share will appeal to me. They recommend them to me without restraint and engage in enjoying them with me, and they let me do the same. That said, if I had to choose, I would much rather have them be well read than well versed in my favorite TV, movies, or music. I think music comes in second and visual entertainment third, with a few exceptions.

  4. She is generous enough to spend her time and money on me without thinking I "owe" her, and doesn't keep score beyond what's reasonable, but not to the point that she hurts herself. She knows where to stop short of making me uncomfortable with her giving, and knows when it's okay to ask of me and take of me in a similar fashion.

  5. She loves herself. I certainly have friends who struggle with this, and I'm not blaming others for depression or self-hate, but when I meet someone whose lack of self-love transforms into a need for me to provide that love, I'll always be worried they'll take too much. The people I get along with best are people who do not need me to motivate them toward loving themselves, and are ready to make our life together better without being bad off in the first place. She does not need rescue. Her default state, barring disasters, is a basic contentment with life because she's done what she needs to do to make it her own and she is satisfied with who she is while still accepting that she can always be more. I also have trouble getting close with people who have that "I can finally be happy when I get/achieve/find/do [fill in the blank]" syndrome. I want her to work toward those goals, but I don't want her to spend her life wildly dissatisfied until such time as she achieves them. I've found that such people often get what they want and find they still aren't happy.

  6. I never run out of things to talk about with hir. I want to talk and talk and everything zie says makes me think of ten more things I want to say, and hir stories and philosophies and anecdotes and opinions truly keep me interested. Hopefully we don't ever fall out of touch long enough for this next thing to happen, but if we don't talk for a long time, we naturally pick back up where we left off.

  7. Ideally, he can sing or play an instrument. If not this, he at least enjoys listening to the music that inspires me, and really appreciates it, seeks it out and listens to it authentically without making me feel like he's humoring me. There is nothing like finding someone to sing with, especially if he can handle singing in harmony.

  8. He's willing to read my writing. Again, not to humor me. I want him to be eager to explore my worlds, because they are me. I want him smitten with my characters, and I want his opinions on my work without having to reel them out of him like I'm on a fishing boat.

  9. Ze has at least one creative talent that I delight in experiencing. And ze is passionate about it and driven, sometimes to the point that others think it's a little overboard. An artistic personality is very attractive to me--and not just in a wishy-washy, "someday I'll write a book" way. Ze is driven enough to have actually done it--and it's not the accomplishment I'm interested in; it's that the drive was strong enough to have written at least the beginning of that book, recorded a version of that song, painted a first draft of that picture, begun that weird project.

  10. He is a producer much more than he is a consumer. This goes hand in hand with the above, but this refers to attitude, not practice. This means that he should be rarely bored--almost never "just looking for something to do" and thus content to stare at a screen watching a movie he's seen a billion times but isn't particularly into--someone who regularly finds himself "killing time" does not have this attitude. HIS attitude is one of, "Wow, I can't wait to get home from work and DO THIS!" He spends much more time creating, producing, than he does just trying to find something to entertain himself until it's time to do something else he's required to do. Please do understand that this is the furthest thing from condemning TV-watching, movie-watching, book-reading, or consumption of entertainment in general; I just find I click better with people who also enjoy being part of their own entertainment. He turns on the TV to watch something specific he's interested in, not just for something to do because his brain is only half on (and he turns the TV off when the program's over instead of just sitting around in passive entertainment mode constantly). He plays video games because he enjoys the quest and considers it his form of being social, or he reads a book because he just can't wait to find out what happens. And then when he's done he's got food for thought. And he uses it to fertilize the soil in his mind to plant some creativity seeds. This is really important.

  11. She is curious and enthusiastic. It might even be better for me if she has more knowledge about the world than I do, because I'll never fall into feeling like I'm waiting for her to catch up when I want to talk about something I've discovered. She should never be willfully ignorant about important topics; I will always be far more attracted to someone who is interested in learning more than someone who believes "intelligence" means they already know everything.

  12. He is not indoctrinated into anything dangerous or demonstrably hateful or false. I can't have a good relationship with people if I'm always feeling like I have to humor them in one area of life where they're being intellectually dishonest. He doesn't trick himself and he doesn't unquestioningly follow a political, religious, or social dogma to the exclusion of logic.

  13. She never expresses to me that she thinks we could be "closer" if I wasn't asexual, as if it is a disappointment and a barrier in our relationship. My sexual orientation shouldn't have anything to do with it, and that's hard to find in any friend who's sexually attracted to women but it's possible (and I have plenty, thank you). She does not have to pretend my asexuality does not exist and act as though it must be tiptoed around, but she must not think its existence gets in our way. She must not demote our friendship to lower or less-important status than "a real relationship" by putting "just" in front of "friends."

  14. He continues to find me interesting even after we know each other well. The best friends I've had are people I've known more than a decade who are still fascinated by who I am and what I do--I don't stop being interesting to them, and they don't ever feel like they've read/experienced/heard/learned everything there is to know about me. And I have to say that it's very important that the fascination never goes as far as to make me feel cross-examined or "revered" enough to be put on a pedestal (which necessarily increases the distance, and increases the feeling that there is a clearly defined status of lover vs. loved). It should go without saying that I'd like this to be mutual.

  15. He cares about social, political, and environmental issues that I care about, AND DEMONSTRATES THAT CARE. You can't say you care about the environment and then do things that are destructive to it through laziness or carelessness. Caring means you care and you do something about it. He doesn't have to be obsessed with it, but when something pisses him off enough he should be driven to write a letter and send it, donate to the cause, or attend the meeting or rally. He practices what he preaches. And furthermore, he is not racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or otherwise prejudiced, but that should be obvious. Every person should be regarded as an individual who deserves respect, and that should be reflected in his speech and attitude, not just in who he chooses to hire.

  16. She doesn't keep secrets from me. I'm not talking about birthday presents or secrets other people have trusted her not to tell. I'm talking about those secrets she fears will "make me not like her" which she withholds until we've become close enough that it's terrible she hasn't told me yet. In fact, she confides in me things she's never told anyone else because we just have that comfort level.

  17. She doesn't try to change me except in ways I have expressed that I want to change. I can't stand being nagged by people I care about--people who roll their eyes and claim that I just need to get over it and start liking their dog, or drop frequent hints that I really should check out their church. She respects who I am and never makes cutting remarks to try to shame me into being what she wants.

  18. They are polite. And this means they are considerate of other people's wishes and puts them before their own comfort. If they smoke and they're around people who don't like it, I would expect their attitude to be more like "Okay, I'll go outside and smoke so it doesn't bug you" rather than "Well fuck them, they can get the hell over it." They keeps their mouth shut when chewing and attempt not to swear around little fuckin' kids. (And if they do do something I think is uncool, they don't take it like a vicious personal attack if I suggest a change of behavior.) But . . . that said . . . they do choose their battles. They know when tackling an issue is more important than being thought polite, like drawing the line so they don't feel compelled to correct someone's grammar in speech but hey DO break in and point out people's ignorance if they're spouting racism or something. I don't expect them to tolerate things that shouldn't be tolerated out of politeness. I just want them to have some self-restraint and some consideration; I should never be embarrassed to be sitting with them or annoyed by something they just won't stop doing despite what I've asked of them.

  19. She is childlike. She has somehow retained that special kid-wonder in spite of years of adulthood weighing on her shoulders. She remains dazzled by the world. She is not "immature." She is mature but childlike. There is a difference. She will never make fun of me for wanting to eat the cookie dough; she will never refuse to do something because "it's for kids"; she still watches cartoons and makes forts out of couch cushions. She hasn't turned into a robot and she knows how to have fun. And she probably still thinks poop is funny.

  20. He is not needy. I want him to be important to me and I want to be important to him. But I don't want him to depend on me for entertainment/love/validation/life's frigging meaning. I am not "the answer" for him, and he also doesn't need my attention all the time to feel like I love him. He was okay before I came along and he's okay when I'm not around, and this goes hand in hand with him not being possessive or jealous. If he is confrontational, sulky, or demanding about wresting MY TIME from ME, then he will be receiving less of it. Our relationship enhances the quality of both of our lives, but my presence and attention are not absolutely essential to his well-being. He must be his own person. He can miss me when I'm gone, but he shouldn't spend an inordinate amount of time sulking about it. He knows he can call me or e-mail me or otherwise contact me when he could really use a shot of vitamin SwankiVY and he can COUNT ON me but I do not want him DEPENDING ON me.

  21. I recognized something special about him either on sight or the first time we had a conversation, and kept thinking about him after our first interaction was over, thinking, "There's something special about that one." And I find out later he felt the same about me. Somehow we recognized each other's kindred spirits and recognized that we were cut from the same cloth.
Maybe some of you who read this can make your own 21 Things lists. I'd love to see them. It can really be a beautiful thing when you are each other's 21.

Any comments left here are PUBLIC. If you are not comfortable with that, mail me directly.

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Comments from others:

Denise Perez: I love this list ! This is very close to the "list" that is in my head.

I especially liked the comments about jealousy. My partner Rose and I do not have a jealous bone in our bodies and we have cultivated many friendships with others over 24 years of living together - never doubted for a second each other's faithfulness.

Continue the good work!

Ixnay: But yea I can certainly grok the don't follow me around like a puppy bit. If I want to draw or paint and I want to go off for three days and draw and eat nothing except rice crackers, then DEAL! I does not mean I don's still love you!! It just means I need my space some times...

Synesthesia: For some odd reason, I seem to want a man, but I would not mind a woman as long as she is NOT LIKE MY MOTHER and as long as she's not mean...

So here is my list where I will mostly use he because I seem to want a dude

1. Must be kind and compassionate. No assholes. No badboys. I don't like them! A guy can look like Kaoru of Dir en grey who is the sexiest man in the world
and Johnny Depp rolled up with Denzel, dude who plays Morgan on Criminal Minds and Reid but if he's a jerk who will disrespect me, I don't need that!
2. He must not be abusive and controlling. He must respect my boundaries.
3. Someone who will build up my trust for them. It's hard for me to trust people because they frighten me and I have the mentality of an alley cat at times, jumping at the slightest noise. He must be patient with me. I'm not a difficult person, though I am messy, disorganized and I have a tendency to bring things that belong outside inside, including various critters, but I am super mega shy.
4. Must have a passion, even if it's something I don't care about. People with passions are attractive. There's something sexy about caring about things. No cynical bitter life sucks people for me.
5. Must be kind to children and animals.
6. Must have a respect for music
7. A respect for good stories.
8.He must also respect the fact that I badly want to write.
9.He must be able to appreciate the beauty of things
10. Not politically obnoxious,but it's a shame to rule out a person because they are a Republican or a Libertarian and I'm a liberal Democrat.
11. Same with religion, I'm a heathen semi-agnostic pagan. There's no way I could deal with someone being a the sort of person who will bother me about those things. I don't want a strict religion. I disagree with many of them especially when they have stupid rules that annoy me. There would be conflict involved when it came to having kids like I'm against circumcision, but if I had a guy who was part of a religion that required it, we'd fight about it. So I'd want a heathen like me, but I can't rule out a guy for having a religion I don't agree with. But it would create soooooooooooo much conflict. Especially since he'd want to raise the kids some religion and I'd say, no, they must be able to choose. He'd probably find my shapeshifter bisexualitiness and general meness to be squicky anyway. Guys like that would run from me and that is good.
I definitely do NOT want the sort of quiver-full dude who will tell me that as a woman I must obey him. NO WAY! NO! ARG!
12. Dude must be able to deal with my somewhat autistic tendencies and not force me to go to weddings of people I don't know and try to stop me from stimming which I do when I'm happy or frustrated.
13. Must be sexually compatible and not make fun of the fact that I'm still frolicking with the unicorns. (And obvious metaphor)I refuse to have sex with some random person either, because what's it to them if I'm still a virgin? Casual sex is repellent to me. I'm not going to do that with someone unless I love and trust them and that's all there is to that. The concept of losing ones virginity just to lose it is an anathema to me.
Bonuses, stuff that isn't essential, but would be nice.
14. Interesting tattoos. I don't know why I love them, but I do, they fascinate me.
Beautiful unique ones are what I love best.
15. Again, good looks are not necessary or important, but nice eyes are always lovely.Eyes that are intelligent and insightful.
16. Likes to clean. I'm half joking with this, but I HATE CLEANING! So much. I need some sort of brain scan to make cleaning as fun as sitting around reading.
17.Intelligent, loves to read. But not intelligent in an obnoxious I'm so smart I don't need to learn anything else way, but someone who is really curious about the world and things in it.

I can't think of more right now. A fellow or a girl doesn't have to have my same taste in books, movies or music.It would be nice to have someone to introduce all sorts of things to who will introduce stuff to me. I want a relationship built on love, trust and respect. No relationship will ever be perfect, because they just don't work that way, but it would be good to have someone who I can discuss things openly with, who won't be passive aggressive. Who won't purposely hurt my feelings. Who won't make me regret giving up being single because I like being single and I don't think women should feel like they HAVE to have a mate, especially if he's male. It's not a healthy attitude about relationships at all. It makes for terrible marriages too. I won't go running around like my hair is on fire thinking I have to have someone because I'm in my 30s because people have to love themselves and respect themselves rather than grab anything with a penis to mate with out of desperation
and not love.
This went long!

Dwayne Robinson: Thanks for these thoughts - I'll integrate them into my terser list of top 10 things. Particularly liked your perspective on the common interests (as I'm currently wondering how crucial they are), that he have enough common ones that those you don't share will likely appeal too. [wandered in from an OKC search for David Lanz all the way from Redmond, WA, /piken]

Quid Malmborg in Plano: "Ze?"

Ha ha ha, that's very funny. Why not eschew all gender pronouns and just use "they?"
That way you could refrain from embarrassing yourself with bogus words like "ze" and "hir."

swankivy: Wow, that's shitty. It's not up to me what some people want to use as pronouns, and I personally like the invented pronouns more than singular "they," but if someone wants me to use "they" I'm happy to do it. It's really nasty and pointless to claim the pronouns people actually use are "bogus" or hilarious to you. Words are invented when people who need them believe the existing words aren't covering what they want to say. If you believe a word isn't real until someone puts it in the dictionary, you don't actually understand how language works. It's not like all the other words in existence were magically handed down by a word god; they evolved, like these pronouns did/are doing.

Really frigging gross of you to wander onto my essay and imply that I am "embarrassing" myself by being willing to accept and use their preferred pronouns. Ugh. YOU should be embarrassed, but I know you won't be.

Quid Malmborg in Plano:"Ze" and "hir" are examples of sub-cultural cant. My thesis of using the gender-neutral pronoun "they" stands firm and unchallenged.

Why should I be embarrassed when I'm correct? You may wish to follow rules; that's your choice. Integrity needs no rules, as Albert Camus once wrote. Again, your choice. HTH

swankivy: Oops, I guess things that are "sub-cultural" should be mocked and the people who use them should be disrespected and shamed. That's what I'm saying you should be embarrassed about, by the way, not about whatever opinions you have on what the best gender-neutral pronoun is. "Why should I be embarrassed when I'm correct?" is hilarious. I'm saying you're basically being an ass because your prescriptivist crap doesn't reflect how language evolves (nor is it a good excuse for mocking people who have their reasons for preferring these pronouns). There are plenty of ways to talk about this subject without braiding value judgments into your argument, and implying that I'm not following rules and therefore lack integrity because I value people over politics only speaks to your own pointless rigidity, not to any logical failures on my part.

Brandon: This is lovely. Keen.

e-flow: On the one hand, this is a sweet and thoughtful cumulative picture of what love could be, should be, can be.
On the other hand, it's an ego-trap moral hazard for me -- because I find myself navigating each paragraph like:
"Yeah, that's me. Okay, that me too! Me! Me! Not so much me, but I can fake. Okay, there's me again! God in Heaven, I'm a perfect 21!!!"
Would I lose points for that reading?

Here are some connections: