Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | May 10, 2010

21 Things

Several of the blogs I follow (particularly many of the bloggy friends I’ve made) have posted lists of what they are looking for in a special someone. There’s the list of “non-negotiables”, the “Love List”, the “Perfect Man”, and so on.

In reading these lists, I’ve often been reminded of the song “21 Things I Want in a Lover” by Alanis Morissette, from her album Under Rug Swept — an amazing album, by the way, which I highly recommend. In the song, she poses a series of questions (I haven’t counted to see if it’s actually 21) as if she were posting a Want Ad for her ideal mate, with the refrain:

These are 21 things that I want in a lover
Not necessarily needs, but qualities that I prefer
I figure I can describe it since I have a choice in the matter
These are 21 things I choose to choose in a lover

–Alanis Morrisette

When Alanis poses her questions, though, it’s quickly obvious that many of the items are want-to-haves, but some of them are must-haves.

It seems to me that for many of us, many of the “non-negotiables” don’t even need to be stated — they are non-starters. Do you kick puppies? Do you make fun of the handicapped? I can’t imagine spending any amount of time with someone who does, let alone find myself attracted to them.

Other non-negotiables are more tricky: they are non-negotiable because we’ve learned through painful experience that we can fall in love with someone who has that trait, and the results have been bad for us. Dating a manic-depressive trapeze artist, for example.

Sometimes, I get the impression that the purpose of the exercise is an act of self reinforcement. “Memo to myself: never again date a Hollywood agent, no matter how many times they say we should do lunch.”

But I realize that sometimes, making that list is less about creating a set of demands or reminders so much as putting yourself and the Universe on notice: you’re ready for a good, healthy relationship now.

I did this, once. I told the universe (and, obviously, myself) that I was ready. I made a short list of traits I was looking for. Very soon thereafter, Penny and I had our big walking date in downtown [City], and the rest followed from there. Penny matched my list exactly. Turns out, of course, I left something off the list that was kind of important. Well, now I know better.

And the things that were on my list that she matched? I think, in some cases, I may have asked for the wrong things. For example… a previous Long Term Relationship had been much more aggressive than I, sexually, which led to an imbalance I simply wasn’t prepared to handle. So I had asked for someone… less aggressive. Perhaps I should have been more specific: I’d like someone with whom I am sexually compatible (as opposed to what I got: someone who is sexually comatose).

Many of the lists I’ve read include general physical traits. I’ve noticed, however, that the physical attractiveness of a woman is definitely enhanced on the basis of how compatible we are mentally, emotionally, intellectually, and sexually. I’ve always been partial to red-heads, but I’ve never had a relationship with any. Penny, Natalie, and the LTR I have not yet named here… all were (are) cute and sexy by any objective standard (like there could be one!), but were even more so because of everything else going on with them. Caring and kind is sexy. Intellectually stimulating is hot. I’ve always been intrigued by taller women, but have never developed a serious relationship with one. I love longer hair (the better to run my fingers through!), but one of my dearest former paramours kept her hair short. Ah, Natalie.

I haven’t made a (new) list of my own, yet. Not even in my head. Should I?

Dare I?


[PS: I’m pretty sure Alanis married — and divorced — after this song was released. Hmmm.]



  1. While you know I have written my own versions of the love list and other deal-breaker type lists, I think all of that comes with dating…at least for me it has. I’ve shifted and adjusted what I am looking for based on my experiences. Some things that I thought would be deal-breakers aren’t and some things that I didn’t think I’d feel were that important, are. Not sure if that helps though πŸ˜‰

  2. I think the important part of the list is that it contains *qualities* of a person and not just traits. That way you know you are looking for the right thing (note: I did this too and my LT boyfriend – soon to be fiancee – walked in about 6 months later, matching to the T). While certain superficial things are obviously important (looks, height, weight, salary, level of education), I think our lists are going to direct us in the right way if they have the non-negotiables that are less obvious: Trustworthy. Sensitive. Emotionally available. Looking for a relationship. Introspective. Respectful. Funny. Spiritual. Sexually open. Confident. Outgoing. Adventurous. Committed. Whatever it is that will *actually* make your relationship function better the next time around – while the others may make for a great first or second date, your list has to have the stuff that will help you through tough times in 10 years from now. That’s a bit tougher but will make it so much easier to recognize her when you see her!

  3. Yes, guilty as charged. I, too, have made a list.

    I think I did it just as a reminder to myself of the lessons I’ve learned, just as you mentioned. And yes, it is definitely a signal to the universe that you’re ready for someone, isn’t it?

    Even still, I find that in every relationship, I’m continually learning and honing what I’d prefer. Sometimes, I wonder if we really have much say in who we actually fall for.

    Live, love and learn.

  4. see, i had a list once. my man matches everything on it. problem is, i don’t think it’s my list anymore. not that any of what i deal with is my man’s FAULT, per se. i just think it’s dangerous to hitch your wagon to someone based on a list. i’m learning that now.

    but lists are so damn seductive…

  5. I keep thinking I should post out my list to but I haven’t made it there yet. Miss you friend.

  6. I cannot comment intelligently on the merits of a love list.

    So, I will stick to what I know as fact:
    To date, Alanis has been engaged, (to Ryan Reynolds) but has never been married.

  7. If you had asked me a year and a half ago to list my “21 things”, only some of the traits would have corresponded with CBG. I mean, there are some big things on which he “meets the requirement”, but some of the lifestyle choices and little things, he would fail miserably on. While it’s good to know what you want (and to put it out there to the Universe) it’s good to remain flexible….except on things like kicking puppies. πŸ˜‰

  8. Lists are good. Lists are good in the sense that they give us focus and help us figure out what we want. Goodness knows that I made mine. Luckily, it worked out. And the areas where we have issues, we are working through. I can’t wait to hear more about your list. And I’m hoping to see it…

    Loved Skyping with you the other night. Hope you didn’t mind HIM kind of joining in. He thinks you’re funny.

  9. I don’t have a list. I do know some things that I consider red flags, but no look list or anything. It is all about chemistry for me.

  10. It works best if they want you or want to be with you, and and you want to be with them. The list then becomes a recipe or a menu of “favorite” ingredients which you can always change.

    It is very common to try to overcompensate with our current mate that which we lacked or had in overabundance in previous relationships. My gf before marriage was an intellectual the lady I married was not for example (but met all other physical attributes except being tall)….Lets just say I’ve learned much since the divorce.

    …too bad Penny can’t amp up her sex drive, since she clearly met all other requirements.

    In general If she wants you she’ll sing for you (as would you!)


  11. Oh, I remember that song well.
    I remember thinking how nice it would be if the couple really did reunite over Pina Coladas.
    So it’s settled; I am a hopeless romantic. (Isn’t It Ironic?)

    • Isn’t it Ironic is one of my favorite songs and witty lyrics. Reminds me of years immediately after graduate school.

  12. I’ve made lists before. I may have said this before, but let me reiterate: I am no expert. But, I actually don’t think lists are helpful. I think they pigeon-hole too much our ideals and don’t leave enough room for chance.

    And, as you stated, you have revised your list based on current and past relationships: that I think is the key. Being able to revise.

    So, maybe instead of creating the ideal list, the goal is to create the ideal communication system. Being able to feel safe with whomever our partners are so that we can revise our lists together. Know what I mean?

  13. Lol, “sexually comatose”. Make the list. It can’t hurt, can it?

  14. You’ve all given me so much to think about and respond to. Hmmm. I may have to make a special post of it!

    And yes, thanks for correcting me on the Alanis marital mistake I made. D’oh.

  15. I never understood those lists, especially the ones that had physical traits. I figured if you were ruling people out because of something physical, you weren’t serious about finding someone real. But I guess we all have our own lists bouncing around in our head. No smokers, Nazi sympathizers, or Raiders fans need apply.

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