It was listening to Joan Price on the Sex Nerd Sandra podcast that I was introduced to the three lists idea. Joan suggested that when dating, a good way to go about it is to break down the things you are looking for in a partner/boyfriend into three categories: the Must-Haves column, the “it would be nice if” column, and the “if you’re asking” column.
These categories are fairly self-explanatory, but let me give a little guidance: the Must-Have column is a list of non-negotiables. These are things you require in a partner; needs of your own that have to be met. The “it would be nice if” column is something of a bonus round; they’re not requirements, but they are desirable, and are likely to pique your interest. The “if you’re asking” column is a little more difficult to define, but I took it to mean the things that I might not be looking for in particular, but would be a real plus. These are things I probably don’t have on my dating profile, but I’ll be excited to learn about new people.
Joan Price is the author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, and the editor of Ageless Erotica, a collection of erotica celebrating ‘the pleasures of “well seasoned” sex’. Although I am a good thirty-seven years shy of sixty, the idea of breaking down needs and desires in a partner appealed to both the list-maker in me, and the single girl. Furthermore, as I commented to Joan on twitter, it might be interesting to compare my current lists to the lists I may make in thirty years or so. And so, I filled in my categories:
Writing these lists, a few things occurred to me, which I thought I might share here. First of all, I compiled all three columns in about half an hour, which seems to me like a good start: I clearly know what I want. The list of Must-Haves was the quickest to write, and by the time I reached the ‘if you’re asking’ column I had to sit back for a moment and really think before I realised that – yes – meeting someone who knows how to sail, or even took an interest in it, would be a very pleasant bonus: generally speaking I’m not a particularly active person, but being on a boat transforms me, and it would be nice to share that.
A point which I really took a few moments to consider is non-monogamy. I do identify as non-monogamous, and so it would seem to naturally fit into the Must-Haves column. However, I am not necessarily closed to the idea of monogamy. If I met someone who fulfilled all my Must-Haves but was monogamous, I can imagine the possibility of an exclusive relationship; it’s not impossible that I might go back to monogamy with the right person. Conversely, I don’t want to negate the possibility of meeting someone who is monogamous by default but open to changing that.
The other point which I changed a couple of times is my number 1: must be over thirty. It started as over forty, and then I found myself thinking of my ex – ‘the Canadian’. He is in his early thirties and if it hadn’t been for the distance I think he and I could have been very happy together. I don’t meet many thirty-year-old men who are as directed and stable in their lives, but thinking of him reminded me that such men do exist. And by adding “Old enough to really be Daddy” to my “if you’re asking” column, the three lists together seemed to fill both necessity and desire.
I could easily write a paragraph on each of my thirty points, but that would take a few thousand words at least. Suffice to say the rest of my lists fell into place rather easily, and I think the result presents me well, as an individual, and also strikes a nice balance between sex, partnership, and interests.
Sitting back to look at my completed lists, I realised something; I have noticed, recently, that I haven’t been thinking about dating, or pursuing anyone with as much interest as I was a few months ago, and reading through my three columns, the reason for this lack of action when it comes to my love-life became clearer. Although I haven’t met the one man who can fulfill all my Must-Haves and hit a few of my ‘it would be nice if’s and a couple of the points under ‘if you’re asking’, between my various (casual) relationships, almost every one of my thirty points is fulfilled by someone. My Must-Haves are definitely all ticked; in fact almost everyone I am involved with hits all ten of those points on their own. As for the other lists, the only things I do not have are someone who lives alone in London, someone who knows how to sail, and someone who takes an interest in opera. (Oh, and I seem to be losing my fellow smokers, but I can live with that, and really, more power to them.)
The fact that I don’t have a primary partner but still feel this fulfilled is just one of the many reasons I love non-monogamy, and this division of needs got me thinking: my list of Must-Haves primarily reflects upon me, rather than my partners. My Must-Haves are things that I must have, not necessarily things each individual partner must have. For example, if I have one partner who takes a great interest in culture and art, I may not necessarily require that in another partner, because the first partner is already fulfilling that need. Likewise, I really don’t mind that one of my female partners may be smaller than me (in height and/or frame) because my male partners are all bigger than me. I still get to curl up and feel small with someone.
In fact, although I am unlikely to be attracted to someone who isn’t kinky, or who doesn’t take an active interest in the world, the only thing on any of my three lists that is absolutely essential in each and every person I am involved with is the ability to hold stimulating intellectual discussion and debate; and this is not something I have decided, it is something I know to be true about myself. This kind of conversation is how I relate to people, and how I form strong bonds. This is key to my interest and attraction, and actually, when I think about it, it does not only apply to romantic partnerships: it is also true with friends, and even family. I am not close to the members of my extended family with whom I cannot I have these kinds of discussions. My brother and I are close because we can; and the old school classmates with whom I am still in touch are those I can debate with.
This morning, whilst cleaning the kitchen, I was listening to Pedestrian Polyamory. The episode was a live recording of a panel at Atlanta Poly Weekend on Impermanence. During the panel someone commented that a relationship is a project; it is not something you are simply part of, it is something you actively do. It takes work and energy. Now, whilst I do have relationships in my life, they are – as I mentioned – casual; and one of the benefits of casual relationships is that they don’t require quite as much work or energy as primary relationships. I don’t have to strive to keep the flame alive, or work on intimacy, because these relationships are based upon friendship, sex, and a lack of commitment. But I digress. Hearing relationships referred to as ‘projects’ really struck a chord. When I think about my life I do break it down into projects: work, my degree, the (It Girl. Rag Doll) podcast, Bad Porn Club, my own blog, Life on the Swingset, my fiction, my family, etc. etc., these are all projects. And I adore them all. And whilst I may, on occasion, day-dream about having a strong central partnership, with one man, I actually don’t know if, right now, I have the time in my life, or the willingness to make time in my life, for one special person.
Overall, writing these three lists was a lot of fun; it focused me and made me think about what I really consider to be important. It also broke my desires down into easy categories, and I would recommend it to almost anyone who is dating, or seeking a partner/partners. But for me, what this exercise did, was make me realise just how lucky I am in my current situation; I am happy, I am sexually active, and my life feels balanced, and full of wonderful people I adore. And when I do go back to actively dating, and I make room in my life for another project, I’ll have three lists from which to build. Which, at the end of the day, can’t be a bad thing.