Deal Breakers

Acorn is doing an internal survey about what we are looking for in new members. This came out of a discussion and brainstorm from a recent community meeting.  The survey is interesting if a bit incomplete.  But one of the final questions is what are “deal breakers” for you – people who you would not consider for membership, regardless of how wonderful they might be otherwise.  This is my (likely incomplete) list:

Serious drug addict/alcoholic: i don’t actually have that much experience with these states, but i can easily and “prejudicely” imagine that these types of self destructive tendencies could destroy the membership of even the most charming or talented prospective member.

We make an exception for the most dangerous drug of all - tobacco

We make an exception for the most dangerous drug of all – tobacco

Suicide attempt or mental breakdown in last 6 months.  Twin Oaks requires a year of recovery before we will consider someone usually, i could see circumstances in which this could be shorter, especially if giving some amazing person who had a bad run a “visit again” means we would forever lose them.   Part of the reason we (Acorn and Twin Oaks) are cautious about these types of things is that we don’t want people running to community to try to get their lives together.  If you have had some emotional or other shock that drove you to a breakdown or an attempt on your own life, we want you to have done significant work on that before you put yourself into an unusual environment like community.  

dont come running from your troubles - they will follow you

don’t come running from your troubles – they will follow you

Committed to a partner who does not want to be in community.   With some regularity couples come to community and one of them is really into it and the other is not.  There are plenty of legitimate reasons to not want to live in community, including lack of privacy, pushing whatever your buttons are,  limited access to money, limited access to travel, pervasive sharing, vehicles being grounded because other people don’t know how to drive in bad weather, and two dozen other excuses for living alone.

We don’t want to be in the business of breaking up families or couples.  If you don’t both legitimately want to live in community, don’t come and apply for membership hoping that the one who is not into it will change their mind.  They almost never do.

High impact pets.  Were i more concerned with my public image i would hide my dislike of high impact pets.  Acorn has some dogs that bark at almost everyone who comes to visit.  i wish they did not, it is not the welcoming message i want to be sending to people.  We are also completely terrible at training animals to behave in “more civilized” fashions.  The thought of adding to this problem at Acorn fills me with dread.  At Twin Oaks the dog list is so long no one would come thinking they could get their dog in. [Update Nov 2021 – this is no longer true, Twin Oaks recently accepted a new member who would not come without there dog relatively quickly, still lots of discussion and negotiation, but the culture has liberalized some]   I have yet to meet a high impact cat (other than their kill of local animals), but save me the horror stories, i am sure this is just my good luck.  And if you have a rhinoceros – well think bio-regionally.  Twin Oaks has very restrictive policies around dogs.  

Really, he does not eat much and is really good with little kids!

Really, he does not eat much and is quite good with little kids!

Intolerance.  We can deal with lots of different personality types, in fact this is one of the strengths of community.  But you have to start from a “live and let live” perspective.  I oft joke with visitors and guests that we are “intolerant of intolerance“.  And what is true is that if you are homophobic (sic), racist, sexist or classist it is almost certainly not going to work for you to live in one of my egalitarian communities.  We could fain tolerance and argue that your beliefs are not wrong, but you just won’t fit in to these communities if you hold these views.  Perhaps you should consider a survivalist community in Idaho.  

But i am completely comfortable arguing that your beliefs are just wrong.

intolerant of intolerance

The reason i was complaining above about the survey being incomplete is because the most important personal trait i look for a in a new member is missing from our list.  That is being pro-active.  But this is a good topic for another blog post.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

23 responses to “Deal Breakers”

  1. Chrystie says :

    This is such an interesting post! I recently visited three communities (as you know) and the one that seemed to struggle the hardest with whether I was right or not was the only one that accepted me. Maybe the two that gave me a visit again are unaccustomed to deep thinkers. Ah well … I’m very much a doer in my own way. 🙂

  2. santalorena says :

    Another excellent article. I agree about wanting people who are proactive. Even more, possibly, is to find people who have realistic expectations of what living in the community is like. So many of us think that we’ll come in and radically change all the things we don’t like about the place, and we then become highly frustrated at our lack of impact on even some of the smaller changes we propose. Granted, that’s probably easier at a smaller community like Acorn than it was at Twin Oaks.

    Now, my editing comments (just the ones that jumped out at me; I wasn’t really in my work mode):

    “…’visit again’ means we would forever loose them.”

    Should be “lose.”

    “Fain,” in this context, is spelled “feign.”

    Why is there a “(sic) after “homophobic”? It’s spelled correctly, and you wrote it.

    Other than the particulars, your logic and reasoning are excellent, as always.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Vermin:

      So it is clear to me that the solution to your editing concerns is to simply wait a few hours before you read my posts. Judy caught all your mistakes and corrected them before i approved your comment for posting. I am trying to get ahead so that she will have the articles before i go public with them, but i often go live without her help (in my effort to make a self imposed deadline). The reason why homophobia has a (sic) is that the word is in popular use, but it is the wrong word to describe the problem. It is not that the people who suffer from this are afraid of gays, the problem is that they are assholes.

      When i have a better word than homophobia, i will use it. i am open to suggestions. Thanks for your comments.

      i dont think i would reject someone for having unrealistic views about what they can change in the community, but i do think you are right that we dont educate prospective members well enough about the tenacity of our institutions, even when they are not serving us well.

  3. joanmazza says :

    I think a person’s emotional and interpersonal intelligence should rank high in the decision-making. I realize it takes a long time to get to know someone, which is the rationale behind the probationary period. Those who are snappy and highly critical are not good candidates for community, not even a community of two. People put their best foot forward, appearing sweet and cooperative before their darker aspects are revealed. Any history of restraining orders, threats, domestic violence, or the like should be investigated and be a deal-breaker. I come to these conclusions after experience, which is how you get wisdom, no?

    • santalorena says :

      Joan, I totally agree. I know of at least a couple of cases in which someone was sweet as pie during their visitor and provisional periods, then became sour and awful. And it’s *so* hard for the community to come to anywhere near a consensus, often even just to have a feedback. Pax and I (and others) know of at least one person who was on the verge of violent and generally just a threatening person, but I believe there was a fear in some people (and apathy on other people’s parts) to even call for a feedback. And every one of the feed-backs I went to were split equally down the middle (or more in support of the victim…I mean subject), and only trivial issues were addressed. I don’t believe a single person who attended any that I went to were remotely satisfied with the outcome.

  4. Courtney Elizabeth says :

    I am curious as to why “children” are not listed here…I attempted to join Twin Oaks years ago, and when I expressed that I intended to have a child, was told it would not be acceptable. Thoughts?

    • paxus says :

      Twin Oaks in the last couple of years has accepted two families (one is already there, the other is on the waiting list). It has also been the case that the community has been at its “kid cap” meaning we did not have more kid spaces, for quite a few years (including the time you applied it appears). Generally speaking kids are not a deal breaker, but they certainly make the membership process more complex.

  5. Keenan Dakota says :

    My take on this issue: Having kids is certainly the first deal breaker, since Twin Oaks has an upper limit on kids. Not working is the next most common deal-breaker in my opinion. Some visitors are escorted off the property after the first week if they don’t work. I think that sexist language and behavior is a common reason people don’t get accepted for membership. Being very socially outgoing or “needy” gets people rejected for membership. I think that attractive visitors who don’t respect relationship boundaries (or are seen as possibly not respecting relationship boundaries) sometimes aren’t accepted for membership.

  6. Alien says :

    Added this pro-active thing.

    I made the survey, but it was based on the list everyone made at a meeting.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Alien:

      Thanks for adding it, it was not a critique of your survey design, i know it was something we created quickly. But i will go back and edit my answers.

      Paxus in NYC
      9/11 plus a dozen

  7. David Jacob says :

    It’s a good list, but I do question the one about dogs and wanting to have them conform to “civilized” standards. I think it’s unfair.

    If they are eating chickens, biting people, or doing something else destructive then I can see the issue, but many dogs simply bark and they alert to people who are coming up. My dog for instance barks like crazy and then when people get out of the car, he is all waggles.

    I’m just challenging for more clarity around dealbreakers in community and personal preferences and biases. It’s something to figure out collectively…

    And regarding cats, they are cute and I love them but if we’re talking about high-impact:

    “Predation by domestic cats is the number-one direct, human-caused threat to birds in the United States and Canada. In the United States alone, outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year. Although this number may seem unbelievable, it represents the combined impact of tens of millions of outdoor cats.”,of%20millions%20of%20outdoor%20cats.


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