User Manual, Part A

I just finished “Eight Things I Wish I’d Known About Polyamory” and the author mentioned writing your own user manual to “showcase your self-awareness and communication skills.” Some of you who know me well might chuckle a bit knowing the organized, critical-thinking German in me would love this idea – and you would be correct!

They suggest writing it in three parts: Family background and history; How to turn me on emotionally; and How to turn me on. Each part includes a series of questions to think about and answer. I shall tackle these in three posts starting with the obvious.

Part A: Family background and history.

  • Do you have any brothers and sisters? How would you characterize your relationship with them?

Yes, I have an older sister, 8 years older than me, and an older brother, 6 years older than me. Both are married, each with two kids ranging in ages from 12-19. My sister still lives in NJ and my brother in DE. My sister is Catholic and my brother Evangelical. My sister’s family doesn’t really practice although she goes to church every week. My brother’s family is faith-focused with the kids going to religious school and heavy involvement in church and the church community.

My relationship with them is at a pretty surface level, and because I was so much younger than they were, it’s been that way my entire life. I fly home once a year for Christmas and talk/text with each of them every few weeks or so and it’s pretty much always about family logistics.

Since PhD and I broke up a year and a half ago though, I have gotten a little closer with them. My sister calls more regularly to talk about life, family and job stuff. My brother helped me with financial advice when I bought my house. Still surfacey-level, but it feels just a little deeper.

  • How would you characterize your childhood and its effect on you now?

I call myself the happy accident. My brother and sister were two years apart and then I came six years later. They grew up together. I grew up as an only child, in effect. I didn’t mind this at all really. I was daddy’s little girl and still love to be spoiled.

My parents divorced when I was 12. At that point they had two of three kids out of the house in college. I got fucked. My mom started dating, met a man and in three months they were engaged. He came to live with us when I was 15, and from then until I went to college I was a total and utter bitch to him. I do love him to death now, but at the wedding reception held at my mom’s house I spent the evening in my room crying.

My dad had a girlfriend by the time I was 13. I hated her at first too, but since my dad lived out of the house and she had her own house, I had time to get used to her. By the next year, I loved her. They didn’t marry for ten more years.

In school, I was a nerdy, shy, jock. I didn’t have a ton of friends, no boyfriends, more girl acquaintances with the exception of my former best friend who would throw me under the bus for the slightest whiff of popularity. We knew each other since we were babies and she lived a handful of doors down from me although our parents weren’t friends. We spent a lot of time hanging out and her family affected my upbringing as well.

Her dad worked and her mom stayed home. My friend was the oldest with two younger brothers. Her mom verbally and physically abused all of them and there were very strict rules about things in the house. For example, she grew to be a big girl with big ass tits like her mom. Her mom was always on a diet and therefore so was she. In order to avoid being caught eating between meals, you could never open a package or finish a package of anything.

I was very active growing up too. I started dancing when I was 4, sports at 9, and have kept myself in-shape my entire life. My physical appearance is important to me. I take pride in it.

My parents raised us Catholic for a period. My mom, who grew up in KY, met my dad one summer at the Jersey shore, and they married within a few months. Her family had a long history with alcoholism. She raised us Catholic hoping my Polish Catholic father would take an interest in church. It didn’t work out and neither did they so as their relationship began to fall apart, my mom went back to her church roots attending a baptist church. My brother and I were baptized out of Catholicism at ages 15 and 9, respectively, but my sister stayed Catholic.

I think my childhood taught me self-sufficiency. I can entertain myself. I have the determination to do things myself. I’m self-reliant. I’m fiercely independent. I don’t like authority. I question everything. I want evidence. I’m empathetic. I need attention and affirmation. I don’t like to be alone that often. I also tend to not be as verbally expressive. I have high expectations and can be judgmental and snotty. I think very highly of myself. I’m very critical of myself. I’m shy in social group situations. Alcohol is my drug of choice.

  • What is your family like? How would you characterize your relationship with them?

I have a blended family. My step-dad has two daughters – one married living in Germany with her husband and two sons, another divorced twice with no kids living in Jersey. My step-mom has two sons – one married living in Jersey with his wife, daughter and son, another unmarried living in Jersey with a schizophrenic diagnosis.

My brother-in-law’s family is also blended because his mom married three times. He has one blood sister who adopted a son and they together have a half-brother who is a recovered drug addict. There are many aunts, uncles and cousins on his side of the family that I still have not managed to keep straight. They met when I was 14 and married when I was 16.

My sister-in-law has a twin and their parents died young. Her twin has never been married so it’s a small family. They met at church and married when I was 25.

As I mentioned above, my relationship with my family is cordial but not deep. We all love and care about each other, but I’ve never felt I’ve showed them the real me and I’ve never felt they have showed me the real people they are. And although they all live close to each other, they don’t see each other but for holidays and birthdays throughout the year.

  • What word do you often use to describe yourself? Why?

The happy accident, the only child, the baby, the black sheep all come to mind. I think that really describes my childhood and relationship with my family as well as how I am as an adult.

Part of me never grew up because I didn’t have to so I’m silly and childish. Part of me is spoiled, snotty, attention-seeking/needy, and vain. Part of me feels grateful for my life and everything in it. Part of me also feels like if I wasn’t tall with a big nose that I would question whether I was mixed up at the hospital. My family is deeply uncurious about life. They did everything by the book – college, marriage, kids, house, work. That is completely uninteresting to me. I want to learn, explore, experience.

  • What word do others use to describe you? Do you think it’s accurate?

Hmm, I don’t really know. A new friend recently told me she had a hard time describing me to someone else. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing?? Maybe I’m unique?? I kinda think so, but that probably wouldn’t surprise anyone who has read this far in this post.

  • What are your key emotional issues a partner might bump into (anger, abuse, abandonment, name-calling, condescension)? Tell a story summarizing why they exist.

As much as I portray outwardly that I’m confident and independent, there are triggers that can turn that foundation to sand and I can quickly wash out into the ocean.

My mom says it’s because I’m sensitive and have a big heart, which I think is partly true. But I also think because I wasn’t reassured and affirmed as a child (owning to my family’s lack of emotional intelligence and communication), I can break at the smallest criticism. I spiral down quickly, become depressed, quiet, anti-social, and throw a pity party for myself. Usually being left alone to think, some wine, and getting a good night’s sleep refreshes my mind. I develop contingency plans or plans to fix the problem and put it into action. Sometimes talking with someone about the problem can help, but because I’m not good at verbalizing it is extremely difficult for me to reach out and ask for help.

Also the three past relationships I’ve had have all revolved around either me cheating or being cheated on or with some heavy focus on cheating. So I tend not to trust very easily or quickly. As I said before, I need evidence, and to me those aren’t words. That’s time and behavior that I watch silently like a hawk making mental notes. If you don’t follow through, I may give you one more chance, but if you disappoint again, I’ll cut you off and discard you like mold on cheese, and I’ll never look back. It’s a matter of survival and protection.

  • What do you value in a relationship? Tell a story summarizing your embracing of that value.

I value trust. If you tell me you will do something and don’t, I begin to lose trust and start backing away. Words are nice, but I want to see your actions back that up consistently. You need to manage expectations with me because my mind is a steel trap.

I value curiosity and exploration. Whether that is in the bedroom or out in the world, I want to do new things with you. I want you to teach me something new. I want to do fun, silly, childish things. I want to explore your mind. I want to learn something new from how you think and act and from what you’ve done with your life.

I value touch. Up until six months ago, I thought touch was silly and sappy. Now I’m a world-class cuddler and notice every gentle, unspoken touch you may give me – from the pat on the butt as you walk by to your knee touching mine as we sit next to each other at the bar to hands running all over me to a simple touch on the arm when you tell me a story.

I value self-actualization. Kind of a cheesy, self-help book word, but I remember learning about it in college. In Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization was at the pinnacle. After your basic and phycological needs were met, this was maximizing your existence – getting everything out of it, having no regrets, sucking the marrow out of life. I don’t care what people do for a living or the personal choices they make. I respect you if you are living up to your full potential. If you leave something on the table because of fear or letting other obstacles get in your way, my view of you is diminished. I maintain the same standard for myself and judge myself just as harshly. I don’t believe in regret and I don’t believe in right and wrong. You try, you learn.

Ok, on to Part B: How to turn me on emotionally…

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