The User Manual Project (Or: Care and Feeding of Your Jess)

Something a little bit different today! I got this idea from an older episode of Poly Weekly, and know lots of people who have done it since. I think it’s just brilliant. Everyone, I think, should come with their own user manual: a guide on how to connect with them, how to treat them, and what they’re like as a person. Whether it’s written down or just stored in their head ready to share with people as necessary. So here it is; it’s something I’ve been working on for months, on and off, and is still very much a work in progress, but I present to you… the User Manual for the Jess!


Need-To-Knows: Things I Identify As

Woman: I’m cis (born) female, and identify strongly as such.

Bisexual: I like both men and women, in different ways, for different reasons.

Queer: Because my sexuality is more complicated than just the above.

Polyamorous: Happiest in loving, committed relationships with more than one person at a time.

Sapiosexual: Attracted to intelligence, passion, and people’s minds.

Demisexual: Likely to feel sexual attraction only in the context of a strong emotional bond.

Feminist: I believe that things are not yet equal for women in our society, and I strive to fight to change this.

(Bloody hell, that’s a lot of labels. I am also significantly more nuanced, interesting and complex than any list of identities can hope to show.)

Need-To-Know: Things I’m Passionate About

My special people. My loves and friends mean the whole world to me.

Writing. The one love in my life I know will never leave me.

My education. My ambition is to have a PhD before I turn 30.


LGBT and women’s issues.

Need-To-Knows: My Past

I was bullied a lot at school – vicious, deliberate hate-campaign constantly for twelve years kind of “a lot” – and as such my self esteem was shattered for a long time. I’m rebuilding it slowly and am much better than I used to be, but I think self-loathing might be something I’ll always struggle with. Know that if I go through a phase of being really horrible to myself, it’s how I genuinely feel and I’m not doing it for attention.

I had Bad Scary Abusive relationships as a teenager and young adult, most notably one that was emotionally and sexually abusive for about five and a half of the six years it lasted. I am slower to trust these days, but still like to think the best of people – be trustworthy and treat me well, and you will win my faith easily enough. The biggest effects these experiences left me with are a nervousness around sex – I need to take things slowly with a new person – and deep-rooted fear of being left suddenly, after years of being threatened with just that to keep me in line.

I suffer from mental health issues, specifically depression and SAD. I’m on excellent medication, but managing this is still a part of my day-to-day life.

I’m a recovering cutter. Right now I’m on eight months since I last harmed myself. I have never, and will never, A) do it in front of anyone, B) blame anyone else for it. I also understand and would like to know if talking about this with you is a boundary for you.

How To Connect With Me Emotionally

Contact me regularly. In serious relationships, I like some contact almost every day (unless pre-arranged otherwise,) even if it’s just a quick text to say ‘thinking of you.’

Be passionate – I don’t care much what about. I love people who love life, who have something they feel really strongly about. Tell me your passions, and ask me about mine.

Have a sense of adventure. I’m an adventurer – I love travel, seeing and experiencing new things, exploring new places, trying new hobbies, foods or whatever. Take a random adventure with me, plan and take a trip with me, share your stories of places you’ve been or things you’ve done or things you want to do, and I’ll happily engage with you for hours.

Show me that you love me for me, not just my body. Yes, I am a normatively attractive, blonde 22-year-old woman, but there is a lot more to me than that. Too many times, I’ve got involved with people who didn’t see me as anything beyond “hot.”

Be willing to apologise and admit when you’re wrong. Listen, accept my apology and be able to forgive me when I am wrong.

Be there for me when I’m hurting. You don’t have to fix it. Sometimes a cuddle, a cup of tea and a chat, making me laugh to take my mind off it is more than enough. Equally, let me be there for you when you’re hurting.

Let me meet any existing partners of yours – bonus points if they reach out to me themselves! Likewise, introduce me to your friends/family. Let me be a full part of your life.

Stay up talking with me late into the night. Share your stories and your secrets, listen to mine and keep them safe.

Make me laugh. Be silly with me. I treasure private jokes and those times I laugh until I can hardly breathe.


I am completely, utterly and totally flirt-blind. So please feel free to say “Jess, I am flirting with you right now.”

Don’t expect flirting to necessarily lead to anything else. I sometimes flirt just for the joys of it. Bonus points if you clarify your wants/intentions, super-bonus points if you ask me mine.

Pay me a genuine compliment; if you think I’m pretty, like what I’m wearing, find me interesting, like my writing, or really agreed with that thing I said in that workshop…. tell me!

Physical affection and touch is lovely. Hugs, cuddles, kisses, gentle stroking/caressing, massage, arm around, hand holding…. all of these are absolutely lovely if I like you! (I’ll also cuddle and be affectionate with people I like but am not necessarily sexually attracted to.) If at all unsure if I’d welcome anything, please ask first. If I’m amenable, I’ll respond enthusiastically, if not I’ll politely say no, but still be flattered that you asked – you will never offend me by asking.

For the right person, playing with my hair will turn me into a big happy melted puddle

Options for Jess-friendly dates: lunch, brunch or dinner, a nice café or coffee shop,  drinks in a quiet bar/pub, a munch or LGBT/bi/poly social, Pride, gay-bar-ing, theatre, museum, local tourist spot or place of interest, hang out at my place or invite me to hang out at yours,  taking a walk somewhere pretty, show me around your town or city.

Let’s Talk About Sex

I’m not going to list my particular sexual interests, kinks etc. here. (Sorry if that disappoints you! You’ll find these out as we get to know each other, if it seems like we might end up playing together.)

Basically, I’ll do certain types of sex with people I like a LOT, other types only with people I’m in love with. Please do not be a super jerk and tell me you love me if you don’t, just because you think it’ll get you laid. This will break my heart, reinforce my insecurity that my greatest worth is my body, and mean there is absolutely zero chance of me coming near you ever again.

[Male-bodied people in particular] Show me that you know sex isn’t all about intercourse! It can be wonderful, yes, but there is a whole world of sexual possibilities out there, of which intercourse is only one part.

I take things s-l-o-w-l-y in the sex department. Unfortunately, this has cost me a few partners and potential partners. If you want to win my heart, you need to let me know you’re okay with this and then back it up with your actions.

Safe-sex is absolutely non negotiable. I expect you to be getting tested regularly, be honest with me about your safe sex practices and how many people you’re involved with, and condoms for intercourse go without saying. Trying, or seriously suggesting, unsafe sex with me – even once – will guarantee I will never play with you again.

Things NOT To Do (Emotionally)

Ignore me, give me the silent treatment.

Hold my past mistakes against me when we’ve supposedly moved on from whatever it was.

Walk out on me. (Ditto hanging up on me.)

Treat me like the dirty little secret. I get that not EVERYONE in our lives necessarily needs to know if we’re sleeping with each other, but forcing me to hide or pretend not to be your partner tells me that you’re ashamed of me… even if you’re not, it’s a horrible thing for me and is fast becoming a harder boundary.

Make any reference, ever, to the people who bullied or abused me being right, or me deserving it. I am a little amazed this needs saying, but past experience suggests that it does. This is an instant deal-breaker.

Things NOT To Do (Physically)

Tickle me. EVER.

Touch my wrists or my neck without explicitly asking me.

Grab me when I’m not expecting it.


….Extra categories may be added as and when I think of them, and things may be changed around as appropriate. As previously mentioned, this is a work in progress.

Feel free to steal the template for your own User Manual, if you like… or make up your own! If nothing else, it’s a brilliant exercise in self-knowledge.


10 thoughts on “The User Manual Project (Or: Care and Feeding of Your Jess)

  1. Blaise Pascal says:

    “condoms for intercourse go without saying.”

    I disagree; it should, and does, need to be said.

    And you said it.

  2. John Cossham says:

    What an excellent project. I might have a go at this myself. Thank you Jess for sharing this.

  3. Dragonmamma says:

    Hey, this is brilliant, Jess. I love the fact that your generation is so much better able to express what they think and feel, than mine was/is. I definitely think I am going to steal this idea (and incidentally quite a lot of the substance). Seems like there’s an awful lot in there that would apply to all of us whatever our sexual tastes/born identities etc. etc.

    And just for the record – lots of this applies to general friendships as well. Like you I find people who have a passion for the way they live their lives to be totally irristible. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

    • missamaranth says:

      Thank you, I’m really glad it was useful and resonated for you! Yes, absolutely – it’s a useful thing for any form of relationship, whether romantic/sexual or not (some parts more than others, of course.) Knowing oneself is the first step to mutually happy and fulfiling relationships. Please feel free to steal the idea, format and/or substance… I’ve stolen the idea from someone else, and think everyone should do it!

      Looking forward to seeing you soon, too! (Saturday for Samhain?)


  4. Nile says:

    Useful: glad I’ve been warned about your wrists, I do occasionally use a ‘sailors grip’ handshake when I want to avoid presuming on the affection implied in hand-to-hand contact.

    And yes, I know that *soft* contact on the sensitive skin on the inward side of the wrists can be very intense.

    Also: part of me recoils from the idea of a care-and-feeding manual with a list of things I”d prefer that people didn’t do. Much of my childhood was spent among people in a dysfunctional community who would’ve seized upon it with malicious glee: such lessons stay with you.

    • missamaranth says:

      Urgh, that’s horrible and makes me really sad to hear. Sadly it’s all too true. One of my exes lived by the logic that “if you share your weaknesses with me, OF COURSE I’m going to use them against you, then it’s your own fault.”

      Glad this was useful for you. Yeah, it’s the little things people might not know/might accidentally stumble across that I think are really important to include, as well as all the big major stuff!🙂

  5. […] lost time) and I saw the idea for making a “user manual” to ones self (the credit goes here [whom I largely borrowed the template from and got some ideas that I knew were true for me but […]

  6. aquiescence_ says:

    You gave me, and reminded me of, much and many ideas, dreams, fragments of past, notions for present and dreams for future.


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