It started as a conversation about miscommunication.
He didn’t know how to treat me, and I told him it should have come naturally.
Then he said he wished he had some sort of manual, something to tell him exactly how I wanted to be treated so he could consult it when he was unsure.
So I got to work immediately, and while he was expecting a long list of do’s and don’ts that would probably fill the span of several pages, I could only come up with five rules.
Here is The Manual of Me:
1. Be Sweet
Pick me up when I need lifting, and use your strength to never let me fall. Say nice things to me when I need you to even when you have to think of something to say.
Say something nice to me every day.
Tell me my hair smells good. Tell me, “That was a brilliant thing to say.” Tell me I’m right when I’m right. Tell me I’m wrong when I’m wrong (yes, that can be a nice thing to say, because I like to hear the truth).
Tell me the truth. Always.
Tell me you miss me. Tell me you want to whisk me away for a romantic weekend. Tell me you can’t stand the thought of spending one more day away.
But tell me the truth. And make it good.
2. Be Yourself
Be the man I fell in love with, the man I hunger for because he is handsome and goofy and charming.
He stumbles over himself, and smiles all the time, and goes days without showering.
He looks so good in jeans, and is scared of love, and has messy hair, and he eats food so spicy his nose will run.
He snores so loudly that I can’t sleep, and he laughs at all the same stuff as me.
He will find a way to get me to the bookstore even if it means calling a cab. He clips his nose hairs, and doesn’t clean up after himself. He takes pictures of his food to send to me.
He has smelly feet and he isn’t afraid to admit to me that he had chicken for dinner.
He isn’t afraid of telling me about his painful past. He isn’t afraid of driving in the snow and apologizes when he cries in front of me.
He is a really good kisser and he is a really good friend. He is really good at arguing and he is a really smart dresser.
He has lots of scars and isn’t afraid to show me.
He takes me on drives through the mountains and has an incredibly infectious laugh, and every now and then will say “fuck you” to me, and every now and then will say “I love you” to me.
He is a good person, a good parent, and a pretty okay writer.
Be that man.
3. Love me.
Love me for who I am.
Love that I am the kind of woman who would rather buy books than clothes. Love that I am the kind of woman who loves “woman’s things,” like lipstick and high heels and scented lotion.
When I’m wearing those things, tell me that I’m the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. (Lie to me.)
When I wake up in the morning, and open my eyes, and look up at you, waiting for your eyes to meet mine—let them. Then hold that for just a moment and tell me I am beautiful, too.
I won’t believe you. I will probably even say something about you being a liar (but I still want you to say it).
I will scurry to the bathroom to brush my teeth because I will really want you to kiss me. And when I get back from the bathroom, kiss me.
Love that I am the kind of woman who has a lot to carry around. My back hurts. It’s a heavy load. My shoulders hurt. Rub them.
Know that most of my wounds are not visible. But they are just as raw.
Love that I am the kind of woman who gives most of herself to other people; to my children, my friends, my students.
Love that I don’t have much, but what I do have I am willing to share.
Love that I have so much room in my heart for a stubborn man, even if I sometimes don’t want you to believe that.
Love me even though it is sometimes difficult.
Love me even though it sometimes feels like the fire is dying down.
Love me like a woman (who can love a man like you) should be loved.
Stoke the fire.
4. Kiss me
Kiss the top of my hand, my nipples, the inside of my thigh—all while keeping eye contact. Kiss my neck and my mouth. Press your lips to mine.Taste me.
Put your hands on my hips, my waist. Let your fingers tangle around my fingers, around my hair—let them tangle inside me.
Don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid of giving too much or taking too much.
Take it all and give it all right back to me.
Breathe. Breathe heavily, and into me. Breathe on my neck and make me have to catch my own breath because you’ve taken it away.
Sweat. Show me that you know what I like and that you’re willing to make that happen. And let go. Give yourself to me so that I may feel like the only woman in the world with the only man in the world.
5. Show me
Show me there’s nowhere else you’d rather be than right here, with me. Show me how wonderful it is that we found each other.
Show me that you love my company by letting me nuzzle next to your neck when we’re watching movies.
When you tell me you don’t like my cooking (it’s ok; I don’t like it either), show me how to do it right. We will make nothing but a mess, and that’s ok.
Show me what you like in bed. Show me how it feels when I do it to you. Show me how much you respect me by being dominant. Show me how much you care about me by being gentle. Show me how versatile you can be.
It will impress me and really, really excite me.
Show me what you’re feeling and thinking, and be real.
Show me the true you. Because when you open up and show me yourself, the inner light and being that is the core of you, I want to crawl in there and cradle that ball of light because it is so beautiful and painfully sublime. Terrifyingly beautiful.
Show me that I am beautiful.
Show me that you are proud of me. Hold my hand when we are in public. Hold my hand when we’re in private. Never let me go.
Show me that holding on can be done from afar by your words. Show me the words you picked out just for me. Write them in a poem. I will save it to show myself later and to remind me.
Take me places and show me things.
Experience the world with me, then take me home and show me the photographs of our travels. We will laugh and sigh and collapse onto the bed together in exhaustion.
Show me there’s no one else you’d rather be exhausted with as I situate myself into the nook between your body and mine and fall asleep.
Show me what just me and you looks like.
And make it good.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Kathryn Ashworth/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: elephant media library