Thirst As Self-Care: Why Lust Matters
A Very Important Note on quenching your thirst: No matter how thirsty I am, I avoid plastic straws, because they suck (get it?) for the environment. Check out seven alternatives to traditional plastic straws here; I personally use a stainless steel one and love it. Save the sea turtles. xo, S
I’m newly single, and I’m thirsty.
I don’t mean the kind of thirst that can be quenched with a cool glass of lemonade, though I do appreciate a frosty beverage. I mean the kind of thirst defined by Urban Dictionary as lust or desire, as in, “I thirsted for him,” or, “Jeff Goldblum in that bow tie makes me so thirsty.” The kind of thirst that signifies desire and performs lust.
I have had to temper my thirst for some time now. Prior to embracing my newly single status, I had three consecutive romantic relationships with no time in between. I mean, quite literally, no time. I dated my first love ages sixteen to eighteen, my second ages eighteen to twenty-five, and then had my heart smashed to bits by my third just this past autumn.
I’m what you might call a serial monogamist. I haven’t dated casually. In each of my three relationships, I fell in love, fast and hard. I don’t know what it’s like for my heart to not belong to someone. Now I’m unattached for the first time in nearly a decade, and I’m learning how to be single as an adult. And part of being single, I’m learning, is the joy of thirst.
It’s not that I didn’t find other people attractive when I was in each of my relationships. In fact, going straight from one to the next meant that I had to find my new love attractive while I was still dating the previous one. I maintained my celebrity crushes, too - hello, Armie Hammer and Trevante Rhodes - but the desire was always private. I would occasionally exclaim to my friends over a particularly beautiful person, but was usually either too in love or too chastened by my relationship status to discuss my lust or attraction for anyone but my partner.
Now that I’m single, all that is changing.
Mind you, I didn’t choose to be unattached. I ended my first two relationships, but in the third, it was the other person who broke up with me. My heart had never been broken before, and it hurt. A lot. So, naturally, I sought out any source of solace I could find, from books and films to music and podcasts. I tried to keep myself distracted, especially during times when I found my mind would easily wander to thoughts of my ex-love. Driving was one such time, and so I quickly learned to keep a podcast on in the car to occupy my mind.
It was while driving and listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Another Round with Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu, that I truly discovered thirst. I had heard of the term before, of course, being the worldly millennial I am. But what I heard through my car’s speakers was different. It was women publicly expressing their desire. It was, as I would soon learn, “what happens when we lust out loud.” It was another podcast being introduced to Another Round’s listeners: Thirst Aid Kit.
Judging by Thirst Aid Kit’s tagged tweets, I’m neither the first nor the only one to say that the podcast is everything I never knew I needed. The premise of the show, in which two women talk to each other about the objects of their desire, is both frivolous and revolutionary. In a way, it is revolutionary precisely because of its frivolity. Women are discouraged from the sort of fun, lusty banter encouraged among straight men. We are not allowed to express desire in a silly or lighthearted way, because that would mean that we are comfortable enough with our sexuality to avoid taking it too seriously. Instead, if women express desire at all, we are to do so with great sincerity and painstaking moderation. We are to lust after our partners or no one at all, as lust must be paired with love in order to justify our desire for sexual intimacy. Women’s conversations around lust and longing are all too often held behind closed doors, even their loudest iterations murmured guiltily over drinks at happy hour.
Enter Thirst Aid Kit.
Listening to co-hosts Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins express their desires publicly gave me a permission I didn’t know I was missing. As a radical feminist raised by an equally feminist and sex-positive mother, I have always thought of myself as being relatively open about sex. There were no taboo topics when it came to asking my mother about sex, and I was incredibly lucky to benefit from her progressive beliefs about relationships, intimacy, and reproductive health. I talked about sex openly with each of my partners. And yet, it wasn’t until I became single that I realized that I had actually tamped down my sexual self-expression quite often. This was in part due to my sometimes-shy personality, I think, but being in a relationship certainly played a role. As a woman who was partnered up, my performance of desire was meant to be reserved for my partner and him alone. Even a salacious comment about the most fantastical, impossibly ridiculous celebrity crush made me blush and cringe with guilt. I didn’t know it, but I was limiting myself. Or rather, my internalized misogyny was limiting me.
Hearing women describe their desire on a public platform is liberating. Their gleeful cackles when one of them says something particularly raunchy, their unabashed delight in talking about their thirst objects, their willingness to revel in the absurd, the delicious, the obscene—all of it models possibility to me. Thirst Aid Kit symbolizes the embrace of our full selves, the ones who salivate over a gif and laugh with our whole bellies and write silly or terrible or blush-inducing fan fiction. To thirst is to admit that we, as women, want. We are not supposed to want. We are supposed to give, to provide. To recognize that women have desires is to acknowledge that we are people, that we are complete and complex human beings. In this way, to thirst is to affirm our humanity. To thirst is to tell ourselves that we are deserving of love and intimacy, and to desire these things is not shameful. It is, in fact, one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
As a newly single person, especially one who is unattached for the first time in her adult life, to say that I am in an adjustment period is an understatement. The transition has not always been easy, and I know from past experience that healing is never linear. In order to take care of myself through this post-breakup period, I am focusing on all the possibilities that singledom offers that I missed out on before. One of those, importantly, is the full expression of who I am and what, and who, I want. In short, thirst.
So, I hereby submit that thirst is self-care. Add it to the many activities we already name as self-care, along with therapy, bath bombs, and face masks. It is both more silly and more important than every item on the list.