The Desire Principle

               When I typed in the word, ‘desire’ into the ol’ Google, the majority of search results came back a. hard core porn, b. Henry Miller. I mean. Ok, Google but that’s a pretty narrow focus on a feeling that broadly encroaches into and onto all parts of our lives. And honestly, Henry Miller is a tad overrated (see also Robertson Davies – please someone ask me about my deep seeded hatred of his novels.) Anywho, the porn I have no issue with and is more relevant to what I want to get at here. No, this isn’t a sex talk, more I think this is continuation of the I’m old talk. Maybe it will turn into sex talk, who can say for certain, I don’t rough draft any of this beforehand. Welcome to my brain.

               When you’re youthful and full of pep and can sleep longer than eight hours a night, I don’t think desire is for anything beyond your basic needs being met. So long as you have a bed, clothes and food to eat and a place to play, you were good. All your singular wants are met. The only time desire entered your space was around birthdays and holidays, because then, man, did you really desire something. Maybe it was a video game, or new shoes, or books. You wanted that new thing like nobody’s business. And if your parents outlined criteria in order to get said thing, you’d jump though hoops to get it fulfilled. You scrubbed something or passed something. Or you just continued being your good self. Good girls were rewarded – hmmm, maybe this is a sex talk. Don’t get your hopes up.  

               As you grow beyond the rudimentary understanding of life, desire wasn’t just about being on the receiving end of material things it was about giving and receiving. And altogether less of the material kind, though that will always exist. Desire was about fulfillment and keeping the tank full. It was physical and metaphysical. It was yearning and passion. What lesson was and is desire teaching us. That tension that runs through our lives is a constant desire for more. I recently saw a meme that roughly said if you don’t get what you want, it’s because your wants are actually not big enough. Which, I take to mean, we usually ‘want’ on the ground floor. Sure, we desire to win a million dollars, but realistically and logically our brain runs those odds for us and doesn’t overly invest in aligning our actions to achieve that outcome. Plus, luck and all that. We want to get a raise, or have a better job, or more successful, or more relaxed, or more love – that is the entry level desire. What happens to that desire seed is it needs to grow. In some cases, it needs to grow for a long, long …. Oh my god will I get what I want … long, time. The sneaky thing is the desire isn’t oft gifted to us in the manner we at all envisaged. We desire more love, well actually what we had to do was give away more of it. It will come back to us, in pieces from individuals, in the form of one person, or one receivable. We don’t know the when, but we have to attempt to recognise it when it is satisfied. So, we can ally it with all those other desires. It’s a never-ending game of snap.

               Now, once you become an older, middle-aged woman, desire changes. If you have a child or have acted as a parental caregiver, been slowly disappearing at places of employment, called Ma’am by the youths, you’re told you’re no longer desired. Not just physically, but at all. Your kid doesn’t want your advice, no one wants to hear your youth stories, coworkers don’t even bother to include you in work related queries, never mind social ones. Those things are real. If they haven’t happened to you, I’m chuffed that they haven’t. But they do happen, no one actually is imagining the middle-aged desire malaise. And that’s running concurrently with general malaise. On top of the physical and mental pleasantries, that are added to ones expanding psyche, you also realise, hey, I still desire those things from youth. Not youthful things, but emphasis on desire that is categorized as only for the young; namely sex, attractiveness, intimacy. And I would say most importantly, gentle tenderness. Who is talking about the desire principle after 35? And if you say, “goop has that series coming out,” you and I need to have words; she doesn’t count here.  Women especially now, like me, the older ones, voicing desire was not taught to you, was not reinforced to you, was not putative. You could desire better work, better pay, and likely were able to achieve a lot of those wants. But no one taught me to vocalise inner desire; secret desires; kinky desires; mental desires. You kept those to oneself. Whether taught institutionally or familial, many women are educated to repress desire for the sake of the other longings in life; home, money, stability. As if those alone would continually fill any other desire you had. As if.

               If you get to a middle age and all along can say, well, my desires are always met, I make sure of it, that’s going to be a complete and satisfying feeling. If you think, I don’t ever think this way, I’m lucky; then yes, you are. That’s super. I would say then that your desire principle should be shared with others. Not as a how to, do as I say; but more as, I was heard, I was seen and my desires were met in this manner. Only when other share how they get the wants, to those still wanting, can needs be met. Sharing is caring after all. And I’m constantly in admiration for all the women who can take the bull by the horns to slake all the desires external life has to offer.

               Honestly, I think the desire principle, or lack thereof, can and is seen in how we treat our most aged. If you’re lucky to have a Gran or Grandad in your life, how often (before end of times) do you touch them? I mean hug them, and hold their hand and kiss them. Not because they need help getting around, but because they are near. Just near to you. Do you think because one is aged the desire for a warm hand, a soft kiss, a cuddle, has waned? Do you think the desire for them to share with others evaporates? This is why Gran is holding up the line at Safeway; the desire to be seen, even just for a couple of minutes.  Think about it; who is seeking out Gran because her face, her smell, her smile, presence is singularly desired; is it you? If all our working parts and synapsis get us into old age, I undoubtedly believe nothing of desire dissipates. To assume so would presume your end-of-life years are about wilting away in the background, quietly, because longing belongs only to those whom the light shines on. But doesn’t the light shine on us all? Doesn’t it?

               I think it’s important that not all of longing is unselfish either. Some of it is purely selfish, vain, definitely self-indulgent. I desire the light. None of those things are inherently bad. It’s part of living to at times be very vain, to be very indulgent in our fantasies. Even if longing exists only in a fantasy, it can still have benefits on your ground level wants. Desire can be fantasy, and fantasy can be desire. The mirror with which we hold up to seek reflection can guide us beyond limitations. Ultimately our desire is as entwined as our need for food, for shelter, for safety and love. There is no shame in the desire to be desirable, only confidence umbrellaed over our hearts. Desire for many is delayed by all the aforementioned. For some of us now eyeing the liberation in a GenZ world, we’re only now just catching onto what our desires in life might even be. So how do we liberate ourselves when aged desire is not validated or prominent. Life is desire; we can want it, crave it, hunger for its riches, in all its messy iterations. At whatever stage or era or battered place we are in.

               The clearest way desire is reinforced to us is actually through porn. And not the good kind of porn, which does exist (and also, hello, please read romance novels, like, I’m begging you) but the kind that has reduced desire to something akin to cheap churros at the gas station. Momentarily satisfying but no long-term benefits except maybe salmonella. Honestly, that analogy makes no sense but you get the gist. Desire is reduced to quick, tawdry and perfunctory as if it were not as important as anything else in our emotional lives. Which is just not true, I think we’ve established that. There is no love without longing for it, there is no success (however we have defined it) without aspiring to it, there is no joy without preference for it. It’s all interconnected. What we need to assuage ourselves from is that desire is merely the sexual part of us. We are consumers of that idea but it isn’t a truthful rendering. Desire is beyond and is a part of our souls, searching.

               Much like all I’ve written I think what we’re all trying to get to, is a freedom beyond the polite confines of agreed upon societal pleasantries. It really is why a lot of people get hung up on why so and so wants to be called this, people’s rights and people’s loves. They have yet to elevate themselves beyond those limitations.

Truly, desire sets us free.

               I want to be seen and heard, and desired for my brain, and my ridiculous jokes, and my heart and my smile. For my body and my soul. Desire is soul cravings. It’s ok to go ahead and feed it.


“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” ~ Federico García Lorca

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