Remember when Garfield dieted and invariably hallucinated that his pal Odie was actually a configuration of his favorite meats? Such is the same for celibate caregivers. Folded clothes become folds of flesh, the ironing board a lover’s back, an apple becomes a peach and the rickety washing machine, a massage chair. These hallucinations happen when the body’s work is necessary to someone else’s survival—when every hand that touches you is a hand in need. When your strength is both assumed and expected, something happens to the body, to the skin. You learn to see yourself through the eyes of a needy other, one who sometimes wants more than you have to give. Our bodies grow tired of giving. These are not just laundry-folding, apple-peeling, dish-washing, waffle-toasting hands. These hands were made to be filled with the flesh of someone who sings our names like James Brown’s “Please.”
Hallucinations are more likely when the moon is as full as it was last week, when its light fills us with a fragrant heat and sets off our bodies’ alarms. The sirens start at jaw line, that space caressed by lovers’ thumbs when their fingers are buried deep in your hair. Heat spreads, pools in the pit of the collar bone, then spills onto the breasts, once sustainers of life that now pout for attention. It spreads down to the belly, the skin that still remembers its selfless stretching—the skin that humors toddlers’ pokes and cradles children’s heads. Heat spreads, filling the bowl between our hips, seeping down our thighs to tickle our knees, warm our calves, and settle in our toes. The sirens remind us that our bodies need the attention we so freely give to others.
The world depends on our satiation. We need a declaration:
Whereas I believe the children are our future,
Whereas the future is in the hands of primary caregivers,
Whereas the most effective caregivers have been given care,
Whereas caregivers owe to children the best they have to give,
Whereas the best is better when it’s wetter,
Whereas the human being is composed of body, spirit, and mind,
Whereas ecstasy sends healing light throughout the entire being,
Whereas sexuality is a pathway to ecstasy,
Whereas all sex is not ecstasy,
Whereas ain’t nobody got time for non-ecstatic sex,
The National Committee for the Welfare of Celibate Caregivers
Proclaims this Declaration of the Sexual Rights of the Caregiver to the end that they may have access to frequent ecstasy and for their own good, their dependents’ good, and thereby the good of society enjoy the rights to sexual pleasure herein set forth, and calls upon co-parents, would-be lovers, friends, and any enthusiastically consenting individual to recognize these rights and strive for their observance by any means necessarily taken in accordance with the following principles:
The caregiver shall enjoy an early bedtime for the children. Children of the sun must sleep so that we can be children of the moon, moved by her cycles and light.
The caregiver shall enjoy a radical queer ethos in the bedroom. This means unadulterated body worship and acceptance of natural things like body hair, earthy smells, and morning breath.
The caregiver shall enjoy caregiving. Caregivers shall participate in the journey to ecstasy in whatever ways they desire, but they shall not subscribe to notions of sex as capitalist transactions. No tit for tat, just tit.
The caregiver shall enjoy tantric experiences of timeless ecstasy as respite for their scheduled days. Partners and caregivers should read about tantric sex or sacred sexuality before enacting these principles.
The caregiver shall enjoy forgiveness for poor bedside manners for the sake of their charge. Partners can be asked to leave when caregivers are ready for them to, whether in the wee hours of dawn or in the moments right after your ecstatic experience. Partners will understand that rules of engagement change when children are involved.
The caregiver is entitled to joy, unadulterated and endless. The caregiver is entitled to a Sethe revelation, her realization in the end of Beloved that she had always been her own best thing. The caregiver is entitled to guiltless pleasure, to self-care, to gifts from the universe in excess of their expectations.
The future depends on our joy.
Asha French is a writer and mother living in Atlanta.