Call it an occupational hazard, but people sure have a lot of opinions about how I behave as a single person. If I'm dating more than one person at a time, then I'm not being fair to them. If I focus on dating only one person at a time, I'm not spreading it around enough. But the number one piece of unsolicited advice I get is that I care too much about dating. When talking with certain people, if I let it slip that finding a partner is a priority to me, they'll tell me I'm trying too hard. "You don't want to seem desperate," they'll say. "Nobody likes a thirsty woman."
But why is being "thirsty" seen as such a bad thing?
"To be ambitious in your work is one thing, but striving to date and find somebody good for you is a problem in our society," says Andrea Bonior, PhD, a psychologist and author. "We glorify romance to some extent, but we also have this idea that you've got to be true to yourself and be fiercely independent," she says. "You shouldn't have to depend on anyone else." The assumption, Dr. Bonior says, is that by searching for love, you're attempting to fill a hole in yourself, which of course isn't always the case. I just want a partner to cuddle with on a Sunday morning — not someone to fill a deep, emotional void or replace some part of me that's missing.
There's also the assumption that to be "thirsty" means to be overtly sexual, says Justine Shuey, PhD, a board certified sexologist and sexuality educator. "Women especially are told that they aren't supposed to be on the hunt of sex," she says. "And if you're in the world, and you're dating, there are assumptions that you're being sexual." That sexual drive can cause people to judge — especially if the belief is that the person who is dating around is also sleeping around. To call a person desperate or thirsty in this situation, Dr. Shuey says, can be a subtle form of slut-shaming.
The big reason, though? We have some pretty crazy views on how love is "supposed" to go. "Finding someone to date is supposed to be this magical thing that just happens," Dr. Bonior says. "You're not supposed to be calculating about it. It's just supposed to happen. So if someone is making love a goal, it goes against our notions of what romance is meant to be like."
But there's absolutely nothing wrong about prioritizing the hunt for love. And no one has the right to make you feel bad about that decision. "I'm someone who believes that if you're not involved in what's happening in my life and my bedroom, then it's none of your business," Dr. Shuey says. But if the unsolicited opinions continue to bother you, just remember that your desire for love and a relationship is normal.
People calling me desperate used to be something that really bothered me, but I'm happy and content in my life, and my search for love is just a part of it. If that makes me "thirsty," then so be it — all the more reason to go out for drinks.