Sholem Krishtalka

On Love: Parts 1 & 2

1.

Oh Debbie.


joset0xp, “eHarmony I Love Cats” (July 4, 2011)

This particular video has by now made the rounds, again and again and again and again (so much so that the original has been edited and re-edited so many times that it’s been lost — the only intact version of the original video I could find is this Spanish-subtitled one). It’s even been debunked, with the garish enthusiasm endemic to hammy network-affiliate soft-news reporters. But I’m less interested in this video as a documentary, and more as a document; a text, in lit-crit-ese.

Let’s pretend. Let’s suspend disbelief and pretend that this is an actual dating profile, that sweet, Villanova MBA grad Debbie wants to find love, and is making that hesitant step on to the field of hot coals that is online romance.

The mind reels. This video is a cannonade of red flags, a 21-gun salute to dysfunction, a fireworks display of emotional messiness. Completely incredulous as I am of hysteria as an actual condition (especially when applied to a woman), I might make an exception here: Debbie is so unhinged by her love of cats that she can’t help but weep; her ever-escalating emotional reaction fuels a headlong charge into an increasingly absurd fantasy land of cat-romping (bow ties? baskets?? rainbows?!?). If this is how this woman deals with cats, how on earth would she navigate the volcanic terrain of love? If just thinking about cats debilitates her utterly, what would the knotty complexities of physical and emotional intimacy with another person do to her?

2.

[NOTE: For the love of God, stop the video at 1:59]


shmoyoho, “SONGIFY THIS: Can’t Hug Every Cat” (July 7, 2011)

This song has been running through my brain on a loop for the past week. I’ve even tried to sound it out on the piano. It’s garnered 13 million hits thus far, so I’m clearly not the only one.

I’m just going to say it: it’s a really good song, pathologically catchy. And, like all good songs, the more I listen to it, the deeper are its resonances. So, in an effort to get it out of my brain, I’m going to conduct a close reading. Ahem.

A talking intro: “This is my first attempt at an eHarmony video. I’m nervous, but I’m excited at the same time. So I’m just going to start talking about what I like.” There is the sound of a tape reel looping up, and at the word “excited” a delay echo kicks in alongside the opening chords.

I love cats
I love every kind of cat
I just want to hug all of them
But I can’t
Can’t hug every cat

It begins with a declaration of love: specific, but what is more, all-encompassing. She loves “every,” not “any.” This isn’t the indiscriminate promiscuity of “any”; her love is large, but focused. And as soon as she declares the depth and generosity of her feeling, she is met with limitation: she wants to hug all, but she can’t hug every. Note the repetition of “every”: she loves every, she can’t hug every; it becomes both a signifier of generous largesse, and of the cruel pragmatics of unattainability.

So anyway
I am a cat lover and I love to run
I’m sorry I’m thinking about cats again
I really love cats
I’m thinking about cats again
And again and again and again and again

Here, the overarching theme presents itself. “I love to run”: this conjures forward momentum, linear progress. And then the object of her love asserts itself, and she is derailed. This song is about derailment, interruption, stutter. Just as her love trips her physical running, it attenuates her cognitive running. She is lost in a loop of emotion, and can’t move forward: she thinks about her love “again/ and again and again and again and again.”

I think about how many don’t have a home
And how I should have them
I think about how cute they are
And how their ears
And the whiskers and the nose

“How many don’t have a home”: her love is ubiquitous, wandering, homeless. She thinks about her love’s homelessness, and she thinks about her entitlement: she should have her love. No wonder she can’t run — simply going outside, she sees her love everywhere, and, like some cruel punishment of Greek myth, the very thing she loves escapes her by its surfeit, flaunting its beauty and desirability — ears, whiskers, nose — as it remains unattainable.

I just love them
And I want them
And I want them in a basket
And I want little bow ties

I just love them
And I want them
To be on a rainbow
And in my bed
And I just want us to roll around

She escapes into dream, an Edenic fantasy where her and her love can finally be consummated. Surrounded by the fetishistic trappings of her lust (baskets and bow ties), the fulfillment of their mutual desire (rolling around in her bed) vaults them into heaven, on a rainbow. And finally, as a tragic postscript, the theme of interruption is reiterated before launching into the final chorus. Even her fantasy is ruptured: in the midst of her heavenly reverie, achieving orgasm in a spectrum of refracted light, reality asserts itself and she wakes; she brings herself coldly back to earth, forcing herself to recontextualize her feelings in apology as outsized, unfitting and unbecoming.

Sorry, I’m getting emotional.

- Sholem Krishtalka

Ryeberg Curator Bio

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Sholem is a painter and a writer. His writing has appeared in Canadian Art Magazine, Bookforum Online, C Magazine, CBC Arts Online (among others) and in various artist's catalogues. His artwork has been exhibited in numerous venues around Toronto and New York. He is featured in the survey of Canadian painting "Carte Blanche 2: Painting," published by the Magenta Foundation. For more Sholem Krishtalka, click here.