Do you squeal with joy whenever you see something cute? Do you have this intense urge to squeeze it? Devour it? Do you even say out loud how much you want to eat it up even though you don’t technically want to because you know it would taste bad, but the feelings inside you are so strong that you can’t resist saying the words? Yes? Then no worries; you’re totally normal.
Scientists have identified this as “cute aggression,” and although they can’t exactly tell us why, it seems to be a completely normal reaction to animals, babies — anything at all — that is overly cute. Why else do we look at photos of corgi puppies when we need a break from work, if not to clench our teeth and scream: “I wanna smoosh you until you’re dead!”
Study researchers Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon, at Yale, explain that this need comes from the “high positive-affect” the image, or living and breathing thing before our eyes, is having on you that you just lose sense of control: “You know, you can’t stand it, you can’t handle it, that kind of thing.” She also noticed in her experiments that cute images not only had people react more often than those pictures that were just funny or neutral, but that the frustration that comes from this cute thing not being attainable further contributes to the cute aggression.
Dyer was sure to point out that this aggression is completely harmless, and if anything, an over-emotional reaction to a situation that we may inherently put a negative spin on so as to downplay and regulate the urge within us. So, hence the eating and squeezing.
Yes, that makes absolute sense, but how does that explain Lenny from Of Mice and Men? He never meant to hurt anything; he just wanted to love on them and enjoy their furriness — I totally get that. Are we all one step away from being Lenny, or are we all just simply the victim of our own need to absorb something we find so perfectly precious? Thoughts?
Let’s go with the latter and quote Maurice Sendak: “Oh, please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!” As long as you’re not reaching for the ketchup when you say this, then you’re cool. No need to add this to your list of topics to discuss with your therapist next week.