Sometimes, I want to squeeze the shit out of my pet, Sophie. Is it normal that I want to squeeze cute things? “It’s so fluffy, I want to die!”
Have you ever found some little furry creature in the petting zoo so cute…that you just want to pinch or maul the little bastard? That’s referred to as cute aggression. As the link attests, it’s a real thing, discovered by Yale psychologists and all back in 2013. But like many discoveries, they just labeled this shit with their own made-up term, unaware that a term had already been coined in the Philippines. In Filipino language of Cebuano, there has always been a word for wanting to violate something overly cute: and that word, dear readers, is gigil, pronounced “ghee-gill”.
I first learned of the word about four months after a major surgery, when all those days away from the gym added up to some serious love handles. My Cebuano-speaking wife Irene violently gripped my tummy blubber and taunted “gigil, gigil, gigil” which of course I assumed meant “fat fucker, get back to the gym.”
But no, apparently Irene had developed a passive-aggressive attraction to my “cute” love handles, who fuckin’ knew?
The questionable cuteness of my side blubber notwithstanding, the cause of this perverse reaction to overwhelming cuteness seems to be a form of circuit breaker. The brain can only handle a certain threshold of emotion before sensory overload, wherein that excess feeling can morph into a diametrically opposed reaction, like anger and rage. Sounds fucking nuts, right? Apparently, the psychology of cute aggression is similar to people being so happy they cry… same thing, in reverse.
Can cuteness trigger aggression? In the Yale study mentioned above, the researchers gave people bubble wrap to pop while they looked at all kinds of photos that could be considered either funny, cute or neutral, and apparently people popped the shit outta their bubble wrap when they encountered the cute photos. The initial conclusion was that the inability to actually cuddle, interact with, or nurture the “representations of cuteness” caused a passive aggressive frustration.
However, this explanation fails to account for the same reaction when faced with an actual cutie, like my pug Sophie, who is so fucking cute sometimes you just want to smother the little bitch…in rub-rub and scratchy-scratch of course. Did you really think I wanted to kill my little rump roast?
Also published on Medium.