Love Letter Day X
Christopher Hitchens1 wrote years ago about our malformed clichés for romantics. We pejoratively call playboys and compulsive fuccbois Romeo and Casanova; derisively accusing those men of being more in love with love than with their people. But as Hitchens points out, Romeo and Casanova are quite famously dedicated to their one and only lovers. Romeo dies for his one true love. Casanova writes compulsively and exclusively to his.
I recently read that Gustav Klimt had a million lovers and a dozen wives, and his reputation as a romantic was a poor interpretation of what now can clearly be interpreted as an attachment disorder and commitment-phobia. I love that people can psychoanalyze a 19th century painter using zillenial psychology because I actually hate The Kiss, and have never understood its appeal. Not because I’m averse to romanticism. The painting just don’t do it for me.
The bliss point is a term coined by a marketing psychoanalyst named Howard Moskowitz, and refers to the optimal amount of salt, sugar, fat, spice to achieve maximum tastiness, or the most likable point of a food or beverage. Chemists work around the clock to achieve a predictable bliss point in junk food so consumers will keep coming back. It’s how you create brand loyalty to things like Flaming Hot Cheetos or Cool Ranch Doritos.
The persona of commercial romantic overture is a bliss point. Let me read these love stories, let me read you love letters once a day. I tell myself I don’t need to eat ripe fruit to know it’s good, but when I chew on a gummy candy that says it is “white peach” flavored, I can think of the perfect summer fruit in my teeth and the satisfaction of a simulacrum at the same time. I can picture you in my mouth. What price chemistry. I want more. I cannot believe how much more I want.
I think what Hitchens might’ve been cluing in on was not just that we’re jerks toward romantics but that as puritans we completely lost sight of how to talk about romantic bliss without immediately denigrating it. We’d rather know we have been sold a bliss point. Just admit you have a ken for engineered bliss. Have you ever wanted something so badly it made you nauseous? Isn’t it more likely that you consumed so much of it you started purging? That’s the story we’ve been used to telling ourselves for the past two hundred years—that we are gluttons.
I am telling you I am ravenous instead.
Postscript: a canang, pictured above, is an Indonesian spiritual offering that is typically supposed to be refreshed and used to adorn any space occupied by living beings, on a daily basis. It translates as something like “dedication to beauty” according to Dr. Indra Sadguna, and is meant to be a tribute of and to beauty in the world. This is a canang I made, and today I offer it especially to celebrate your beauty.
I know I know. He’s a problematic fave. Not a fave, mind you. I just happened to read this essay and found it thought-provoking.