I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
I audibly gasped the first time I heard Annie Clark say, “You know I love you, shut up!” She didn’t say it to me, obviously, and it certainly wasn’t in person. Those seven words close out a YouTube clip titled “St. Vincent (Annie Clark) says I ‘I love you,’” a snippet of a documentary that chronicled St. Vincent’s 2009 Actor Tour. But the clip didn’t enter my life until 2013, when a new friend, Michael, insisted I watch it. We’d discovered a shared, undying crush on the rock-star dreamboat — who, at that point, had yet to publicly date women. Whiskey drunk, Michael and I watched this video upward of two dozen times straight (conservative estimate).
How could we stop? Fuzzy and out of focus, a curly-haired Clark addresses the camera from inches away, like a puppy investigating a lens. She tells the viewer “I love you” not once, not twice, but five times. Clocking in at just 13 seconds, “St. Vincent (Annie Clark) says I ‘I love you’” has the same mesmerizing rewatchability as any great Vine; just replace the comedic genius of “Back at it again at Krispy Kreme” with indie princess preciousness and big doe eyes. Folks, you just don’t immediately click out of that kind of video.
Five years ago, it felt like the easiest thing on the internet to crush on. Now, it feels overly precious and pretty contrived, but I still do think about it a lot. It’s the “Shut up!” that gets me — that teasing, cloying confidence. The notion that someone like Annie Clark could be so in love with a person (me), and had made that love so clear and undeniable that she’d tell you to stop asking for confirmation and just shut up already. Welcome to Swoon City, population: me.
The video itself is eerie and bizarre and lacks context, and I have approximately one billion questions about it: Who is she telling she loves? The director? The cinematographer? Was it a message for some lover in particular? Or, in fact, no one at all? Did she rehearse it? How many takes did it require? Was this an actual, genuine, spur-of-the-moment interaction? Or, in reality, merely a calculated thirst trap for the internet’s bottomless cache of sadboys? No, no. This 13-second video was made for me, me specifically, and no one else.
Turns out, I was not the only person who felt this way. Enter: the comments section.
It’s all charming and wonderful until you remember that the comment section is always a veritable hellscape. Indeed, droves of YouTube users have professed their lust for Clark underneath the video. “I watch this every night,” says one, and another: “Guys, knock it off. It’s obvious that she’s talking to me and no one else.” And another, taking it up a notch, “I want to lock her in my basement and make an Annie Clarke [sic] suit.” Totally, my man! A hot horror washed over me as I scrolled down and realized a solid 300,000 of the 467,000 views on “St. Vincent (Annie Clark) says I ‘I love you’” were probably from dudes jerking off to the video on loop.
And, honestly? While I’d never comment “I can feel her loves permeating my bones” on a video of anyone doing anything, I have to admit, I don’t disagree with the general sentiment in this case! Suddenly, along with the butterflies of hearing Annie Clark say “I love you,” came a deep, nasty shame that I had anything in common with Creepy Online Dudes. Or, honestly, with straight men in general. Specifically: horniness. Ironically, that commonality is what brought me to “St. Vincent (Annie Clark) says ‘I love you’” in the first place. But professing a crush feels way slimier in the form of a YouTube comment than as a boozy conversation between friends.
As a Logged On queer woman, I carry a deep self-consciousness about treating women the way so many shitty men do online. You know what I mean: sliding into the DMs of an industry acquaintance; sending unsolicited nudes; assuming women owe you literally anything just because you matched on an app; responding to joke tweets with the same joke, just rephrased. I’m acutely aware that my straight female friends are sick of this kind of behavior from Creepy Online Dudes, and I get nervous about unintentionally repeating it. On the internet, even for women, it can be tough to tell where being flirty and forward ends and being disrespectful and shitty begins. On dating apps, this hyperawareness can manifest itself in a sort of mutual hesitation to make moves.
This anxiety is perfectly crystallized in my embarrassing soft spot for “St. Vincent (Annie Clark) says I ‘I love you.’” Revisiting this video means revisiting the reality that I have literally anything in common with the kind of dudes who leave thirsty comments on clips of cute girls being cute. I can’t shake the reality that I’m into girls — not that I’d want to — or my crush on Clark. And as such, I can’t shake my nagging urge to make a meme of Sad Internet Boys and Me clasping hands over “Drooling over Annie Clark saying ‘I love you.’”
The gay man–straight woman friendship is so well-documented that it’s nearly a cliché; straight men and gay women, less so. There are lots of reasons for this phenomenon, both dumb and not dumb, that are for a different essay. Perhaps if straight men were better at befriending lesbians, more of them would carry the same anxiety I do when interacting with women online. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Either way, shut up!