Not so fast.
The press has made jokes about her husband being the strong, silent type. Its obvious phallic nature notwithstanding, Erika believes the tower is the Grand Madame of Paris, the city of love. Erika senses the tower is female. She relies on her senses because, in her words, “You can’t lift up a leg on the Eiffel and see if she is male or female. “
Behind the obvious tongue-in-cheek smirks the situations’ oddity brings, there is a deeper point to be made. Objects’ capacity to evoke deep feelings because of their symbolism is well known and widely accepted. The Vietnam Memorial in Washington has become a conduit for deep respect, love and powerful, important remembrances. The Statue of Liberty (actually in New Jersey waters of Jersey City) is emblematic of America’s freedom and an activator of deep emotional responses.
Objects, then, can be both intangible and a symbol of something emotionally important. Alternately, they can be a vehicle of cathexes, the psychology term used to identify a concentration of energy on a person, idea or object.
But here is something I hadn’t expected: The two most famous Objetum-Sexuals — Eija and Erika — are friends.
There is a wonderfully interesting, brief two-part documentary on their friendship. In watching this I learned something that I should have reasoned — Objectum Sexuals are polygamous. I suppose when you are involved with a public figure you have to expect it. The second part of the documentary shows their joint trip to the remnants of the Berlin Wall, Eija’s husband for nearly 30 years until he ceased to exist in 1989. While the rest of the world rejoiced, she was devastated.
Erika was in love with him too. On their visit to the Wall, the curator of Checkpoint Charlie — the former dividing line between East and West Germany — was moved to commission Erika to make six new models of the Wall. Where did she develop her skill as a model builder? She learned from her friend, Eija.
Are there more Objectum Sexuals than just these two women? Oh, yes. People have made commitments to a growing variety of objects: Cars, helicopters, the Empire State Building, a guillotine, a fence, bridges, and the list goes on.
One of my academic colleagues doesn’t take all this too seriously. He’s an experimental psychologist and not a warm and fuzzy clinical type. When I told him what I was writing about he stared at me for a long time, then finally quipped: “I’ve had my eye on the Lincoln Tunnel for years.”
But in researching for this article I found a quote by Erika that needs to be highlighted. In a deeply moving interview she explained how the Berlin Wall and she were very much alike.
I feel that the Berlin Wall was built, made, and then later rejected by the people that made it. And I have to say that I feel that way about my own life. I feel that I was brought into this world and then they later regret it, and I was rejected—like he was. I just don’t understand how some people can bring someone into the world like a child, an object, and then not love them. I struggle with that in my own life. How could someone bring me into this world and not love me?
As for me? I used to have a 1952, candy-coat red, 235 half-ton Chevy pickup with a 5-window cab. I wouldn’t say what we had was sexual. We were just very good friends – with benefits. But could it have been more? Probably not. In Erika’s words: “People can love objects. They can love them to a certain degree, more or less for practical purposes. That’s why they don’t see the soul of the object.”
So my ’52 Chevy probably did have a soul. I just couldn’t see it.