Would you still love me if I was a worm?
After Heidi Klum’s Halloween costume went viral, the question that measures a partner’s love and commitment has re-entered public consciousness. For better or for worse, right?
“If we understand the worm, we understand life,” British biologist, Nobel Prize-winner and worm obsessive John Sulston once said. Last week, veteran model Heidi Klum came one step closer to solving the riddle of our collective existence when she shuffled onto a blue carpet at her annual Halloween party, legless and armless, limbs encased in a giant, meat-like tube. She had transformed into a lifesize worm.
If you haven’t caught wind of the costume by now, perhaps you live under a rock, like an actual worm. Designed by VFX artist Mike Marino, Klum’s costume took three months to make and, mere hours after its debut, set the internet ablaze. Some were repulsed by the way her nose and mouth near-blended into thick, bacon-like streaks that wrapped around Klum’s unrecognisable body, forming a bulbous, three-foot mass above her head.
Others were delighted to see a pair of expressive eyes peering out, as interviewers gathered around the model’s writhing body. “I just wanted to make people smile,” she mumbled from within the confines of her worm-suit. Meanwhile, her husband, musician Tom Kaulitz, dressed up as a one-eyed fisherman, proudly waving a fishing rod in the air to show off his hot bait for the evening.
But beyond her knack for stealing the show every Halloween, Klum’s viral costume reignited a very serious question that’s often posed to partners, one that has so far accrued over 45 million views on TikTok: “Would you still love me if I was a worm?”
Over the years, worms have gotten a bad rap. They’re mostly thought of as lowly creatures, brainlessly thrashing around in soil without much purpose. Calling someone a worm implies they’re barely even worthy of contempt, so it makes sense to measure a partner’s love and commitment by whether or not they’d still fancy you if you turned into one. Forget in sickness and in health. True love is pledging to stay with someone even if they’re a limbless creature that eats dirt.
“I think it’s great chat,” says Sophie, a 19-year-old student from Birmingham, who’s popped the question to more than one boyfriend in the past. “My ex said that, yes, he’d prefer me if I was a worm because it would mean he could keep me on his desk in a little pot. My current boyfriend once said no and I got really annoyed.
“He pointed out that I’d have to watch him find a new girlfriend as a worm. Being kept in a little terrarium sounds alright, but realistically, I’d prefer to be let free so I could live my wormy life. Heidi Klum dressing up as a worm for Halloween was iconic for all of us who’ve ever had this conversation – and I think you’re warranted to get annoyed if your partner says no. If I’m a worm, I’m still me!”
Dr. Kevin Butt, a professor in ecology and natural sciences at the University of Central Lancashire, hopes Klum’s turn as a worm will help the insect’s public persona evolve. In 2016, he was part of a research team that discovered the UK’s largest earthworm on the Isle of Rum, off the Scottish coast. He’s spent much of his career researching how earthworms are actually beneficial to the soil, offering what Butt calls “ecosystem services” – that is, breaking down kitchen waste and helping to produce quality soil to help promote plant growth.
“It’s good to see that worms are of interest again,” he says. “It seems that periodically something in the media sparks or re-ignites an awareness of them in the public. Quite an outfit worn by Heidi Klum, with some surprisingly accurate earthworm morphological features, too.”
As Butt notes, this is a creature that has wriggled its way into pop culture’s consciousness on a semi-regular basis over the last year or so, like the giant sandworm in 2021’s sci-fi epic Dune, which bore an alarming resemblance to a giant butthole.
Another worthwhile addition to the wormhole came via the will-they-won’t‑they, wholly inappropriate relationship between Succession’s Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron) and Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin). In the throes of a particularly spine-chilling phone sex session between Waystar Royco’s interim CEO and the youngest member of the Roy clan, she calls him “a revolting little worm” amongst a flurry of other insults (“slime puppy”, anyone?) as a way of turning up the heat. It seems that worms can be sexy, too, albeit a little sick and twisted.
Gerri would probably prefer Roman if he were a worm, which is perhaps the exception to the rule encompassed by the question, “Would you still love me if I was a worm?”
Juliette Clancy, a psychotherapist and author of Thoughts from the Couch, suggests it’s a nonsensical question that betrays deeper meaning. “Really, what you’re asking is ‘Would you still love me if I wasn’t perfect? If I was ugly?’ And those are serious questions,” she says. “To me, ‘Would you still love me if I was a worm?’ represents somebody testing the water, having a moment of reflection or insecurity, and trying to make light of it by gauging what their partner would say.”
After Klum’s Hallo-worm fun came to a close, she emerged from her costume like a caterpillar from a chrysalis, looking gorgeous wearing a skimpy, sheer and bedazzled bodysuit. She even documented the process of creating and getting into the costume on Instagram, captioning her post with, you guessed it, “Would you still love me if I was a worm?”
“I think we judge people so much on their appearance, but actually on the inside, many of us are equivalent to what Klum looks like on the outside. We’re all people with spirits and souls and goodness,” Clancy continues. “We need reassurance. There’s also lightness to the question. It’s like a playful, cute game.”
Clancy also thinks it’s telling that, judging by trending posts on Twitter and TikTok, women tend to be the ones speaking worm to power, because we assume they’re more insecure than men. With that logic, women can get away with asking “silly” or “girly” questions because they’re more vocal about their insecurities, even if they can’t quite put them into so-called serious terms. “It’s not a sexy question and it certainly wouldn’t be deemed masculine,” Clancy says.
Did Heidi Klum’s husband* still love her when she was a worm? Well, judging by the sloppy kiss he planted on her lips outside their Halloween party, we’d like to think so. So the next time your partner asks if you’d still love them if they were a spineless, slimy creature, take a deep breath, get down on the floor, do the actual worm and return the question. It’ll be more romantic than getting down on one knee.
*Representatives for Tom Kaulitz did not respond for comment.