In the same way that Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande dove headfirst into their whirlwind romance, it took me about five seconds to decide that I was smitten with their love.
It was the Hogwarts robe Instagram that did it. I was tickled by this unexpected pairing, and delighted by their Harry Potter nerdery – and then suddenly, completely obsessed, in a way I’d never been about a celebrity relationship before.
Which was pretty strange, actually, because up until that very moment, I’d barely given either of these people any thought before.
This wasn’t me stanning for Serena Williams and hoping Alexis Ohanian makes her happy, or admiring the way Emily Blunt and John Krasinski support each other and make each other better. The only Grande song I know by heart is “Bang Bang”; the only Davidson sketches I can name offhand are “Diner Lobster” and “Tucci Gang.”
Stranger still, I didn’t seem to be the only person who felt this way. Publications from Slate to The Washington Post have wondered why we couldn’t get enough of these two, while outlets like Billboard and Elle churned out detailed timelines of their very brief romance.
What, then, is it about this couple? I’m not part of this relationship. I don’t know these people, or even know that much about them. So why am I acting like I’m in the throes of a giddy schoolgirl crush, overanalyzing their every social media missive to any friend polite enough to feign interest?
It makes both of them seem more interesting
Part of the appeal of this matchup is how surprising it seems, at least from the outside. Grande is glamorous pop diva who seems like she’d be most comfortable in swanky clubs and luxury suites, while Davidson seems like a grungy up-and-coming comedian you’d find hanging in dive bars with sticky floors.
I say seems like, because I have no idea what they’re actually like in private, and I’m not claiming to. I’m talking about the images they present to the public, the roles they fill in the celebrity ecosystem, the stereotypes they represent – in short, my own shallow projections of who they might be.
When they hook up, it complicates these images. It makes her look chiller and him look cooler, and suggests there’s more to both of them than the two-dimensional figures we’ve seen in magazines. The fact that they apparently bonded over Harry Potter is the icing on the cake: Look at these relatable dorks! Sometimes, stars truly are just like us.
Fairly or not, a celebrity’s choice of mate has always reflected back on them. The “right” relationship can burnish or expand a star’s image (think of how Jenny Slate made Chris Evans look deeper and more approachable), while the “wrong” one can tarnish or contradict it (remember how Hiddleswift made Tom Hiddleston come across like a publicity-hungry fool?).
That’s not to say all of these romances are cynical PR stunts, or that they give us any genuine insight into what these stars are “really” like. It’s just to point out that a love match can and does change the way we on the outside see the people involved.
And if it turns out that this entire relationship was faked to sell records? Honestly, respect to both of them for playing the fame game so well. To me, that’s just as fascinating a storyline as if this whole thing were real.
It’s a melodrama and a mystery!
Then there’s the sheer drama of it. Here are two famous, successful, attractive 24-year-olds fresh out of long-term relationships – and as far as we can tell, they’ve gone from “huh, I didn’t realize they knew each other” to “OMFG, they’re engaged?” in less than a month.
Grande and Davidson’s romance is like a fairy tale, in that a lot of fairy tales involve princes and princesses who meet, like, once before they get hitched and live happily ever after.
Seemingly every day, there’s another update: Grande and Davidson flirting on Instagram; Grande and Davidson flirting in other people’s Instagrams; Grande and Davidson getting tattoos or going to Disneyland together; Davidson’s ex weighing in by not weighing in; Grande showing off that $93,000 ring.
We’re binge-watching this thing without even really meaning to.
Meanwhile, a mystery is unfolding, the likes of which have the internet’s most devoted Peteiana stans stringing up conspiracy walls like we’re Carrie Mathison in Homeland.
According to one close analysis, Davidson and Grande went public on May 21, but they couldn’t have ordered that ring any later than May 19. Also, he may have been talking about her as early as April 21 – before news of their respective breakups hit the public. Just how long has this relationship been going on??
Even by celebrity romance standards, theirs is a particularly dramatic courtship – and one that’s moving so fast, the gossip mill can barely keep up. Basically, we’re binge-watching this thing without meaning to.
They’ve been through some shit
Outside their art, Grande and Davidson are probably best known for the hardships they’ve endured. She’s spoken frankly about dealing with PTSD after the Manchester bombing, as well as her toxic relationship with Mac Miller. He’s been equally open about his struggles with addiction and mental illness, and about losing his father on 9/11.
When two people who’ve been through that kind of hell find some measure of joy together – well, that’s just sweet.
True, the same part of me that’s happy they’re happy, worries that someday they might not be so happy. Again, we’re talking about two hot young people who decided to get married in less time than it’s taken me to pick out a new lamp for my bedroom. Whatever their other strengths and weaknesses as a couple, the odds are stacked against them working out in the long run.
But hey, they’re on cloud nine right now. They can enjoy that as long as it lasts, and we can enjoy it vicariously through them. If it ends, I just hope it ends well, and that they – and we – will be left with fond memories of their time together.
Besides, who knows? Maybe they will last forever. Weirder things have happened. The fact that they’re trying at all is kind of romantic, in the way that letting love hijack your more rational side can be kind of romantic. Lasting passion is the underdog here, and who doesn’t like to root for a good underdog?
Everything else is pretty awful
Have you seen the other headlines in the news today? There’s no shortage of drama out there, and most of it is horrifically awful: war, climate change, angry AI. (Not aliens, though. Never aliens.) Even celebrity gossip can’t be counted on for feather-light fluff anymore, since every other day seems to bring a new exposé about a terrible, abusive man.
All of these topics are important and necessary, and absolutely demand our attention if we don’t want this world to go up in flames. In this pre-apocalyptic landscape, there truly is no lower priority than whether or not some woman I’ve never met was referring to some man I’ve never met when she tweeted and then deleted a lyric from a Broadway show I’ve never seen.
But that’s exactly why I treasure the time I spend poring over the minute details of their relationship. Davidson and Grande are a distraction, and sometimes we need a distraction to break up the constant state of panic that is life in 2018.
Peteiana is the best kind of shiny nothing for that need. The story is exciting, thanks to the constant stream of updates on social media and in the gossip blogs; sweet, because it’s fundamentally a story about two people finding love; and low-stakes, since at the end of the day, their love lives don’t actually affect us at all.
Or maybe I should say – they don’t affect us in any material sense. I’ll freely admit right now that I’m going to be inconsolable if and when they eventually break up. Like I said: I’m obsessed.
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