For the entirety of their weeks-long relationship, Reported Large Dick Haver Pete Davidson and Tiny Sexy Baby Ariana Grande have been the focus of a remarkable amount of attention. News sites are writing out timelines of their brief courtship and roundups of their “Most TMI, PDA-Filled Moments,” while Twitter and Instagram users are tracking their every sappy move.
What’s so interesting about two twentysomethings who can’t stop talking about each other’s butts in public? Alone, they are good-looking, young, rich people who make no sense together. As an item, they’re perfect gossip fodder: moving too fast, bizarrely compatible (even astrologically ideal), and as brazen about their PDA as Grande is about donut-licking. They’re just like that really intense couple in high school you were always curious about. Are they fighting? Are they having sex? Are they going to get married? Oh my god did he get her a ring? How did he manage to get a girl like that? Where are their parents????
I am personally very invested in the two of them, both together and apart. Separately, Davidson and Grande are both young creatives in their prime and frighteningly young serial monogamists, who seemingly communicate solely with cloud and monkey emojis. They make for a perfect cross-section of my interests.
Pete Davidson looks like a burnout. I imagine he skateboards. He joined Saturday Night Live in 2014 at 20 years old, one of the youngest cast members they’ve ever had, making him a quiet overachiever in his own particular way. He always has dark bags under his eyes, talks frequently about his mental health and his efforts to get sober from drugs. He’s funny, but with an undercurrent of personal darkness, like most comedians have: Davidson’s firefighter father died in the 9/11 attacks. Most of Davidson’s public relationships have been intense. His last, with Cazzie David, resulted in him having to cover up a tattoo of her cartoon face — a normal, reasonable thing to get after dating someone for two years. (Even his tattoo artist is begging him to stop with the girlfriend tats.)
He’s goofy, cheerful, and spooky, and almost always photographed with his tongue sticking out, his middle fingers up, or his full lips stretched in a lazy smile. He’s 80% jaw and lip. Davidson is like a popular guy in the 11th grade who actually neither needs nor cares about his popularity. (In reality, he started doing stand-up when he was 16 and dropped out of college, making him literally too cool for school.) He is a hot, sad, thin ghost. Surely there’s a real sweetheart under all those dumb tattoos. I bet I can fix him.
Grande, meanwhile, is a Starbucks unicorn Frap in human form, a thicket of hair pulled into a ponytail on her crown, a swoop of black eyeliner, an oversize sweater dress that makes her look like even more of an adorable, tiny baby than she already does. Grande is cute and sickly-sweet, the kind of girl who was clearly too good for all men. Can I be her friend? Can we share clothes? I want her to be mean so I can hate her but I just can’t! Improbably, Grande became an icon for perseverance in the face of terror after her concert at England’s Manchester Arena was bombed, killing 23 people. She’s talked about her struggles with PTSD after the attack, and put on a touching benefit concert for Manchester a few weeks later. She sings songs about getting railed so hard she can’t walk straight. Who is she??
Around six weeks ago, Davidson and Grande announced that they were dating, seemingly through Harry Potter–related Instagrams, a heartbeat after they each got out of previous long-term relationships. In quick order, they’ve met each other’s families, moved into a $16 million apartment in New York, gotten engaged, bought some furniture, and got multiple matching tattoos. One of the interludes on Grande’s upcoming album is called “Pete” and her latest fragrance "Cloud" might be about him as well. Of course this relationship feels like gossip catnip. Two quiet weirdos who have too much money, are cute as hell, and both look confusingly ethnic despite both being white? Sign me up.
Even the Grande stans are on board. This five-second Instagram clip uploaded by Davidson of him dancing shirtless to Kid Cudi’s “Reborn” inexplicably has 8.6 million views. The comments, seemingly largely from Grande fans, are a perfect distillation of the apparent global confusion over why we find Davidson so attractive in the first place. On the video, people write “Watched this 10 times” or “Ok u are actually the cutest” or “I CANT I love him” or “I like a playful guy” or, simply put, “Marry me.”
Stans tend to be protective of their idols, and yet, Grande’s have embraced Davidson as a good match for their queen. She’s the clean-cut cheerleader who’s fallen for the bad boy with a heart of gold. He’ll rub off on her, giving her a little more grit, while she’ll try to fix him, curing him of the inescapable sadness that’s always written across his dopey face. If you ever wanted to be taken along on a relationship you will absolutely never get to have, one that looks too perfect from the outside, now’s your chance.
Nothing feels good right now. But Pete and Ari feel good. They’re living in a glorious vacuum and letting us watch from the sidelines, acting as if nothing bad could ever happen to them — to us? — again. But the real reason we like this relationship is because it’s a disaster waiting to happen. High school couplings are intense and beautiful because they’re rarely made to last. They’re intense and irrational and can either give you a false sense of superiority (I would never be so foolish as to move in with someone after a month and a half) or of wish fulfillment (WHEN WILL MY GHOUL-LIKE PRINCE COME?). In either case, they’re always meant to be temporary, because this level of intensity is not remotely sustainable. No one actually has this much energy, not even these two hot teens.
They’ve obviously moved too far, too fast, too soon, and there’s absolutely no possibility of them making it as a couple. Yet it still makes for a compelling narrative; a couple so strangely compatible but yet so mismatched, a union that will surely end like the ones in the past have ended.
Do we want a breakup like the Rachel McAdams–Ryan Gosling split of 2007, where they each spoke of the other with a vague mutual respect, Gosling calling their relationship “a hell of a lot more romantic” than The-goddamn-Notebook. A breakup where we, the rest of the world who deserve to know every last detail, never really got a satisfying answer? Or do we want an epic breakup that goes down in flames, a Bieber–Gomez number, where everyone’s friends pick sides and every future relationship is compared to this fundamental one two people had when they were proverbial children?
We love relationships like this, those first big ones that become building blocks for the rest of your life, because it’s something we can all relate to: the rush of new love, and subsequent devastation. Maybe Davidson can get his Grande tattoos covered up live on Instagram Stories and Grande’s next album can have a song titled something like “I Was Lying When I Said It Was That Big.” Davidson will move on with another doe-like brunette, and Grande will shack up with another dude whose arms look like a seventh-grader graffitied all over them. They’re never going to be able to listen to Evanescence again. The breakdown is just as fun as the buildup, and considering how high they’ve gotten, the collapse is going to be tremendous.
I love them together. I hope they never break up. I hope this never ends. I can’t wait to watch it fall apart. ●