If it wasn’t for the Manchester Arena bombing, I presume a great many people in Britain would never have come across Ariana Grande.
In the aftermath of that terrible tragedy, in which 22 of her fans – including 10 under the age of 20 – were murdered as they left their idol’s concert, she inevitably entered the public consciousness very deeply. She would wish it were not so, of course, yet by all outward indications she dealt with the situation commendably.
Not only did she say the right things, but she visited young survivors in hospital and she was front and centre of the musical event defiantly arranged in the city just a fortnight later to commemorate the dead and to make plain that terrorists cannot win.
Just as it is impossible to imagine the anguish of families who lost loved ones in the attack, and of those who were maimed by it, so we cannot know quite how Ariana Grande was affected. One imagines that feelings of shock and horror were mingled with a sense, however undue, of guilt at the knowledge that it was her music which brought those particular individuals to the Manchester Arena on that fateful night. Yet she has – publicly at least – carried that heavy emotional burden with grace and sensitivity.
Now, a little more than a year after the bombing, Grande is back in the spotlight – and again it is not for musical reasons. Rather, news of her engagement to the actor and comedian Pete Davidson (not to be confused with a time-travelling Peter Davison), has caused a right old hoo-ha, with doubters expressing concern at the haste with which the pair have decided to marry after just a month of dating.
Grande for her part has hit back at the critics, writing on Twitter: “The truth is I been the f**k thru it and life’s too short to be cryptic and s**t about something as beautiful as this love I’m in. So Pete it is.”
And if you ask me, it’s well said (unnecessary expletives notwithstanding). This, after all, is a 24-year-old woman we’re talking about, not a child. What’s more, it’s noteworthy that the anxiety is directed only at her – nobody seems to worry that Davidson, who confirmed the engagement yesterday, is rushing in. Really the double standard is breathtaking.
In any event, who are others to judge the degree to which love and commitment between two people is likely to last? I bet we all know a couple who were together for years, finally decided to get married and then promptly divorced. Likewise, plenty of people decide to get hitched in the first rush of romance and make it last.
What’s even more absurd in this instance is that Grande and Davidson have done nothing more than express an intention to marry. It’s not as if they got hammered on tequila before drunkenly saying "I do" in a Las Vegas chapel (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that either!)
By her account, Grande’s previous relationship was “toxic” and “scary” at times (Mac Miller, the man in question, has spoken about his drug use). She was strong enough to leave that partnership, which seems as decent an indication as any that she knows her own mind and won’t be pushed around – by men, by the media or by naysayers on Twitter. Indeed, she stood up admirably to those who publicly criticised her for breaking up with Miller.
It is notable perhaps that Davidson, like Grande, has experienced the traumatic aftermath of a terrorist attack. His father was a firefighter in New York who lost his life as the towers came crashing down on 9/11 – Davidson was seven at the time. Perhaps their shared understanding of the bleakness which terrorism leaves in its wake will be a binding force, and an important source of comfort.
Will the engagement be seen through; will any ensuing marriage last; will they be happy? There is, in the end, no way to tell at this stage – just as there is no knowing how any relationship will ultimately work out.
But these two people seem like a pair of good eggs. I hope they ignore the social media trolls and live happily ever after.