Last month, pop artist Ariana Grande and “Saturday Night Live” comedian Pete Davidson ended their engagement and, in turn, their dreamlike, potently loving relationship. Their breakup came on the heels of the death of Grande’s ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, who died of a drug overdose this past September. Grande and Davidson’s short-lived relationship is an exhibition of our unsustainable desperation for love that heals and saves us from our debilitating pain and longings.
Grande and Davidson’s union served as a temporary and well-deserved escape from their shared trauma and torment. In May 2017, about a year before her painful breakup with Miller and the start of her tragic relationship with Davidson, Grande’s concert in Manchester, England, was the target of a terrorist attack that left 22 people dead and 59 people injured; and in December 2016, Davidson was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a mental illness diagnosis that compounded the comedian’s childhood trauma. Davidson lost his father in the September 11 terrorist attacks at 7 years old; thereafter, he suffered from depression and attempted to drown himself.
Grande and Davidson are at the front of the line for those who need and deserve sexual and emotional healing.
For a moment, such healing seemed possible.
In June, Davidson proclaimed on Instagram that his relationship with Grande was better than a “dream.” And in August, following her engagement, Grande stated: “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.” On top of that, Grande and Davidson’s love seemed red-hot and unbreakable whenever the couple was in public. The two were big fans of public displays of affection, and they seemed to know each other in a way that exemplified a long-shared physical and spiritual companionship. Their love was made for another universe and too true to have ever had a chance to last in this one.
Grande’s new album “Sweetener,” released at the height of the couple’s romance in August 2018, sheds further insight on the couple’s ephemeral love and now effectively serves as an emotional Bible, documenting the lost union.
The track “God is a Woman,” the crowning achievement of the album, speaks volumes about the couple’s passionate physical connection. The song conveys the revelatory intimacy that sometimes accompanies intercourse and its afterglow — in that afterglow, Grande declares that Davidson will “believe God is a woman.”
The track demonstrates the pure, mutual joy the two experienced during sex. They both maintained a level of control and erotic vulnerability, and it seems they were both consistently satiated by the conclusion of their love-making sessions. Likewise, the track allows Grande to assert the power, beauty, and cultural subversion of her sexuality. She sings, “(Yeah) And I can be all the things you told me not to be / (Yeah) When you try to come for me, I keep on flourishing / (Yeah) And he see the universe when I’m the company / It’s all in me.” For Grande, her expression of sexual agency with a caring partner is no match for society’s normative patriarchal constraints on female liberation.
Grande and Davidson’s intimacy is reinforced on the now-sorrowful track “pete davidson.” In the song, Grande calls Davidson her “soulmate” and tells him, “my whole life got me ready for you,” as if her relationship with Davidson was the capstone of her quest for true love and contentment. Grande also indicates that her love for Davidson has healed her from her painful breakup with Miller, informing the world that it: “Won’t get no crying from me, yeah / Gonna be happy, happy / I’ma be happy, happy / I’ma be happy, happy, yeah.”
In retrospect, though, these tracks convey desperation — a desperation for love to save broken people in a fallen world, a desperation to feel something, a desperation to finally be okay.
Such desperation exhibits how, perhaps, Grande and Davidson were grasping at straws all along, deceiving themselves into thinking that love could be the panacea for their pain, instead of just compounding it.
I believe only Grande’s Instagram message to Miller after the rapper’s death can convey some level of restorative hope and closure to her troubled unions with Miller and, yes, Davidson. It’s a message that nearly made me cry when I first read it, but I think the opportunity to absorb the note’s emotional generosity, raw empathy, and unconditional love makes reading it worth the pain:
“i adored you from the day i met you when i was nineteen and i always will. i can’t believe you aren’t here anymore. i really can’t wrap my head around it. we talked about this. so many times. i’m so mad, i’m so sad i don’t know what to do. you were my dearest friend. for so long. above anything else. i’m so sorry i couldn’t fix or take your pain away. i really wanted to. the kindest, sweetest soul with demons he never deserved. i hope you’re okay now. rest.”