On Love and Celebrities
Art by Kirsten Hemrich
There is a website I used to frequent called “Who’s Dated Who." Its purpose is exactly what it sounds like: to inform us mortals about the love lives of the rich and famous. In the murky depths of this website I have discovered Cher once dated Tom Cruise, Zac Efron once had an “encounter” with Lindsay Lohan, and that learning about celebrity love lives is an easy and addictive way to avoid the complexities of your own.
Projecting yourself onto celebrities (and their romantic entanglements) is practically an American pastime. Arguably, it extends throughout the threads of history. The drama surrounding Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn (who was later beheaded) must have been riveting. Rich, powerful, and famous people have always been the lens through which we understand our own emotions. Tristan Thompson cheating on Khloé Kardashian hurts us. So did Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez’s breakup. We invested in it, because it was easier than investing in ourselves.
When I went through a break-up myself, this website was a solace. Seeing the lists of celebrities and the people they dated reminded me that even celebrities went through heartbreak. They, like me, felt volatile, wrenching emotions. They, like me, probably had a daily cry session for weeks until they could function again.
Jumping into the wormhole of “Who’s Dated Who” was mind-numbing. I would click on a new celebrity absentmindedly and wander into white space. I became particularly invested in the drama surrounding Selena Gomez, Justin Beiber, the Weeknd, and models Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin. For those unversed, Gomez and Beiber, a staple celebrity couple, split sometime in 2013. She subsequently dated the Weeknd, who had also recently split from Instafamous model Bella Hadid. When Gomez and the Weeknd broke up, she got back with Bieber. Then they broke up and Bieber got back with his ex-Hailey Baldwin and married her. The Weeknd also got back with his ex-Hadid, leaving Gomez alone and checking herself into a hospital after a mental breakdown.
Strangely, seeing a celebrity as talented and kind and beautiful as Selena Gomez end up in such a situation made me feel better about being single. I saw her--millions of Instagram followers, clothing lines, albums and films and TV shows--and I saw me. Were we really that much different in terms of what we were going through? My ex started dating someone soon after we broke up. So too did both of Selena’s ex’s. I was embracing my friendships and taking time for myself. From Selena’s social media, it seemed as if she was doing the same.
However, due to her millions of fans, Selena’s tragedies and dramas become headlines. My relationships, lucky for me, are not published on the Internet for anyone to analyze and dissect. Celebrities like Selena give us the entertainment we need to forget about our own mortal lives for a moment and focus on some larger, Olympian dimension. A stage that is sharper, more dramatic, and heightened.
Love is not always as simple as a list of people you’ve dated laid out cleanly on a webpage. Yet in a time where love proved endlessly complex for me, seeing it in such a format was comforting. On insomniatic nights, I sometimes still browse “Who’s Dated Who” and glance at the start and end dates of celebrity relationships. Some lasting years, others only “encounters.” Mere moments or hours or days. A brush of attraction. I lie back and wonder how many people I will connect with in my lifetime. If it will be countable on one hand or two or if I’ll need many, many hands to keep track. I wonder how many people I’ll ever love, as if such a thing is finite enough to be counted at all.