Yesterday, it became official: my precious son (Justin Bieber) asked Hailey Baldwin to marry him, and she said she would.
“Not sure what I did in life to deserve such happiness but I am so utterly grateful to God for giving me such an incredible person to share my life with!” she tweeted in a since deleted post. “No other words could ever express my gratitude.”
Which, like, sure. Okay! Congrats, and go forth, young grasshoppers, and prosper. All of us are very shocked, but not quite as shocked as we were amidst the first moments of the Ariana/Pete adventure. Plus, being famous seems exhausting, so why wouldn’t young celebrities hunker down together to brave the storm until they were old and jaded enough to go it alone (or with a non-celeb)? In fact, what surprises me isn’t their choices, it’s our reaction to them. In 2018, we were shocked to hear about Bieber and Hailey as though we hadn’t lived through Britney Spears and Kevin Federline. (Or through the 2000s like, in general.) Which is shocking, especially since our favourite pastime is to remind ourselves that stars are just like us.
We all know that couple from our hometown or from university or from the early days of our working life where they moved quickly, surprised the masses, and are either still (amazingly) together (how?!) or have long collapsed in on themselves like a dying star. They do not mellow out, and they do not get boring. We watch on Facebook or Instagram as they make bold declarations about unconditional love before all photos of the aforementioned spouse disappear, or we scroll through their timelines wondering who these public displays of affection are for. (And how they can keep up the momentum after so much time.) They are in every small town, every city, and every industry. And regardless of how much you hate drama or being around people who tend to smother people with emotion, you will subscribe to their narrative and remain glued to their makeshift soap operas. How do Brad and Jennifer still act like this? we ask ourselves. And why am I three years into her tagged photos?
In truth, Bieber and Hailey (or Pete and Ariana, honestly, at this point, they’re all the same) are doing the most normal thing two people who exist in the celebrity microcosm can do: they’re acting like a lot of the couples we’ve seen who’ve gone big, loud, hard, and chosen to use marriage to learn and grow and to assert independence. For years, we’ve treated these twenty-somethings as wee precious babies. And the fastest way to prove to us that they are not? That they’re adults who can enter into a legal contract that might end in half their assets being taken away? Marriage, baby. Swiftly and publicly and on their own terms.
Which I understand. If my adolescence and teen years and early-to-mid twenties were being examined under a microscope by the press and millions of strangers, I’d do anything to prove how much of an adult I was, especially with another person who understood my world. It’s a reprieve and an escape. It’s a survival tactic and a new way to act out. And when you’re Justin Bieber, who’s already acted out in almost every way possible, you do the next most unexpected thing: you make a choice to subscribe to a centuries-long social norm. And you include your Christian values, ensuring they were not there only to appease Selena Gomez (once upon a Bible study).
Ultimately, you move to the metaphorical suburbs where you know the rest of us will glue ourselves to your story and you can cement yourself as a grown-ass adult. Which shouldn’t shock us under any circumstances. Stars, they say, are just like us. Or at least like that couple we all know who just got married last month.