Why we should celebrate Ariana Grande for having the courage to break off her engagement
We’re quick to use a woman’s ‘failed’ relationships as evidence of her instability, her irrationality, or even her insanity. But having the guts to end something that isn’t right, or to halt something that’s going too fast is entirely rational
You know when you’re confidently walking down the street, and you suddenly realise that you’re going completely the wrong way? The most sensible thing to do would be to stop in your tracks, pivot 180 degrees, and stride, equally confidently, in the exact opposite direction.
But often, we’re too embarrassed to do this. We’re worried that other pedestrians will think we’re nuts if we just perform an unceremonious U-turn in the middle of the pavement. I’ve often taken a tiring, circuitous route, just because I’m too self-conscious to turn on my heel.
This feeling is magnified when it comes to relationships. We’ll all have seen articles devoted to “the shortest celebrity marriages of all time”. As a culture we’re morbidly obsessed by short-run romances, where things are broken off as hurriedly as they began.
Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson are a prime example. After salivating over their speedy engagement; social media is now sagging under the weight of our “what went wrong” theories.
“They got engaged too fast,” some suggest. “Ariana’s having a mental breakdown,” others propose.
There’s no denying it, the past 18 months will have been traumatic for Grande. The Manchester attack, the death of her ex-boyfriend; the young singer has had a horrific time. But performative press concern isn’t going to be the best thing for the Grande’s mental state.
She’s begged for “one okay day” – let’s try to make sure she gets it by giving her some space rather than intrusively speculating about her wellbeing.
But it’s important to talk about why Grande’s alleged decision to break off her engagement has led people to conclude that she’s not in her right mind. We’re quick to use a woman’s “failed” relationships as evidence of her instability, her irrationality, or even her insanity. But having the guts to end something that isn’t right, or to halt something that’s going too fast, or to realise that you just need to be alone for a while – all of these are rational, reasonable and valid conclusions to reach.
Famous women have their giddy engagements and messy breakups played out on the world’s stage. They are most acutely subjected to this idea that inconsistency must indicate madness.
But we’re all familiar with this warped social perception. We’re all worried that quitting a job three weeks after starting, moving out of a flatshare a month after moving in, ending a relationship right after it’s been made Facebook-official, will make us look “psycho” (an ableist insult most commonly thrown at women).
If we continue to feed the culture that encourages people to “see things through” at any cost, we’ll be responsible for all the miserable medical students wishing they were doing drama, all the unhappy couples trying to plough through a loveless marriage, all the frustrated accountants wanting to retrain as psychologists (and all the emotionally exhausted psychologists wanting to retrain as accountants).
So maybe we should change our approach to the personal U-turn. Maybe we should try congratulating people when they drop-out, change course or break-up, instead of only asking: “What went wrong?”
Obviously, sometimes sticking-it-out is the right decision – this isn’t about creating a culture that encourages quitting or applauds irresponsibility. And no, you definitely don’t need to buy a stack of “congratulations on your divorce” cards. But we’ll foster a much healthier approach to romance if we acknowledge the strength and bravery involved in ending a relationship.
It’s all too easy to keep going down the wrong path because you’re scared that you’ll look “crazy” if you just turn around. But remember, Friends would have been a very different sitcom if Rachel hadn’t left Barry at the altar.