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From Wordle to Bennifer and Pete Davidson: The dos and don’ts of love according to pop culture

Can pop culture’s biggest moments teach us anything about romance this Valentine’s Day? Kate Ng gleans all the lessons in love from our favourite celebrities

Monday 14 February 2022 17:10 GMT
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Whether you’re a lover or a hater of the day that celebrates all things romance, Valentine’s Day is here. By now, you’ve either spent the last two weeks curating a special playlist for your beloved and booking the perfect romantic restaurant, or you’re in the avoid-all-mentions-of-V-day-at-all-costs camp.

Whichever way you choose to spend Valentine’s Day, love tends to be contagious. Even the most hardened cynics can’t help but smile when it’s in the air. But what can some of the biggest pop culture moments teach us about love?

Between the numerous break-ups and make-ups, blossoming romances and faltering relationships, it’s evident that celebrities and other famous figures are just like us, figuring it out as they go along.

With that in mind, here are some of the lessons in love we’ve collected from the past year.

Do: Create a word game for your partner

The online game Wordle, which is now played by millions of people around the world, started out as a puzzle created specially for just one person.

US-based engineer Josh Wardle created the game for his partner, Palak Shah, because he knew she loved word games. After several attempts at making Wordle, he and Shah settled on a version that gave her just six tries to guess the word of the day.

Shah told The New York Times (NYT) - which later bought the game from Wardle for an undisclosed seven-figure sum - that she appreciated he created it just for her.

“It’s really sweet,” she said. “This is definitely how Josh shows his love.”

Although Wordle might no longer be the same game everyone fell in love with - as many have lamented that the game has gotten harder since it migrated to the NYT’s website - it represents one of the ultimate manifestations of modern love.

Don’t: Move across the street from them

When Kim Kardashian announced she was filing for divorce from rapper Kanye West in February 2021 after seven years of marriage, the news appeared to come as a huge blow for the College Dropout star.

(Getty Images for The Met Museum/)

Since then, West, who also goes by Ye, has been seemingly trying to win his ex back. From begging Kardashian to “run right back” to him during a performance with Drake in December to publicly parading his new relationship with Uncut Gems actor Julia Fox by the New Year, fans have become increasingly worried about West’s erratic behaviour.

But one of West’s biggest attempts at reconciling his family took place last month when he bought a house across the street from Kardashian in Hidden Hills, California.

Previously, West had been living in the USD$11 million (£8.1 million) Wyoming ranch he and Kardashian owned since 2020, when he launched his bid to become president of the USA.

West told Hollywood Unlockedearlier this year that he bought the house on the same street as Kardashian’s to be closer to his children, adding: “My solace comes from seeing my kids and getting a solid schedule. That’s why I even got the house.”

However, his recent actions have been cause for concern. In early February, West used his Instagram account to accuse Kardashian of putting their daughter North on TikTok “against my will”.

Kardashian hit back in a statement through her spokesperson, calling West’s “constant attacks” on her in interviews and social media “actually more hurtful than any TikTok North might create”.

Do: Own your height difference

Height can seem like a trivial thing to be insecure about, but it can really impact one’s body image, particularly in men. But if any celebrity couple can disprove that height can’t stand in the way of love, it’s Tom Holland and Zendaya.

(Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Ever since the Spider-Man co-stars took their relationship public last year, fans have been loving the height taboos smashed by the pairing. Holland is 5 ft 8 inches, while Zendaya is 5 ft 10 inches.

In an interview with SiriusXM in December, ahead of the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Holland said it was a “stupid assumption” that men should be taller than their partners.

Zendaya agreed and added: “This is normal too. My mum is taller than my dad. I honestly never thought of it as a thing because my parents were always that way, so I didn’t know people cared. I had no construct of it.”

The couple have also poked fun at their height difference and joked that it made stunts more difficult during filming.

Height differences aside, Holland and Zendaya have become a favourite celebrity couple among social media users, who couldn’t be less bothered about it either. We stan a short king.

Don’t: Propose to them with a ring that hurts to take off

Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly’s blossoming relationship has been so public that there is a running joke on social media that goes: “Everything I’ve learned about this couple, I’ve learned against my will.”

The fervour between the pair came to a head when musician Machine Gun Kelly - whose real name is Colson Baker - proposed to Fox under a banyan tree on 13 January 2022. He sealed the engagement with a set of two intertwining rings he designed with British jeweller Stephen Webster.

So far, so romantic. However, Kelly further explained that the rings were designed to hurt Fox if she tried to take them off. Yikes.

He told Vogue: “The concept is that the ring can come apart to make two rings. When it’s together, it’s held in place by a magnet. So you see how it snaps together? And then it forms an obscure heart. And you see this right here? The bands are actually thorns. So if she tries to take it off, it hurts.”

He later added: “Love is pain!”

It might sound questionable to us, but Fox appears to love it, so who are we to judge? Maybe don’t take any thorns out of their book though.

Do: Embrace PDA

Public displays of affection (PDA) are back, baby. Where once celebrities may have shied away from it, fearing it would betray a lack of decorum, all the rules have been thrown out the window ever since the red carpet returned post-pandemic.

Leading the hordes of tongueing and grinding are Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker, who became engaged in October last year. The pair made their red carpet debut as a couple at the MTV VMAs in September, wearing matching black outfits and touching tongues. Yes, you read that right. Touching. Tongues.

(Getty Images)

Prior to the MTV VMAs, Kardashian and Barker were also seen pulling the same PDA while sitting ringside at an Ultimate Fighting Championship match in July.

Theirs are not the only celebrity tongues we’ve seen (shudder), as Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly are also no strangers to touching tongues on the red carpet. Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, who rekindled their romance in 2021, have also engaged in PDA, although theirs has been a little less in-your-face.

Don’t: Swindle them out of all their money

You’d think this was a no-brainer: in order to win over your partner, don’t be a criminal. But Netflix’s The Tinder Swindler has shown that we all need reminding from time to time not to ruin each other’s lives financially and emotionally, just so you can have a jolly good time.

The Tinder Swindler follows three women, Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjöholm, and Ayleen Charlotte, who work together to help Interpol catch Simon Leviev, whose real name is Shimon Hayut. Over the course of several years, Hayut conned the women out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by gaining their trust and then manipulating them into giving him their money.

The documentary is an eye-opening look into how romance scams work, as well as the grooming and manipulation that goes into them. However, it reveals at the end that Hayut spent just five months in prison despite being sentenced to 15 months, while his victims are still paying off their debts.

Just days after the documentary was released, it was reported that a British man named Richard Dexter had been jailed after he conned a woman he met on Tinder out of more than £140,000.

Dexter, 38, persuaded Amrita Sebastian to give him the money after sharing “intimate information in order to build trust” and tricking her into thinking he was “credible and believable”. He was sentenced to four and a half years at Portsmouth Crown Court.

Do: Revisit your romance after you’ve both had a chance to grow up

When Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck were first spotted spending time with one another in April 2021, the air was ripe with potential. Lopez had just ended her engagement to Alex Rodriguez and Affleck had broken up with Knives Out star Ana de Armas. The romantic world was their oyster.

Throughout the rest of 2021, the pair were seen flying in and out of cities to see each other, staying at one another’s houses for weeks at a time, and reconnecting after they broke off their engagement almost two decades earlier in 2004.

(AFP via Getty Images)

So when they made their first red carpet debut as an official couple in September 2021, fans went wild with excitement. Bennifer was back, and the pair seemed to be madly in love.

Last week, Lopez admitted that no one, not even her or Affleck, would have thought they would rekindle their romance after so many years. She told The Ellen DeGeneres Show: “I don’t think anybody was more surprised than us. No, you could never imagine something like that could happen. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Prior to her appearance on the show, Lopez told PEOPLE Magazine that she felt “so lucky and happy” to be back with Affleck, adding that it was a “beautiful love story that we got a second chance”.

Nearly 20 years have passed since the pair became engaged, when Lopez was 33 and Affleck was 30. Now, with maturity and time to heal past wounds, it looks like Bennifer might go from strength to strength.

Don’t: Jump from lover to lover

The biggest enigma on the celebrity dating scene right now is Pete Davidson. The Saturday Night Live comedian has dated some of Hollywood’s most beautiful women, including Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian.

Pete Davidson buys ferry (Getty Images for The Met Museum/)

But it’s not why Davidson has dated these women that is questionable. Davidson’s appeal seems to lie in his self-deprecating humour, which signals a lack of arrogance and an authenticity that is rare among men like himself.

However, his dating history seems to consist of jumping from one beautiful woman to another with such speed that it could rival a Mario Kart race. In the past seven years, he has been romantically linked to no fewer than eight Hollywood women, which makes one wonder how he has time for SNL at all.

Between 2015 to 2021, Davidson dated stand-up comedian and Girl Code star Carly Aquilion; Larry David’s daughter, Cazzie David; Ariana Grande, who he got engaged to and then broke it off within five months; Underworld star Kate Beckinsale; Maid actor Margaret Qualley; model Kaia Gerber; Bridgerton star Phoebe Dynevor; and finally, Kim Kardashian.

No shade to Davidson’s or anyone’s dating history, but there are often periods in one’s life where spending time as a singleton is necessary to take care of yourself. Time will tell if Davidson and Kardashian’s relationship will survive her divorce from Kanye West.

Do: Inspire them to take up a new hobby

The best partners are the ones who inspire you to try something new. In Team GB swimmer Tom Daley’s case, a gentle push from his husband Dustin Lance Black led to the discovery of a major hidden talent: knitting.

Dustin Lance Black and Tom Daley attends Pride Of Britain Awards 2019 at The Grosvenor House Hotel on October 28, 2019 (Getty Images)

Daley is an avid knitter, but it started when Black, his screenwriter husband of more than five years suggested the Olympian take up the hobby to help him become less restless.

Speaking to the BBC, Daley said he started knitting “because I’m terrible at sitting still”.

“It was actually Lance who said that on set, people will knit squares just to pass the time and I was like: OK, I’ll try that. So I started trying it and fell in love with it, and here we are.”

Since then, Daley’s obsession with knitting has transformed into a project called “Made With Love by Tom Daley”, where he knits jumpers, cardigans, and pouches for his numerous Olympic gold medals and raises money for charity.

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