A great philosopher once said that “sometimes the snow comes down in June, sometimes the sun goes ‘round the moon.” While this sentiment is only partially applicable here, change is in the air. The sacred time of the year known as “cuffing season” is morphing into the autumn of breakups — the fall of true love— for celebrities, at least. We’re nearly two years into the pandemic, and it looks like a lot of the famous people who either got together or got serious during lockdown are now starting to realize the partners they latched onto probably aren’t their soulmates.
Look no further than the recent break-up of Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, a duo whose love (?) sparked frequent debate over its realness or lack thereof. Theirs was a defining pandemic love story — or at the very least, a pandemic panic situation that saw them forced into quarantining together just a few months into their relationship. The rise and fall of their COVID-era romance is emblematic of a greater, foreboding trend that’s been sweeping through celebrity coupledom in recent weeks, as pandemic fatigue reaches new heights two years in.
The timelines of the varying and currently imploding relationships are all different, some beginning months, even years, prior to the pandemic, and others both starting and ending during it. But many of them seem to be reaching a breaking point simultaneously, in this very moment, and it can’t be a coincidence.
In an ordinary year, the chill of November and the advent of the holiday season might have marked the start of new relationships, or a time for summer flings to get serious. But 2021 isn’t exactly an ordinary year. This isn’t the start of cuffing season — rather, it’s the end of pandemic cuffing season, as a false sense of normalcy and a “return to reality” begin to take hold as we close in on COVID-19’s two-year mark. (Sure, Colorado and other states are reaching new pandemic peaks and ICUs across the country are rapidly filling, but sports are back and influencers are snapping pics in packed clubs again, so the pandemic is supposedly over!)
The early months of the pandemic were make-or-break for relationships in general. Many were forced to either get serious and expedite moving in together to quarantine, or make the choice to literally never see each other again. The strain of the pandemic yielded a deluge of break-ups early on, from Ashley Benson and Cara Delevingne within the first month of lockdown, to Bachelor Nation power couple Becca Kufrin and Garrett Yrigoyen, to Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis, shortly before Wilde began dating Harry Styles at the beginning of 2021.
In the final days before Mendes and Cabello publicly went their separate ways, a whole roster of A-list romances and pandemic ships steadily bit the dust. Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik ended their relationship of nearly five years in October, after Hadid’s mother Yolanda alleged Malik had shoved her in an altercation. Kaia Gerber and Jacob Elordi reportedly split last week after one gloriously photogenic year together, shortly after Chase Stokes and Madelyn Cline of Outerbanks, JoJo Siwa and Kylie Prew, and Batsheva Haart and Ben Weinstein, stars of My Unorthodox Life, announced their separations, too.
Despite the numerous relationships that crumbled, at different points, there have been a few ports in the storm for those who rely on glimpses of celebrity PDA to bolster their belief in love. Until last week, Cabello and Mendes often voraciously performed their Very Real physical attraction to each other in public, spotted making out at nearly every beach in Miami over the course of the pandemic. Perhaps following in their footsteps and guided by a wily PR team, Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck were seemingly the most successful and photo-ready pandemic relationship of all for a period of time. For months, their coupledom looked like pure bliss — throwing their beautiful heads back in uproarious laughter on leisurely strolls through the park, or, in Affleck’s case, picking up their daily Dunkin Donuts order from their front step each morning.
But the couple split by the beginning of this year, laying the groundwork for the Bennifer reunion that was years in the making. Plenty of other power couples have emerged to fill the void, like newly engaged Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian, gallivanting across Italy with their tongues down each other’s throats all summer, or Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly, often seen doing the same. These pairings seemed like probable love stories, in comparison to couples that once seemed as predestined as ZiGi, or as irritatingly inevitable as ShawMila. Some might call it a glitch in the matrix, but I choose to call it the circle of life, just nature doing its thing — there’s really nothing more natural than an unnatural celebrity relationship. Maybe two years into the pandemic, nature is healing, after all.
In any case, COVID isn’t anywhere near over, however determined more and more people seem to act as if it is. But we’ve been in it long enough to witness the rise and fall of empires — or, whatever you might choose to call any of these relationships. After these particularly long two years, we’re all a little restless, and that restlessness seems to be finally coming to a head.
Money, privilege, clout, aside, celebs are sort-of-kind-of just like us, at the end of the day — through two years of a global public health crisis, relationships, parenting, and spending almost every moment quarantining together can take a toll. The allure of a world seemingly reopening, of new people and new thrills, of fresh romance, or just finally getting a moment to yourself to hear your own thoughts, is probably beckoning a lot of people right now. Of course, all of that is just one theory for what’s causing the recent onslaught of failed celebrity relationships. The other is that everyone just suddenly wants to throw their hat in the ring for a chance at dating Pete Davidson.
This time of year has never been for the tender of heart. It bears repeating
that cuffing season is nothing short of warfare, a last-minute scramble to not be left in the cold, and find refuge from the frigid, untamed wilderness of single life. That after two long years of pandemic insulation, so many celebrities are willing to trade said refuge and brave the cold for whatever else may be out there is telling of just how exhausting pandemic panic relationships can be.