Justin Bieber is typically candid in his first ever cover story for GQ magazine’s March issue. The superstar not only looked diamond cool in the photo shoot, he opens up about his relationship with Hailey Baldwin, acknowledges present and past mistakes, God, the meaning behind his juggernaut hit “Sorry,” and more. Even what he leaves out is noteworthy.
In the interview there are funny bits, such as Bieber’s description of how epically bad his decision to travel with his former pet monkey “Mally” was, and his recall of the mooning in Mexico debacle. There are also worrying reveals about his past usage of Adderall, poor sleep patterns, and anxiety, clarity on his “cordial” relationship with former girlfriend, Selena Gomez, and the reality that this young icon is traumatized to a degree by a combination of early fame, well-meaning but inadequate parenting, and the self-serving judgements and projections of the collective.
But that’s for another article. One of the happier takeaways, is the sense that Bieber has grown in self-awareness and maturity, at least to the extent that he knows what he is capable of handling right now — and what he isn’t.
Take his relationship with Hailey Baldwin for example. Ever since the singer and the model were seen hanging out more or less constantly since November, 2014, people have been panting for a definition to hang on the pair.
Meanwhile, some fans just want a new relationship to over-invest in.
Fast forward to Justin and Selena talking up a storm about each other last year while promoting their respective albums, Purpose and Revival, that Montage Hotel serenade, and a still inexplicable Kourtney Kardashian hookup rumor.
Then, over New Year’s, the Biebs shared an Instagram photo of himself and Hailey kissing during a family vacation in the Caribbean. Speculation went into overdrive after the twosome hung out in San Francisco during Super Bowl 50 weekend.
The day before the full GQ interview went live, the magazine teased a quote of Bieber referring to Baldwin as “Someone I really love.” He added, “We spend a lot of time together.”
As it turns out, the Canadian wasn’t declaring undying romantic love for 19-year-old Hailey. While sharing that he would “love” to marry at some point — right now, after a painful breakup with Gomez, a busy life, and upcoming Purpose World Tour, he went on record to say he doesn’t want or feel ready to commit to a serious relationship right now.
“I don’t want to put anyone in a position where they feel like I’m only theirs, only to be hurt in the end. Right now in my life, I don’t want to be held down by anything,” he explained. “I already have a lot that I have to commit to. A lot of responsibilities. I don’t want to feel like the girl I love is an added responsibility.”
Seemingly alluding to the latter part of his on-off romance with Gomez, Justin added, “I know that in the past I’ve hurt people and said things that I didn’t mean to make them happy in the moment.”
Sounding genuinely concerned about the feelings of a girl he has been pals with since their early teens, he mused aloud, “What if Hailey ends up being the girl I’m gonna marry, right? If I rush into anything, if I damage her, then it’s always gonna be damaged.”
The Biebs concluded, “It’s really hard to fix wounds like that. It’s so hard… I just don’t want to hurt her.”
It sounds like he doesn’t want to repeat of some of the mistakes made in his relationship with Gomez. That is called learning from experience. That’s the point of experience. Given that Bieber was dragged through the media mud after his relationship with Selena ended, it’s not hard to see why he is adamant about being clear about his current relationship status.
In real terms, Bieber’s declaration is no different to Rihanna’s straight-up reply on The Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, while promoting her new album, when she was asked about her love life.
“I’m single right now. And it’s not that I’m like ”Oh, pro single. Yes, I hate men.’ I just think that I just have so much on my plate that I can’t even find the time to entertain a steady relationship or anything serious.”
Fair enough. But, no one thinks for a second that Rihanna meant she has been celibate in the four years since she last went on promo rounds. So, if it’s fine for a female to describe herself as single while being sexually active, why is Bieber expected to change his relationship status to “one half of a committed couple” if that’s not the case, just because he and Hailey are intimate?
To state the obvious: Why is it even a question that Bieber, a 21-year-old pop superstar, who is about to tour the world again next month, needs to settle down now? Consider George Clooney. The actor enjoyed a roll call of female partners following his divorce to Talia Balsam in 1993, and he didn’t get remarried to Amal Alamuddin until 2014, when he was 53. Leonardo DiCaprio still isn’t married, and he is by no means celibate, and he’s 41.
GQ writer Caity Weaver summed up Bieber’s decision not to be “tied down” as “not the noblest admission, but it is farsighted and honest.” But, even that is judgemental. If a male or female doesn’t feel ready to settle down, there is absolutely no reason why they should. In fact, it only causes harm when a person does so before they are ready.
“I think it’s awesome,” she told E! when asked about Justin’s comments about her in GQ. “It wasn’t a surprise to me. I knew it was coming out.”
“We are not an exclusive couple,” she noted to E! at the 2016 amfAR New York Gala on Wednesday. “He’s about to go on tour.” She continued, “Relationships at this age are already complicated, but I don’t really like to talk about it because it’s between me and him.”
Bottom line? It’s hypocritical and sexist to celebrate females as emancipated and liberated when they have non-committed sexual relationships, and then glibly slut-shame a male for doing the same and call them “f—boys.” Equality means equality.
From the looks of photos and their comments, Baldwin and Bieber have physical chemistry and love each other as longtime pals. It’s a consensual relationship where each is clear about the nature of their connection, as it is now. Things may become more serious or fizzle out. And, of course, both are free to stop being intimate at any time.
In short: It is a relationship with clearly stated rules of engagement. But that doesn’t make it cold or shallow — it makes it real, respectful, and honest.
[Images via Jason Merritt/Getty Images; Matthew Eisman/Getty Images]