As far as celebrity denials go, the "we're just friends" defense is a good one.
Used by many a famous pair as they navigate through those early days of figuring out what exactly this is, it's the perfect cover for dinner dates, late night hangs, even flying cross-country for a little face time, because why can't you do these things with your good buddy?
But when you start kissing in public, in full view of the 1,400 or so concertgoers packed into NYC's Webster Hall for Charlotte Lawrence's show, well, it's time to talk about it, Pete Davidson and Kaia Gerber.
Clearly the genetically blessed daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford and nightlife magnate Rande Gerber and the Saturday Night Live comic are a thing. The two "are definitely in a romantic relationship," an insider told E! News. "They have been friends for a while now and run in the same friend circle, but became romantic recently."
So it's entirely possible they really were just pals back when they were spotted dining together at Sadelle's in New York's Soho neighborhood in late October, a casual meal, followed by a nightcap at the 18-year-old's apartment.
Though Davidson could have also been following his own advice, hard-earned from the time he blasted into public consciousness as Ariana Grande's other half last year. Asked what he learned from that five-month whirlwind and his other romances, he told PAPER, "That it's nobody's business. I think when you first get in a relationship and you're on television, you don't realize that when you post a photo of you and your girlfriend, you're pretty much announcing to the world your relationship."
And from the moment you're seen together in that way, the world has an eye out for when you're not by each other's sides. "Because now they know you're together, if you're not [seen together], they know something went wrong," he explained. "So now I'm just as private as possible. I'm as discreet as can be."
He's learned, for instance, that you can catch a movie together, "but we have to either get there first or we show up as it starts. So it's just how you go about it and your overall demeanor."
With their friends excuse firmly in place, he and Gerber were able to platonically hang on the opposite coast, the native of NYC's Staten Island flying to her Malibu hometown for an early November dinner at Nobu. "It seemed friendly and there wasn't anything outwardly romantic," an onlooker observed. Just two kids who enjoy "being together and making each other laugh," a source told E! News.
Then she started wearing his initial on a chain 'round her neck, Taylor Swift-style. Though her close-knit relationship with older brother Presley Gerber (the 20-year-old actually has his sister's name tattooed on his left arm) gave her a bit of plausible deniability.
It's reasonable to assume the pair thought they were far enough off the beaten path not to be noticed, though it's also possible they had solidified their status in such a way for Davidson to feel comfortable giving in to his natural tendencies. Because while not engaging in public displays of affection is one of his cardinal rules of maintaining a private personal life, "I'm a very PDA [person]," he told PAPER. "I'm a lovey person. I love licking faces."
Gerber may have required some convincing to be on the other end.
Because as recently as September, she was telling British Vogue she's so committed to nurturing her modeling career at this critical juncture—having just turned 18 she can now appear in editorials in the pages of Vogue and other fashion magazines—that she didn't have time to tend to the needs of others. "When I'm working, I don't have the energy to even flirty with anyone. I'm sorry, I just can't," she told the mag. "But I'm not losing hope in all love forever."
Which, we'd certainly hope she wasn't considering packing it all in before reaching her twenties.
She insisted she was quite happy playing backgammon—"When I'm home, I'm living the life of a 70-year-old woman,"—but as we've discovered from Davidson's recent transformation from that guy on SNL to that guy every intelligent, successful, attractive female in Hollywood is angling to date, he can be quite alluring.
"I do know that [the female gaze] is either, 'Ye-YESSS!' or 'F--K NO!' There's no happy medium for me," he shrugged to PAPER. For Kate Beckinsale it was his quick wit, the clever humor that scored Davidson his dream gig at age 20, that swung her toward the affirmative. And we all recall Grande's thoughts on the matter. (The flame that was the once-betrothed pair burned bright and fast, but for giving us big d--k energy, we're so thankful.)
And there's certainly a tall, dark and handsome energy with his 6-foot-1 frame, cut enough to make posing as a depressed, yet shirtless, Ken doll for PAPER's annual #BreaktheInternet issue, believable. But pal Tommy Dorfman, who interviewed Davidson for the recent profile, has another take on the matter. "If I had to sum it up in one word it'd have to be heart: a massive—perhaps wounded—eagerly available heart," he wrote.
His take seems to line up with Davidson's views on love. Because for all of his macabre standup humor (oft referencing his struggles with mental health and how he dealt with losing his father on Sept. 11, 2001), he's an absolute softie when it comes to romance. The type of guy to shower his girl with compliments, flowers and sometimes even a custom pear-shaped diamond ring.
"My love language, when I'm in a relationship, is I treat the person I'm with like a princess," he shared. "I try and go as above and beyond as possible, because that's what you're supposed to do? If you're in a relationship with someone, you're just supposed to make that person feel as special as possible."
The pamper strategy has its drawbacks. "It's very off-putting to some. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't," he said. And he has to remind himself that such displays of affection aren't in everyone's wheelhouse. "I have learned that anything you do, it just has to be 'cause you wanna do it," he explained. "Otherwise you're gonna be resentful."
But when it comes to wooing the model, who's skyrocketed to success since she took her first confident steps down that Calvin Klein runway, it's proving to be sound.
Since October, the friends have "started hanging out alone more often," the insider told E! News, adding that Gerber has fallen in like with the comedian's personality: "She thinks he is charming and is very intrigued."
Another pal said she's doing her best to play it cool, refusing to go so far as cementing boyfriend-girlfriend status, but is clearly giddy each time they meet up. Though, obviously it's too soon to tell if she's the girl who will be by Davidson's side as he explores the next stage of his life, as a writer, director and family man. (On the subject of kids, he told PAPER, "I would love to be a dad, 'cause I feel like it's the one [thing] that would keep me here.")
For now, the first insider said, "They have been texting a lot this past month, and are definitely seeing where it goes." Though it's fairly clear they've left the friends stage firmly in the rearview.