On Oct. 17, professional drummer Travis Barker proposed to reality star Kourtney Kardashian in front of God and several TV cameras at a beachside resort in Montecito, California. To set the scene, Barker hired Kardashian-favorite floral designer Jeff Leatham to cover the beach in approximately 900 million red roses, worked with Kardashian-favorite jewelry designer Lorraine Schwartz to pick out a 6-carat oval-shaped diamond ring, and lit several white candles that I’m sure came from an expensive Kardashian-favorite candle store. You’ve seen the photos, right?
Watching the proposal play out across various Kardashian and Barker family Instagram and TikTok accounts, I was instantly transported back to another romantic proposal that was burned into my brain in the year 2004. I looked at Barker’s sunset rose display and saw high school senior Talan Torriero emerging from a McMansion garage decked out with red balloons and grocery store roses to ask Kristin Cavallari to prom on the second season of MTV’s Laguna Beach. The similarities are striking. I don’t know what Barker said to Kardashian when he proposed (we’ll have to wait for the Kardashians’ new Hulu show to find out), but I imagine it went something like Torriero’s declaration of love to Cavallari: “You have this amazing ability to make me laugh, yet you have a beautiful way of making me cry.”
Since Barker and Kardashian got together at the beginning of this year, they have behaved like independently wealthy Laguna Beach high school sweethearts, despite the fact that they are both parents and successful business owners in their early 40s. In carefully choreographed paparazzi outings and Instagram reveals, they have run through almost all the major tenets of teen romance: making out in public, going to the bathroom to make out next to their friends who are also making out, passing each other notes, exchanging band T-shirts. (In September, Kardashian was photographed wearing a Barker-sized Cannibal Corpse T-shirt despite possibly never listening to the death-metal band’s hits — what sophomore dating a punk senior hasn’t been there?)
They have behaved like independently wealthy Laguna Beach high school sweethearts, despite the fact that they are both parents and successful business owners in their early 40s.
For Halloween, the lovebirds dressed up like teenagers for whom ‘90s movies make up the entirety of their personalities. On one night, Kardashian and Barker transformed themselves into Edward and Kim from Edward Scissorhands; on another, they did a photoshoot in which they played Alabama and Clarence from True Romance. (Barker named his first daughter with ex-wife Shanna Moakler after the Alabama character.)
Then, of course, there’s the constant PDA. Most recently, the couple was scolded by Page Six after Kardashian gave Barker a lap dance at her friend’s wedding. Even Kardashian’s mother, Kris Jenner, talks about her daughter and her boyfriend like they are teenagers getting handsy at Thanksgiving dinner. During a recent appearance on Ellen, Jenner said the couple’s frequent games of tonsil hockey have made for awkward family gatherings.
“Well, you feel like you’re, you know, they’re the only two people in the room, and we almost don’t know what to do with ourselves,” she explained. “Like, I’m looking for a closet to hide in and somewhere to go, so. But they’re, you know, they’re in that stage, and it’s really, really special, and I’m so excited. He’s really cute.”
Kardashian was photographed wearing a Barker-sized Cannibal Corpse T-shirt despite possibly never listening to the death-metal band’s hits — what sophomore dating a punk senior hasn’t been there?
Again, this is a 65-year-old woman talking about her 42-year-old daughter, who is herself a mother of three. What, exactly, would we call this “stage”? Denial?
But perhaps leaning into the “these crazy kids” narrative is the whole point. Though they have dominated pop culture for the last decade, the Kardashians are, like the rest of us, getting older. Most of them have already been married and divorced, in some cases multiple times. There is only so much excitement that they can bring to their lives, which can then be packaged for our consumption. (Recall the dark days in which Khloe Kardashian and Scott Disick spent multiple episodes trying to convince Jenner to buy their garage paintings in Season 15.) Cosplaying as high school romantics is certainly not the worst way to reboot the Kardashian franchise.
Their youthful energy, at least, is contagious. In the wake of Kardashian and Barker’s fairytale engagement, another family member has seemingly found a high school-style romance of her own. Kourtney’s sister Kim Kardashian, 41, has recently been photographed holding hands with comedian Pete Davidson, 28. So far, the pair has been spotted hanging out at Kim’s mom’s house, a classic date location for lovers without learner’s permits. And just before the Thanksgiving holiday, Davidson was photographed with a literal hickey on his neck as he waltzed into a dinner date with his new GF at Giorgio Baldi. If recent Kardashian history is any indication, I have a very good idea of what comes next. Soon, they’ll be making out under the bleachers and posting on Instagram about how much they both love Harry Potter.