Ask Catherine Cohen: Am I Unappealing or Am I Intimidating?

The comedian delivers some bracing truths about cohabitation, Instagram story responses, and emotional affairs.

A twelve-part collage with portraits of Catherine Cohen in different poses
Catherine Cohen photographed by Valerie Chiang for W Magazine.

Comedian and actress Catherine Cohen has built a cult following for her chronicles of the often bizarre, occasionally humiliating experience of being a 20-something woman. In her original show tunes and on her popular podcast Seek Treatment (co-hosted with fellow comedian Pat Regan) she skewers the clichés of millennial aspiration, deadpans about sex on antidepressants, and earnestly celebrates such triumphs as finding love or drinking seven beers. Her first book, God I Feel Modern Tonight: Poems From a Gal About Town is out now.

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I’m gonna try make this not sound basic: It’s a classic case of sleep with hot guy from Grindr, fall in love instantly as I saw him (for real) then get bored of making the effort to text every time. He now watches my Instagram story every damn day and will reply (to my story) every 2-3 weeks (usually with just a single emoji that has no relevance to the Instagram story post). How do I get over eyebrows (he has great eyebrows) OR how do I approach meeting again? Cannot believe I’m about to say this but I have never felt this way before.

Okay I literally have so much love in my heart for you right now (and not just because I also have great eyebrows)! First off, there’s nothing wrong with being basic. What does basic even mean in 2021? You like stuff other people like? If a lot of people like something, it’s probably really good: i.e. autumn, UGG boots, drinking rosé on a rooftop in June, being horny for guys who look really tired, and don’t get me started on Starbucks egg white bites, baby!!!

The real issue here is that you and I both know what’s going on, but the truth can be so annoying. We’ve all heard the old adage, an insta-story watched is not an insta-story replied to, but what you might not know is that an emoji reply is worse than no reply at all. I once dated (read: received oral sex from twice) this older guy who would text me the dolphin emoji whenever he was horny. I thought it was our cute secret language, until I realized he was exerting the least amount of effort possible to get my attention and if he had the energy to send me a dolphin he was probably sending quirky lil sea creatures to gals all up and down the Hudson river, which is simply not good for anyone’s health.

This is not to say you can’t hook up with someone who is dating around, but it’s hard to date someone casually after falling instantly in love with them. Your words, not mine! If you’ve really never felt this way before, you’re most likely going to want something intense rather than a fuck buddy situation. Save the fuck buddy status for people who don’t know their mother’s maiden name, but who do know how to pull your hair while making out, or how to reheat pizza without making it sooo mushy. (Why does it get like that by the way???)

If he likes you, he’ll text you. If he doesn’t, it’s time to get over it. Even though I once argued that it’s scientifically impossible to get over someone (picture me at the science fair holding a tri-fold poster board, mascara running down my cheeks), time (reality’s cruel, but steadfast older sister) has proved me wrong. Getting over someone involves exercise, drinking way too much and then not at all, ordering takeout and then eating something cardboard-adjacent like lentils, journaling (it’s not a diary if you’re thirty), and fucking. Not in that exact order. Try it in the order that appeals to you, rinse and repeat. You’ll have forgotten about eyebrows in no time. Not like, eyebrows in general. I hope not! I have amazing eyebrows and feel so honored that it’s still trendy to have really big messy ones right now. Xo

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 6 years now. We are very much in love, he is my best friend, and I truly cannot imagine my life without him. HowEVER, I get HUGE crushes on people, and I don't know how to deal with it. My brain gets really emotionally tied up with these crushes, and I get so, so anxious about it. I'm not worried about being "tempted" per se, but as a Very Emotional Woman I think about my crushes constantly. I have dreams about them, and then I feel guilty for even being around them—hard to avoid, since they're usually coworkers or in the same social circle. How do I stop WORRYING about this? Is there a way to reach closure with my crushes without going absolutely off the rails?

You gals keep me young!!! Though obviously you are wiser than me and should actually be the one writing this column because I’ve never been in a relationship that long. BUT as someone who is well-versed in the business of crushes, I’m here for you gurlie.

Having a crush on someone is totally normal—whether or not you’re in a relationship. It’s one of the only ways to make life interesting. How else would I have passed Geoscience 201 if not for Hot Wrestler With An Earring in my 8am lab?? It’s not like you fundamentally change once you’re in a relationship—you just start going to bed at 9pm and stop shaving your legs for months at a time. Or is that just moi? Anyways, it’s only a problem if you’re thinking about acting on it. Not just physically, but also EmOtiONaLLY!!! Dull people love to be like “emotional affairs are worse than physical affairs,” which is…not true, but they’re still bad! If there’s ever anything on your phone that you wouldn’t want your boyfriend to see? Then we have a problem, sweetheart!

And I know, feeling guilty when you haven’t done something wrong is like Womankind’s Favorite Pastime, but don’t beat yourself up. What would you tell a friend in this situation? More importantly what would you tell your boyfriend? Not to be so clinical and evolved but have you talked to your bf about this? Chances are he’s experienced the same thing and even if he hasn’t, talking about it openly might help alleviate some of that good old fashioned guilt you’re wrestling with. Plus, it might turn you on. I’m addicted to my bf telling me about girls who want to fuck him. I love competition. No one knows this, but I’m very athletic. I played basketball in high school and only scored for the wrong team once!

I really want to fall in love but find that either nobody finds me appealing or everybody finds me intimidating. How can I tell the difference? Or is it just me being cold and emotionally unavailable without knowing?

Baaaabe. You’re perfect and are having an intensely one-sided monogamous relationship with the deeply useless activity of overthinking. I get it, I do. Much like you, I’m addicted to hyperbole, but it’s statistically *checks calculator on her iPhone rose gold plus with a cracked screen* impossible that NOBODY or EVERYBODY finds you anything. I thought everybody was obsessed with me until someone called me an ugly whore on a dance floor in Paris in 2011. C’est La Vie!

If you want to fall in love, there are three things to do. 1) spend your time doing things you like 2) set up some online dates (be a bizness bitch about it, noooo long text convos, just plans plans plans) And lastly, 3) be straightforward and kind on said dates. Keep in mind, sometimes the kind thing to do is leave after 15 minutes if they make you uncomfortable or show up in flip flops.

Was this advice helpful at all or did I come off as a cold and emotionally unavailable? See! I do it too. Stars, they’re just like us!

I (she/her) moved in with my boyfriend during the pandemic and he’s been driving me insane. We are both in our mid 20’s, but I often feel I am way more mature than him. I cook for him, do the dishes, do his laundry, and basically do every chore around the house. I know this makes him sound like he is obsessed with misogyny, but he’s just really lazy and doesn’t prioritize taking care of our home the way that I do. When I bring it up, he gets really defensive because he’s embarrassed about how lazy/gross he is. This behavior is making him ugly to me! I miss my sexy boyfriend!! Plz help <3

Stop doing it and see how he likes that? Is this good advice? I’m tired from my busy day of heating up beans on the stove and brushing the back of my hair. He sucks. Love you.