THE TRUTH LIES IN JEST

Ask Catherine Cohen: How Do I Have Fun When the Vibes Are Off?

This month, the comedian answers questions about making the most of a strange season, “expiration dating,” and flirting with strangers.


the comedian Catherine Cohen wearing a red dress and black sunglasses looking at herself in the mirr...
Photographed by Evan Murphy

Comedian and actress Catherine Cohen has built a cult following for her chronicles of the bizarre, often 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. Have a question for Catherine? Send it to askcatherine@wmagazine.com.

Hi Catherine—There’s been a lot of talk this summer about how the “vibes” are “off.” And for me at least, they kind of have been… There was so much expectation around this summer being one of liberation and celebration, but the energy in my friend group feels kind of shaky and exhausted. Maybe it’s the shitty NYC weather or the fact that we put too much pressure on things to be great. Either way, I’m hoping for some redemption in these last few weeks of (hopefully) sun and warmth. Any tips for making the most of the dregs of a weird season? How do we embrace the new normal and have some real FUN? Xx

Sweetie if the vibes were any more OFF, they would be my underwear every day. This is a cool, sexy way of sharing that I don’t really wear underwear. I don’t see the point they just go right up my butt every minute of my life? Is this gross? Sure, but you know who else doesn’t wear underwear? Dogs and they are so cute!

Moving on…I completely agree—this summer is such a little tease. Remember when we all got vaccinated and said the pandemic was over?! Were we ever so young? You have to laugh…or else you will sob into a Cheesy Gordita Crunch while watching Love Island in bed. Sadly, the pandemic is very not over, Delta is making herself known and our lives as we once knew them are gone.

All we can do right now is lean into the pain, wave hello to it along the avenue, and keep walking. Contrary to what my journal says, there are still things to look forward to—there is still joy to be had. We must embrace the last sips of summer and focus on the (few) perks of pandemic living—dining in the street is so European, picnicking in the park is so pure, riding a bicycle across the bridge, so beautiful!

The rest of this summer is all about slowing down, being grateful that we’re all still alive, and being intentional about how we spend our time, which is kind of fab if you think about it. Down with after work drinks with someone your sister went to college with. Bid farewell to avoiding men in Patagonia vests at the bar. It’s time to revert to those endless summer school day hangs—just lying in the grass, laughing at nothing, talking about everyone. Life will pick up its pace again soon…right? Right?! Bueller?

Hey Cat! I just moved to a big city on the east coast and I think about [your joke on your podcast about being a] “lady in a movie” all the time when I do very normal things, like ride the subway, etc. My question is about wanting validation (lol): I’ve realized I may have some sort of attachment issues lately since my partner is way less of a constant texter than I am. If a few days go by without messages of love/pining/flirtiness I start to believe that something is wrong, when logically I should know that everything is fine. I don’t have a therapist right now but I do wonder about my constant need to always be affirming our relationship. I feel self-conscious about my urges to flirt over text or randomly get a little dirty convo going or even send memes that make me think of them when it seems like they do not have these same urges. What do I do when our needs for positive attention are out of sync? thanks 💘💘

GIRLIE you are SO lady in a movie. I can just picture you in an oversized cardigan shivering over a cup of tea while you type this perfect question and email it to a beautiful magazine advice columnist! As the patron saint of feeling, Taylor Swift, once said, Welcome to New York. There is no other place to be and everyone everywhere else is ultimately on vacation.

I love this question because it is something I have felt many times. (Stars…they’re just like us.) Obviously, I need my boyfriend to text me “I’m deeply in romantic love with you, your natural talent, your normal sized arms, and your effervescent joie de vivre. I cannot wait to fuck the shit out of you and eventually start a life with you” a few times every hour to feel secure in my relationship. But he says that’s “a bit much,” so we’ve managed to work out a different system.

When we first started dating, we fought a LOT about texting (i.e., he wasn’t texting me enough lol and I was right lol) I once sent him a sexy picture when I was traveling, and he responded “hehe.” *Moment of silence please*

But after a few lengthy conversations where we were both able to express our needs, we settled on limited texting and decided to instead focus on making time to chat on the phone when we’re apart. Now, we rarely ever text. If we’re in the same city, we see each other most nights and when we’re apart we stick to Facetimes and phone calls. It feels more intimate and allows us to be more present in whatever we are doing during the day.

I think the first thing to ask yourself is, Why do you feel like you need more texts from your partner? Does it feel like something is lacking when you’re spending time together IRL? Could that be why you’re looking for validation when you’re apart? Or is it simply that you enjoy being in touch throughout the day? There is nothing wrong with that! You just shouldn’t ever feel embarrassed about texting your partner too much. The triple text is a sign of true love…

Have you talked to your partner about this in concrete terms? It’s totally acceptable to say, “Hey, I like getting a goodnight text every night,” or “Can we try to Facetime three times a week?” If they’ve heard you and are willing to make the effort, give it time. People take sooo long to change. Be patient and forgiving. (Name a more iconic duo…I’ll wait.)

Lastly, if you’ve expressed your needs and are still feeling insecure, there might be something missing in the relationship or a disconnect that can’t be brushed over. That is not your fault. There is nothing wrong with wanting all the love in the world and then some.

Hi Cat, I’m a gay 29 year old man, and I’ve never been in a relationship before. Two weeks ago I met this guy for a first date and we just fell for each other. Four dates in we already had the best sex of my life, we just cuddle for hours and it’s the happiest I think I’ve ever been. Now here’s the catch: In two months he is leaving my country for good, he will move thousands of miles away. Since he told me, I’m an emotional mess and can’t stop crying, even at work. Should I stop this thing now or completely fall for him for two more months and then be absolutely devastated when he leaves?

Literally keep going until your heart is in tatters, shredded like iceberg lettuce on a mandoline. Fuuuck I love Italian subs! Keep falling and enjoying this wonderful person until he leaves and when he does (they all do, by the way, in one way or another) cry and sob and write about it and tell everyone you know about it and let the ache wash over you while understanding that this experienced has unlocked a door in your heart and shown you all the room you have to love and be loved in return.

Be grateful for this relationship and honestly, be grateful that it is ending (death = mother of beauty vibes) because it has set you up for your next relationship. Even if this person is your soulmate (whatever that means), I assume that because this is your first relationship, you will want to experiment a bit more before you settle down for good.

Let this experience lead you to your next lover and if you are meant to reconnect with this person, you will. As insane as it sounds, I believe in fate. *An arrow is immediately shot through my heart and I pass away face down into my bowl of broth.* Enjoy this connection while you can. What’s the point in cutting it off? Simply to feel pain sooner? Please, life is hard enough.

Hi Catherine, I have a question! I am a 27old gay man living in a east coast city that is usually the butt of many jokes, and I’m trying to figure out how to date post pandemic. As a millennial, I grew up using apps for most dating/hookups, and I was not the most comfortable approaching people I didn’t know in the “before times.” Now, I am unsure of how to actually meet new people when out on the town. Do you have any recommendations for how to approach hot people in public and strike up conversations, especially following a pandemic when socializing with strangers was a no-no.

The movies (can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em!) have led us to believe that approaching hot people in public is a divine occurrence, something that happens only when the moon hangs at a certain slant and god herself calls upon her fluffy little team of angels to put a meet cute in your path.

In reality, striking up conversations with strangers is simple—it just requires forethought, confidence, and a gentle ego death. Is it possible to slurp up the sweetness of love having not faced the sting of rejection? I think not. This is all to say, you have all the tools you need to meet someone fabulous and in the modern glow of this drunken pandemic haze everyone is so horny and needs you to say hi! Their sensuality depends on it!

Before our world became a big hospital, my formula for flirting was simply to have four drinks and touch someone’s arm playfully. Now that we’re all a bit more guarded, I think it’s the perfect time to work on eye-fucking (my minor in college) and the classic choreography of smile at hottie, look down, laugh at something your friend said, smile again at hottie, rinse & repeat. If the subtlety of these moves fails, you can move on to my classic: asking someone what time it is! I know what you’re thinking—BuT mY pH0nE sAyZ the TiMe—but pretend your phone is in the shop getting its oil changed, or even better, dead, and ask the stranger for the time.

If the question leads to flirty banter, you can reveal later in the night that you do in fact have your phone and simply thought the stranger in question was 100% cute! Charming, a good story, vintage. Love it. This method worked wonders for me in 2011 when I went alone to see Arcade Fire in Hyde Park and asked a group of hunks what time it was…I ended up having a gorgeous night that ended with a snog (we were in London) next to a porta potty. Ah, to be young! Get out there and have some fun for once, for all of us!