Ask Catherine Cohen: Quarantine Edition

Photograph by Valerie Chiang for W Magazine.

Comedian and actress Catherine Cohen has made a name for herself as a sharp, irreverent chronicler of the often bizarre experience of being a 20-something woman. In her advice column for W, she’s tackled questions that range from how to find your personal style to whether or not it’s gauche to want a sugar daddy. Since the coronavirus pandemic has upended any semblance of normal life, this edition of her column tackles social distancing dilemmas and the potential upsides of isolation, submitted by readers via email and Instagram.

Have a question for Catherine? Send it to

Cat Cohen photographed by Valerie Chiang for W Magazine.

As a single 28-year-old gal social isolating with her parents, how do I retain a will to live?

You’ve asked a truly amazing question that scientists will be trying to answer for years to come. I wish I were a scientist, but my AP (brag) Chemistry teacher’s favorite “band” was the artist Pink and that’s kind of all I remember from that class, unfortch. Anyway, enough about life from before, what’s happening right now is a dystopian nightmare. Every morning I wake up and think “is this a bad dream?” but it’s actually gonna go ahead and be real life.

In order to RAW2L (retain a will to live), you must remember a few things: First, this is temporary. Even though literally no one will tell us when we can go clubbing again, it’s clear this can’t last forever. It’s also important to romanticize this time. Look at yourself in the mirror: You’re living in a coffee table book, you’re literally going to be taught in history classes, you’re fully part of a MOMENT. Isn’t it nice to belong? Journal about this time because one day you’ll be like, “Did that really happen???” and the only proof will be a little page in your Moleskine that’s like “ugh my mom keeps coming into my room and telling me it smells bad.” Wait, sorry. I think I’m reading from my journal.

Lastly, even though it might not feel chic to be holed up with your parents, appreciate this time with them. As an adult (which randomly includes 28), it’s so rare to get to hang with your parents for more than one screaming fight about your acting career at Thanksgiving. Oops, reading from my journal again!!! Use this time to connect with your parents and when they start to get on your nerves, go into your room and cosplay as a teen by watching TikToks and eating Oreos with peanut butter like they do in Lindsay Lohan’s The Parent Trap.

I want to invite my ex over to socially distance together. This is a bad idea, right?

Terrible idea for life, amazing idea for your indie feature.

How do I stay hot in quarantine?

The results are in and it turns out quarantine is actually such an erotic time. Since one day lasts about 80 hours (can someone fact check this?), you have even more time than usual to nourish that hot bod of yours. First, cook all your own food. I like making anything that I can stir with a wooden spoon as I look dead-eyed out the window while saying, “I think it needs more salt” out loud to no one. If you want to support your local restaurants, consider purchasing a gift certificate from your favorite spot to use in the future (philanthropy is hot in a “I go to galas” kind of way).

Next, take at least three bubble baths per day. Now is the time to use all the serums, scrubs, and bubs that don’t really do anything (am I using them wrong?) but come in gorgeous glass vessels. Glass vessels are a huge part of staying hot. I like to hold an almost empty glass bottle in my hand and say “Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in” over and over again until someone says, “Is that Thoreau?” and/or blood comes out of my nose. Slather those serums on your face, and think about how you’re better than everyone you know, but you still respect them and that’s what makes you such a good person.

And lastly, exercise. (And yes, masturbating counts.) Exercise can mean jogging outside or just rolling around on your floor for 56 minutes singing the part in the Friends theme song where it goes “so no one told you life was gonna be this waaaaay” until you see the face of God. I’ve also been told there are lots of online workout classes on your phone? People are obsessed with Yoga with Adriene. Yoga for me is hard/boring but what do I know? I just looked up how to spell “masturbating.” Feminist win!

Ultimately, whatever you do during this time, you’ll stay hot. After all: What’s hotter than doing your civic duty? Maybe watching emotionally unavailable men skateboard? What’s wrong with me? Don’t answer that! That’s my job 😉

I’m self-isolating in my apartment alone. How do I entertain myself? Is there an upside to all this forced solo time?

Yes! There is an upside to what my therapist is calling “an amazing time to sit with your emotions.” I wouldn’t dream of doing that because I don’t really trust my therapist (one time she said I looked like Jared Leto?) but I do think there are perks to all this free solo time, which I will now be referring to simply as “Free Solo” because for me, spending time alone in my apartment is as scary as climbing the highest peak in Yosemite without ropes. Did anyone else see that rock climbing documentary film? I am SUCH a guy’s girl!!!

Anyways, I’ve decided to waste away my Free Solo by playing The Sims on my phone until my soul vacates my bod, but there are plenty of other ways to entertain yourself. Subscribe to the Criterion Collection app and then get bored really quick and flip to Real Housewives, glance at your novels and imagine reading them, think about getting into the game of “chess,” look up a meditation video and keep the tab up there for 4 days in a row until you decide you aren’t really gonna do the video and x out, cook an elaborate stew using everything in your pantry. The possibilities are…there!

Despite the chaos outside, try to savor the boredom! This may be the first and only time in your life when you can do absolutely nothing and not feel one ounce of guilt. Think about people from the past. In olden times everyone’s schedule was like: Wake up, eat bread, write down a thought with a quill, eat bread again, go for a constitutional (that’s like a walk but make it fashion), eat more bread this time with wine, wish that you could hear music, drink more wine, fall asleep with the sun. Ah, the simplicity! Entertain yourself but don’t forget to enjoy this rare period of nothing. And if you have a sec could you let me know if you think I look like Jared Leto?

What’s a sexy but cool text that will seduce my hot neighbor?

“Want to come over and not touch me?”

How do I get the attention of potential gentlemen callers during a pandemic? What do I do about all the guys I’m currently talking to on the apps? Since we can’t meet up to go on a date, do we just text forever until July? Go on FaceTime dates? Am I not going to be able to catch some d until this is over???

Your question is a beautiful reminder that this will go down in history books as one of the horniest times to be alive. Harness that horny energy into a Creative Project, like a painting or a sexy photoshoot. I know what a thirst trap is because I’m young and online and I think you should post some of those. Before The Virus, I blacked out and spent $400 at Victoria’s Secret and had a solo 2-hour lingerie photoshoot. I then broke the cardinal rule of sexting by sending my boyfriend (sorry) two photos of me in the same LEWK. But now that it’s apocalypse vibes, you can break allll those sexting rules—take/send/post as many hot photos as your heart desires.

As far as the App Guys (sounds like an amazing place to grab mozzarella sticks & chicken fingies) go, now is the chance to see which of them are really worth hanging out with post-social distancing. Who makes you laugh? Who has anything interesting to say? Keep texting with those guys, Facetime them and maybe even go on a six-feet-apart walk with one of them (if you’ve both been at home for at least two weeks without symptoms).

Also, who says you can’t have Cyber Sex (has anyone said cyber since 1999?) with someone you haven’t had IRL sex with yet? I once had Facetime sex with a guy who said he had the “best soundsystem in Lower Manhattan” and it was so bad that we never bothered meeting up when I got back in town. Imagine the time saved! Lifehack!!!

And while you’re waiting for this chaos to pass, think about how incred it will finally be once you catch that D. Everyone is going to be REvvvved up and ready 2 smash. Remember how in the past everyone got hard from like, seeing an ankle? Pretend you are a person from before, lifting the hem of your garment to give the boyz a glance until this ends. How glam!

Is he ghosting me or is he a hero practicing social distance?

We as a community know he’s doing nothing right now so if you haven’t heard from him…it might be thank u, next vibes.