Ask Cat: How Do I Navigate a Lonely Post-College Rut?

“Numbing your pain is just delaying your growth. And we’re all gonna grow no matter what. Wouldn’t you like to be present enough to choose in which direction?”

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Comedian Catherine Cohen wearing a blazer, red lipstick and gold earrings.
Catherine Cohen photographed by Ryan Lowry; styled by Daniel Gaines.

Catherine Cohen is a comedian and actress. In her original show tunes, in her character videos, and on her popular podcast Seek Treatment (cohosted 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 Netflix special, The Twist...? She’s Gorgeous, and her book, God I Feel Modern Tonight: Poems From a Gal About Town, are out now.

Have a dilemma that needs solving? Send a question to for a chance to be answered in her next column.

Cat. What do I wear? I hate all of my clothes, and figuring out what I want my style to be—and then how to embody that style—couldn’t sound more daunting. Any tips for how to get started?

A friend’s mom once told me I was “so confident” in a way that implied I shouldn’t be. To this day, I still worry about her core beliefs, but I also feel endlessly grateful for my unearned confidence—it’s the best accessory to any look. If defining your personal style feels daunting, maybe that’s because you don’t have to define it as one particular thing. There’s no timeline to self-actualization and it’s never too late to change your entire life. Plus, the pieces you love the most may change like the tides.

Buying new clothes will be the last step of your journey. The first step is to decide what excites you visually—beyond clothes, even. You must get to know yourself both sartorially and holistically. And that will take time and experimentation. (Cut to me asking a concerned hairdresser for curly bangs in 2016.) In 2015 I made a Pinterest board (has a sentence ever so fully encapsulated an era?) called “My Style” and added images of things I was drawn to: women, homes, landscapes, animals, colors, leather bags that say “slut,” the list goes on, there were lots of pictures of Kate Bush, you get it. Look for inspo outside of yourself—walk through your city and take pics of cool pieces or buildings you notice, follow influencers whose style you admire (extra helpful if they have a similar body type to you), think about the millions of people you could become.

Beware of trends, which cycle faster than you can say fast (has anyone ever said that before?), especially on TikTok and Instagram, where it can be hard to tell what’s actually real. Don’t get sucked into the chaos of fast fashion (WHAT IS DOLLZ KILL???) or buy low rise jeans.

Think about your wardrobe as a gallery and you’re the collector. This doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. I bet there are some things in your current closet that you can see in a new light with the right attitude. My friend Haley Nahman recently shared this helpful closet-editing video made by the makeup artist Violette in her fabulous newsletter Maybe Baby, which I found fun and inspiring.

Once you’re ready to bring some new items into the mix, ask yourself the tried-and-true question while in the dressing room: would I wear this out of the store? If a piece excites you but makes you a little nervous, that’s a good thing. Lean into the excitement and confidently rock your new pieces. It goes without saying that god must have spent a little more time on moi, but I believe everyone possesses the ability to rock a breezy air of confidence that will make their friend’s mothers worried. Get into the mix, baby, and remember, it’s supposed to be FUN!

I’m currently living at home, just having graduated from college. I feel like the friends I currently have don’t appreciate me as a person. Should I drop them and just self-medicate till I find genuine connection? I’m hoping to leave soon—should that be the time when I look for friends?

I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way. Loneliness is crushing (albeit in a somewhat romantic way) and post-grad malaise, while isolating, is kind of the most classic thing in the book. Look at you, having a human experience! Most of the world’s most wonderful people have felt absolutely lost and alone from time to time—it builds character, inspires novels, and makes you really good at jerking off.

That being said, it’s also really dangerous to decide anything about how someone else feels about you—there’s simply no way to know what’s going on in someone else’s sphere. Do your friends not appreciate you, or have you outgrown them? Have you spoken with your friends about this, or would you rather just take some space regardless to focus on other things? No need to jump to conclusions. Now is a great time to focus on yourself. The poet Marianne Moore once wrote “the cure for loneliness is solitude.” So, embrace this liminal period. If self-medicating means long walks, hot baths, drinking herbal tea and making those sad protein pancakes out of banana and egg, then by all means self-medicate. But if by self-medicate you mean drink eight white claws while singing Taylor’s “I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU BUT I’M FEELING 22” out loud to no one in a parking lot. Then maybe…no? Numbing your pain is just delaying your growth. And apparently, we’re all gonna grow no matter what. Wouldn’t you like to be present enough to choose in which direction?

There is sooo much life around the corner for you and you don’t need to wait til you’ve moved and started your dream job to make new friends. Life is not an upcoming event, but an ongoing experience. You’re in it, so might as well put yourself out there. Sure, new friends will come easier with new jobs and cities but there are ways to meet people now—through meetup groups, chatting up your local barista (I sound like a mom sorry), or reconnecting with old friends who are probably in a similar in-between phase as you. In the meantime, enjoy this special period. For some fucked up reason I don’t understand, I swear you will look back on it with fondness.

How can I stop being so nervous before/during a first or second date? Dating is hard and I’m an introverted, anxious gal.

Oh, thank god you’re nervous. Nerves are glittery little heartbeats that flutter around our organs to remind us we’re alive. Were you not nervous, I would worry! It would mean you don’t care, you don’t need anything. But you DO CARE, you WANT, you LACK. And DESIRE stems from this lack, this NEED to be seen and met with a slow smile.

You want to find love, how charming is that? Anyone who gets to go on a date with you is lucky enough to spend time with a thoughtful, hopeful person who is brave enough to uncross their arms and say “hi, here’s my heart—it’s in this gooey spot in my chest I think on the left and I’d like to tell you what I’m feeling in it if you want.” Oh how humiliating and sweet!

Sure, most dates will be bad and you’ll go home buzzed off two vodka sodas and dream about your teeth falling out next to your school locker, but one night you’ll come home and feel like your whole body has been lit on fire because you met someone who you would pay to push you down the stairs or take home for the holidays, whatever.

Dating is hard. If it were easy, there wouldn’t even be poetry. I love poetry! It’s kind of all we have. Anyways, slurp down a cocktail and get out there! Years from now, no one will remember you or your mediocre dates that went nowhere. Was that harsh? I find it comforting. But I’m quirky like that Xo

Okay so batch cooking [editor’s note: this is the British way of saying “meal prep”]. Don’t know if you’ve heard, but in the UK we’ve got what the experts are calling a cozy sliving crisis (cost of living crisis) it’s not ideal but hey ho, we move. I’ve been batch cooking to save some cash but I end up having to eat the same thing for all my meals for days upon days upon days upon YEARS it feels like. How do I switch it up?! I want to keep it cheap but also switch it up! And please don’t suggest a meal kit service.

Good girl!!! But my God I agree with you. Meal prep—like the Apple watch, the Kindle, and those suitcases that have the built-in phone chargers (all things I adore by the way)—is quite sexless, breathlessly pragmatic, and basically…annoying.

But alas, we must adjust our mindset to be in step with the current times. Instead of prepping a bunch of slop to eat for a week (my kink) why not prep ingredients that can be used in a variety of dishes? Sometimes the world turns in a certain way that makes peeling a clove of garlic feel cosmically impossible. Try devoting a few hours at the beginning of the week to washing, cutting, and storing veggies, and either defrosting or cooking some protein as well. That way, you can use those little treats for salads (toss them in a bowl with oil & acid), soups (dunk ‘em in broth), pasta (add to boiled noodle + butter + cheese), a taco (tuck in a tortilla aww get some rest girls!), a sandwich (nuzzle in bread with the amazing invention of mayo, mustard & pickles), etc. You get the idea.

It’s nice to have fresh veggies on hand, but even more useful to keep canned goods (what CAN’T one do with a can of tomatoes or chickpeas???), frozen veggies and protein. Lastly, the best way to mix up a meal is with my favorite food—that’s right girls I’m talking about SAUCE. Sauce can really take your taste buds on a world class flight to yummy town (take me to jail for writing that sentence by the WAY). I like to keep my fridge stocked with Sriracha, Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp, Frank’s red hot, Cholula, El Yucateco Green Habanero Sauce…the list goes on. If spice isn’t for you, I also love Sir Kensington’s Garlic Everything Sauce and Gochujang Everything Sauce. I love wet food!!! Anyways, hope this helps liven up your sad bowls of goop. Keep in mind, this too shall pass. Soon you’ll be paying 30 bucks for someone to grill a chicken breast for you in public. Xo

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