Ask Catherine Cohen: How Do I Handle Dinner With a Side of Conspiracy Theory?

The comedian tackles questions about a boyfriend liked by family but despised by friends, moving to New York, and avoiding drama over mashed potatoes.

the comedian catherine cohen  standing on a manhole near a crosswalk in New York City, wearing a bla...
Catherine Cohen photographed by Ryan Lowry, styled by Daniel Gaines. Cohen wears Michael Kors dress and belt; Agent Provocateur corset; Mondo Mondo bracelet and necklace; Rebekah Price necklaces; Oscar de la Renta necklace and earrings; Manolo Blahnik shoes.

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 question for Catherine? Send it to for a chance to be answered in her next column.

I’m seeing a guy whom my friends hate but my family loves. Whose opinion should I value more?

I hate (read: love) to be such a bitch right up top but in reading your question I wanted to stop after “whom my friends hate.” In my limited experience—I am but a spritely figment of youth and beauty who owns a MacBook Air—I find that if your friends hate your partner, that person is probably not the one for you. That being said, if your friends merely dislike or aren’t j’addicted to your person, that might shift over time. I’m also curious where your friends are on their romantic journeys—are they mostly single? Coupled? Mid-breakup? I know I’ve reacted poorly to a friend’s new lover out of jealousy or discomfort with my shattered sense of self, but I doubt that’s the case for all of your pals. How long have you been with this guy? Is there a chance that your friends have yet to see the kaleidoscopic range of your king’s personality? Or is this someone who has been in the picture for a while and when you post about him on social media your friends send it to each other with the caption “SOS?”

When it comes to your family loving him—I actually have a question (my, how the tables have turned). How often do you see your family? How close are you? Do they know the real, messy adult version of you that your friends fell in love with or do you revert back to a good little baby brat when you’re around them? Do they love this guy just because his job title or family background or social status aligns with their surface-level values? Sometimes our families dislike people who help us grow into our most realized selves—they fear losing the version of you that grew up in their house. Often, it’s easier for our friends to see whether a match celebrates the truest version of who we are right now.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what your friends and family think. It only matters what YOU think. You’re the one spending all your time with this guy. Does he make you feel good about yourself? Does he encourage and inspire you to live the life you’ve always dreamed of? Does he see things in you that you may have failed to see in yourself? Does he make your heart and hole go boom boom in the afternoon? I know you came here for answers but all I got for you is more questions…and as Rilke once said you must “try to love the questions themselves…Do not now seek the answers…Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Damn I should really just mail you a copy of Letters to a Young Poet instead of making you read this column, but then you wouldn’t get to think about your hole <3 so…who knows!

Is 37 years old too old to move to New York City? As a queer man I usually never say this, but give it to me straight!

Repeat after me (a straight woman who watches lesbian porn): it is never too late to do what feels good and right and true. Honey!!! Time, like the iPhone, is just a mortal-made invention created to give shape to our slippery little lives. New York City is a place for everyone at every juncture. In fact, 37 is actually one of the hottest ages. One time I met this guy who was 37 and got so wet just talking to him! The human body is cool. And for what it’s worth, you might even enjoy NYC more now than you would have in your early 20s. Presumably in your late 30s you have more money (huge for NYC!!!), more life experience, and a better sense of what makes you happy. Your NYC won’t feel like a Girls episode, which is a good thing even though it is one of the greatest television shows of all time. (Do NOT fight me on this!) So go for it. You’re never too old to do what you want to do. The only thing anyone is ever too old to do is date a 20 year old starlet. People need to chill on that front. Xo

I met a ~boy~ at a festival a month or so ago, and we spent five heavenly days basking in each other’s glory and hanging with his fun, nice friends and enjoying morning, afternoon, evening and dawn sex in a one-man tent — wow! It must be love! He really makes me laugh, I have a lot of fun with him, I respect his integrity, work ethic, creativity and kindness, I feel very sexy with him and I’m so attracted to him and we have had eyeball-spasm tingling-all-over sex that I’ve had to such a degree rarely before. He also cries, and talks about consent (his own, even) in an extremely healthy way, and is very clear about his boundaries, which I have rarely ever experienced with a straight man, and it turns me on. In the past few weeks, he has gone away a lot on tour, and then when he comes back we will spend a day together, but then he goes away again and he barely messages me, and has never ever asked me to come with him, even though he’s often going to festivals and things that I could attend too if he so pleased. I know I have way too many feelings way too early on, but I can’t actually bear how broken I feel every time he nonchalantly tells me where he’s off to next without a “wish you could come” or “I’ll miss you” or way better “why don’t you come.” This might be because he hasn’t had a relationship in 5 years and so is too used to being single. But he is a performer and hasn’t asked me to come see him perform once, I think this is weird? It makes me feel like he’s ashamed of me, or he doesn’t like me enough to want to see me more often, or maybe he just takes way longer than me to feel the feelings I felt pretty much after 5 days. The level of shittiness and anxiety I feel every time I want to message him but tell myself I can’t, or even worse, ask to see him and get a lacklustre reply that he’ll be free sometime next week, makes me think I should call the whole thing off. Life is too short. But then I think maybe I’m just rushing things? I’ve only known the poor lad a mere 4 weeks, I need to calm the fuck down and let him take his time. But the truth is, with a passion like this, I am unable to calm the fuck down. What's a girl to do?

What’s his name? Cuz I feel like I dated him in 2018…Not to discredit what you two have, but so often these promising romantic encounters with artistic types fizzle into thin air. It’s so easy to romanticize someone when you’ve met in a magical setting and don’t yet know that they floss in bed and sometimes the floss ends up under the covers. Wait I’m also scared that he’s a musician…or he’s not a comedian is he? That’s worse. Ugh I’m veering off course. Sometimes these intense flings dissipate because that’s what life and art and music are made of and sometimes they end because we are scared to communicate openly.

To be honest, I actually think four weeks is too early to jump to conclusions. I don’t like how this guy is making you feel, but I don’t see any major red flags from your description. There are many reasons why he might not invite you to a show or a festival—performing is his job, so it’s kind of like inviting you to work. Also, he might get a little stage fright seeing you there. We (as his ex I’m extremely invested at this point) can’t know the reason why he’s acting this way, and there’s no use in spiraling about it. The only thing you can do is calmly tell him how you feel. Let him know you’d like to communicate more often when you’re apart. Let him know you’d like to pursue something with him. Men are stupid and sometimes all it takes is saying “I like when you say ‘I miss you’” If he’s into you, he will say “I miss you.” If he’s not, he won’t. His loss. You want someone who makes you feel like you’re the shit whether or not you’re in the same city. It’s as simple as telling him what you’re telling me. How annoying is that! Do you want me to tell him instead? I might have his number.

What are some fun ways to derail the conservative conspiracy theory dialogue train during the holidays?

Oooo sweetie the way this one hits close to home… I usually spend the holidays with the Catholic side of my family in Texas, so you can imagine there are some disconnects <3 Never forget when my family had to watch me (overeducated Jewish whore) discuss titty fucking my boyfriend on Netflix. Which reminds me…this holiday season, don’t forget to stream my comedy special The Twist? She’s Gorgeous on…now back to your regularly scheduled programming:

At this point, I try to avoid these discussions at all costs. It’s not worth engaging. People rarely do a 180 over gravy and cream casserole. The opinions held by your Fox News-loving relatives are not based in reality so it’s almost impossible to have a productive conversation. If you do find yourself knee deep in a truly bonkers discussion, try asking questions. If you remain curious and get your relatives talking, you’ve got a greater chance of understanding where they’re coming from and/or encouraging them to veer off onto a tangent.

I’ve learned through Personal Experience that it isn’t helpful to call your loved ones crazy, “deeply stupid” or have a full meltdown over mashed potatoes, but you can (and should) say you disagree with their sentiments, and, if it applies, give a personal reason why you’re so taken aback by their stance—often these people don’t understand that the bizarre opinions they’re so infatuated with are actually harmful to you, a person they know in real life.

And if things get out of hand, try just saying something like “I disagree and would rather talk about something else.” Chat about the food, the weather—go look at a baby or a dog. Dogs and babies were invented for this! They don’t even know that my grandmother thinks there is no one living in the white house. And better yet, they don’t care! Life is too short to talk circles around someone who isn’t in touch with the truth.