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"Anyone who consents is getting an open-mouth kiss."

By Ego Nwodim, as told to Jennifer Ferrise
Mar 12, 2021 @ 9:00 am
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Ego Nwodim
Credit: Courtesy Ego Nwodim

I remember the last few days before the quarantine started. It was my 32nd birthday, so I threw a party and all of my friends came out. Walking home that night, I looked up at the famous New Yorker [hotel] sign, and I thought, "After almost two years, this place is finally starting to feel like home." Two days later, everything was shut down. It was like the universe was saying, 'Yeah, bitch, you're going to become a real New Yorker now.' "

For me, with the lockdown in place, having a meltdown was Step 1. I thought about leaving the city to be with friends in L.A., but I didn't like the idea of staying indefinitely on a couch. So I hunkered down in my studio apartment. I was coaching myself, like, "Ego, you're not running home to Maryland. You're going to figure this out. This is when you finally become a woman!" I say that because, while I'm getting older and I've been independent for a long time, I often joke that I still don't feel like a full-blown adult. But this pandemic might just do the trick.

With my SNL schedule, I'm used to being busy, so it was strange to see parts of my life drastically slow down. The travel slowed. My social life slowed. Dating slowed. Thankfully, I still had work, but it was hard to remain sane at first.

I've never been one to date online, but toward the start of the pandemic, I tried it out. It was going well, but after a while I thought, "What am I doing?" As much as I want to find someone, the idea that I have to look at several pictures of your face and decide if I like you does not track. I'm attracted to so much more than just physicality, and it's hard to get a sense of someone's essence, no matter what prompts are on there. I do like to go on the app to remember that there are single men in the world, and maybe one day I'll be interested in one. But we may not be able to go out again until the fall. So for now, Dr. [Anthony] Fauci is my king. [laughs]

More than anything, this time has given me the space to get myself together and think about what I want. Like, instead of ghosting a guy on an app, I recently said, "Hey, I value clear communication and consistency, and that seems to be lacking here." And honestly? It was one of the most exciting dating experiences I've had all year.

Since then, I've had more time to really get reacquainted with myself. I remembered how much I liked drawing as a kid, so I took a class on Zoom. I've always wanted to take a trip by myself, so when we had a break from SNL, I drove upstate to an Airbnb for a week. I also used to be the Postmates queen, but when the thought of getting food delivered was freaking me out, I said, "Girl, you can cook." And now my skills are strong.

Ego Nwodim
Credit: Courtesy Ego Nwodim

For the last few years, I took things like self-care for granted, going through the motions of not getting enough sleep and then pushing myself with work, but you can't pour from an empty cup. So I've also learned how important it is to be kind to myself, because it sets the standard for how I want to be treated by future partners too. My friend's therapist once asked her, "Why don't you make yourself a meal and plate it like you would for a guest?" And that stuck with me because I usually just eat out of whatever plastic container is around. Lately I've been full-on mothering myself, which means doing stuff like journaling, meditating, and, yes, making three meals a day, which is not something I particularly enjoy, but this is me adulting.

There's a poem I love called "The Invitation," by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, and the last stanza is about liking the company you keep with yourself. Over the last year I can truly say that I have learned to enjoy just being here. And once all of this is over? I'll be ready to get a little reckless again, like back in early 2020. Anyone who consents is getting an open-mouth kiss. [laughs]

As told to Jennifer Ferrise.

For more stories like this, pick up the April 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Mar. 19th.