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Arianna Margulis, @butlikemaybe on Instagram

Arianna Margulis Made Her Dating Faux Pas Into Art With @ButLikeMaybe

Meet the cartoonist behind the popular Instagram account.


Arianna Margulis started drawing as an outlet for the anxieties and stresses of life in New York City. But after a “record scratch” breakup at Central Park in 2015, Margulis made her passion for doodling public. That same year, she started the @butlikemaybe Instagram account to share her work. She’d already been turning to her drawings to vent (about bosses, boyfriends, and everything in between), but it was only when she started posting them that she realized how universal — and powerful — they really were.

Now, more than 200,000 followers later, her character’s single-scene tales of woe (like wondering “Do I like him or is he just ignoring me?”) have helped plenty of people feel seen. “It’s one frame. It’s a couple of lines. Because it’s so simple, it can ring true so deeply,” Margulis tells Elite Daily. Her cartoon’s misadventures — and her own — became Margulis’ full-time job and led her to write a book, But Like Maybe Don’t?, which came out in February 2020. “The book was a bit of an anti-dating guide,” she says. “I wrote down all of my embarrassing, cringey stories that we’ve all done and shared it with the world.”

With her viral cartoons, Margulis isn’t just admitting to her messy experiences — she’s using them to grow into a more self-assured person and dater. “Making all those mistakes and creating these cartoons made me a more confident person that was able to go out and date better,” Margulis says. As she flexes her insecurities for her art, she’s also building a community of people who can relate.

Below, Margulis tells Elite Daily about her cartoons and the lessons she’s learned from sharing them.

Elite Daily: You said a painful breakup on a Central Park bench sparked this career. Can you tell me more?

Arianna Margulis: I was working at Ralph Lauren at the time, and I was dating a guy who worked there, too. We were this cute little Ralph Lauren couple. I’m from a small town in Michigan, so I had this idea that I would be married by a certain age. We went for a long weekend to meet his family, and it was like a Hallmark movie. I was like, “Oh, my God, they love me. I’m in.”

When we got back, he asked me to meet him after work and go for a walk. We sat down on the first park bench. (I want to put a plaque on that bench or something.) I thought he was going to tell me he loved me, but I never heard the words “I love you.” Instead, he put his hand on my thigh and said, “I just have to be honest. This isn’t working for me. You’re amazing. But...”

My stomach dropped immediately. He said, “I feel like I’m not myself anymore. I can’t focus on work, and you’ve been interrupting my meditation schedule.” It was one of those moments where a record scratches. It felt like a Seinfeld episode. I was so furious. I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. I took his hand off of my thigh and said, “I never want to speak to you again.” I walked over to Fifth Avenue, and like out of a movie, I yelled, “Taxi. Taxi.” And it was magic. One pulled up.

At this point, I had been drawing cartoons at night to get to deal with anxiety. When I got home that night, I started really ripping on myself about this particular situation, and it became this amazing outlet. It was this weird therapy for me.

I started putting them on my personal Instagram at the time. I think what that breakup did for me was really catapult me into this space. I wasn’t eating ice cream and crying. I was laughing, and I found this thing that was making other people laugh too. The responses I got were like “Oh, my God, this is me. This made me feel so much better.” I was like, “Sh*t, maybe I'm onto something and I can help people out and help myself out a little bit, too.”

ED: Did you ever speak to that ex again?

AM: We didn’t speak for two years until I saw him at Paul’s Baby Grand [a cocktail lounge in NYC]. I think I drunkenly yelled at him at 3 a.m. something like “You made me love you.” But after that, no, I have not. He knows the story.

It’s really cool to know all people, all ages, all over the world also are dealing with this stuff. It’s not just me.

ED: I know your book is about what not to do when dating, but what do you think is the best piece of dating advice?

AM: Another person won’t complete you. Even in school, I was like, “Whatever, I’m just going to get married.” But I didn’t have an identity I wanted for myself. I was like, “I will be the wife of this person.” And it’s like, OK, but who are you then? That’s your identity in relationship to that person, but who are you? It’s so cliché, but you have to complete you.

ED: From drawing to posting to engaging with your followers, your career encompasses a lot. What’s your favorite part?

AM: Engaging with other people who feel the same way. I will get paragraph-long DMs explaining a situationship or an ex and asking for advice. It’s really cool to know all people, all ages, all over the world also are dealing with this stuff. It’s not just me. It’s not just single women. There are people going through all sorts of things that relate to simple sketches.

What’s cool is — especially with my character — she could be anyone. She doesn’t have a name. It’s two eyes and a mouth. It’s almost faceless, nameless, ageless, raceless. When you see a cartoon that’s just like a circle face and some lines, you can put yourself in those shoes.

ED: Have people gotten tattoos of your work?

AM: I’ve gotten tattoo requests. What’s really cute is a lot of guys write me, and they’ll say, “My wife or my girlfriend really loves your work. Could you do a sketch of her making fun of me or something?” Which is really cute.

ED: Do you take it easy on them?

AM: I try to keep it light. There’s a way to be funny without being malicious. Even in my own personal life, I have to be careful. Years ago, after a breakup, I weaponized one of my cartoons. I picked on the guy that broke up with me, and it really hurt him. I felt terrible, but I learned my lesson.

ED: Where do you find inspiration for your cartoons?

AM: My dating life, but also my friends’. One time, I was in a group chat with my friends dissecting a text, and someone said, “Ladies and gentlemen, exhibit A.” And I thought, wouldn’t that be funny to do a courtroom, a judge, and the jury? I always ask permission though.

ED: Why do you focus on dating and relationship in your art?

AM: It’s chock-full of material, and I think it’s so relatable and universal. It fuels a lot of my work. I was truly clueless when it came to dating and relationships because I lacked confidence in myself. And by making something that flaunted my insecurities and it being something I’m proud of, I became more confident. If I can share that knowledge with people, then I’m helping people date even if they don’t realize it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.