On Instagram, But Like Maybe’s heroine is wide-eyed and frantic—because of an unreturned text, a hankering for vodka, or an imminent bad choice.By Sheila Marikar
|Illustration by Tom Bachtell|
Life on dry land is kind of, like, different. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Margulis works as a shop assistant at an Upper East Side boutique, rearranging tableaux of three-thousand-dollar handbags. The store, Hayward House, is owned by Marin Hopper, the daughter of Dennis Hopper and Brooke Hayward, and Hopper’s husband, the film producer John Goldstone. “Sometimes I’ll be up here late, sitting on the floor, drawing, putting some bags out,” Margulis said the other day at the store, which occupies two floors of a town house, where the owners live. A reedy thirtyish blonde, she wore a puffy green jacket with “But Like Maybe” scrawled on the back and a tan cowboy hat. “Then Marin will call me down to her apartment and be, like, ‘Are you hungry? Can I feed you?’ ”
Hopper and Goldstone found out about their employee’s side hustle only when their teen-age daughter came running in one day holding up her iPhone; she’d just figured out that Margulis was behind her favorite Instagram account.
“I was, like, ‘What are you talking about?’ ” Goldstone said. He and Hopper took a closer look. “Then I was, like, ‘This is fucking awesome. It’s so hilarious and smart and unusual.’ I told Arianna, ‘You have this hidden talent!’ ” Hopper and Goldstone immediately decided that their shop’s luxury wares might benefit from a bit of scribbly patina. They asked Margulis to doodle on reproductions of Dennis Hopper’s black-and-white photographs—blue squiggles on a young Paul Newman, cartoony Hayward handbags draped around naked women—which they are considering selling next season. “As much as my father was very specific about how he liked his pictures printed and never cropped and da-da-da, I know that he would be excited to see her spirit and youth come through—like a young Banksy!” Hopper said. “We’re thinking of continuing it as limited editions, or on T-shirts. It could be fabulous!”
Margulis said, “To which I’m, like, ‘Really?’ ”
“She’s an inspiration to us,” Hopper went on. “I feel so lucky, and I’m always going, ‘Please, don’t ever leave!’ ” The newest plan was for Margulis to Sharpie on a white Hayward bag and wear it to Fashion Week.After work, Margulis walked to the No. 6 train to head down to her East Village walkup. Born in Michigan, she moved to Manhattan after college, seeking a career in fashion and Mr. Right. She admits to being something of a stalker. “The guys who ran should have run away from me,” she said. “If I got some creepy, drunk, confessional love poem via e-mail at 3 a.m., I’d probably run, too.”
Two years ago, after a boyfriend dumped her because she interfered with his meditation schedule, Margulis started sketching furiously, and uploaded snapshots of her work to Instagram. Although she has a jaundiced view of the dilemmas of the modern single woman—“Siri, will he text me?”—her avatar is ever hopeful, always up for another night out, a sprinkle-covered doughnut, or a two-hundred-dollar bathing suit that she can’t afford. (The day after Trump’s election, she slung her arm around the Statue of Liberty, held a pink drink aloft, and declared, “We are going to be O.K.”)
The floors of Margulis’s tiny apartment slant slightly downward. Airplane bottles of tequila sit atop a loudly humming refrigerator. “I joke that Mickey is always around,” she said, surveying the corners. “I think, for now, he’s hiding.”
Margulis calls her yearly earnings from her comic “margarita money.” (It’s in the thousands.) Last year, a small press published a short run of But Like Maybe comic books. More recently, Capitol Records recruited her to take over its Instagram account in order to chronicle the MTV Video Music Awards. And Creative Artists Agency signed her, with the goal of bringing But Like Maybe to television. “The dream is that the show would be the big payoff,” she said. She has incorporated sponsors like Smirnoff vodka and a dating app called Huggle into her strip, but she’s turned down other deals in the name of artistic integrity.
Margulis has been in a stable relationship for a year now, and she’s experiencing life on the other side of the dating divide. “I’ve had all these old boyfriends coming out of the woodwork, texting me, ‘Is this one about me?’ ” she said. “I’m, like, ‘Totally.’ Like, ‘Yeah, remember? Asshole.’ ” ♦This article appears in other versions of the September 11, 2017, issue, with the headline “Comic.”