When Molly Knox Ostertag and Noelle Stevenson got married in 2019, they thought their first year as a married couple would include an exciting honeymoon, several work trips, and plenty of travel. Instead, they’ve spent nearly the whole year together in their Los Angeles home (dubbed “Wife City”), working in home offices down the hall from each other with their pet dog, Winston, and two cats, Fig and Toast. In many ways, it’s much better than the year they expected.
“My favorite part is just G-chatting each other from other rooms,” Stevenson says. “I’ll send Molly a joke and I’ll hear her laugh, and then she’ll yell a response back at me. Or she sends me something and I”ll type ‘LMAO,’ but she can hear me and she knows I’m not laughing out loud.”
“To focus I’ll shut the door and pretend that I’m in a different building,” Ostertag says before Stevenson adds, “Then of course all the animals throw themselves at your door and they’re like, ‘Mother, let me in!’"
Molly Knox Ostertag (top) and Noelle Stevenson hard at work with their adorable pets: a dog named Winston and two cats, Fig and Toast.
Ostertag has spent this time drawing her fourth solo graphic novel, The Girl From the Sea, which drops in June, working on several projects she can’t talk about yet, and getting really into making Lord of the Rings fan fictions and fan art.
For Stevenson, who goes by all pronouns, the year saw his first series as a creator and showrunner with She-Ra and The Princesses of Power, which came to an end with its fifth and final season premiering on Netflix. They spent the year recovering from the grind of running their first show while also working on plenty of personal projects and announcing a new Lumberjanes show at HBO.
“I feel like it’s like a new side of you, not completely absorbed into a work project that I’ve almost never seen before, and it’s nice,” Ostertag says to Stevenson.
“Literally day in and day out, it was the only thing I could think about or do for the past four or five years,” Stevenson says. “And it was nice to just take a slightly more relaxed pace while I’m working and to figure out what’s really important, what I really want to do in the years to come.”
“It’s also been fun,” Ostertag says. “We’ve been watching both good and bad TV and movies this year. I feel like I haven’t consumed that much stuff for a while. When I’m really deep in a project, I’m so busy making stuff that I can’t step outside of it. So this year has been a big appreciation year.”
Of course, the couple streamed other guilty pleasures like old episodes of America’s Next Top Model and the AMC historical horror series The Terror, about two ships getting stuck in the ice during a harsh winter.
“The idea that people who kind of sailed this ship and then got stuck there for years longer than they were supposed to be, that made me feel a little bit better in a weird way,” Stevenson quips of the series. “When you’re on a ship, your only job is just getting there. It’s just trying to make it to the spring. And that’s how it felt a lot of the time this year. I’m just like, ‘Well, haven’t gotten anything done in like a month, but all you can do is just try to get there.’”
At the beginning of lockdown, when it seemed like it might end after a few weeks or months, Stevenson, who has ADHD, picked up new hobbies and made schedules, but those have fallen by the wayside as the lockdown turned indefinite.
They say they’ll have days where “I haven’t gotten any work done and I also haven’t done anything that I enjoyed. And it’s just like this weird in-between place.” She also says that in their experience, “for people with ADHD, it’s been just really, really, really challenging because there’s always something else. I feel a little hypervigilant and like I have to get on Twitter, because if something happens I need to be ready. And it’s like, well, no, that’s not actually helping anything.”
While Ostertag agrees they haven’t exactly had a healthy work/home balance, it hasn’t been all bad. “I think I at least definitely learned to be a little gentler with myself in what I expect for myself,” she says. “Sometimes it’s days when work is not going to happen. And I’ll try to at least do something nice that day, and then on the days when I am going to work hard and I feel inspired, I let myself kind of go over and work into the evening.”
“I think having an adaptable schedule has kind of been good,” she continues, “At the beginning of this, everyone said that routine was so important to get through it. And I think in normal circumstances, it is, but when I’ve worked from home in the past I was also going out on the weekends and meeting people for lunch. Now I’m just like, honestly, whatever I need in the moment, whatever is feeling good today, whether that is cleaning the kitchen or reading fan fiction, I’m going to follow the thing that makes me feel an ounce of serotonin.”
Ostertag adds that both she and her wife are working on projects they wouldn’t have expected to at the beginning of 2020. They’ve had each other to keep the work going.
“Molly is always my temperature check for anything I’m working on,” Stevenson says. “So we’ll kind of meet in the middle or meet in the kitchen and just kind of bounce ideas off of each other or we’ll read each other’s stuff before anyone else does and give each other thoughts.”
“I’m very good at parsing story advice as I’m cooking and just being like, ‘I have to be moving while you’re talking to me, but I’m mostly listening but also I am making the pasta,’” Ostertag jokes. “I think if someone put a recording device in the kitchen, they would get spoilers on everything.”
All photos courtesy of Ostertag and Stevenson.
A version of this story first appeared in Out's 2021 Hollywood Issue. Jake Borelli is featured on the cover alongside Ryan O'Connell and Alexandra Grey. It is the first print issue under the editorial direction of editor-in-chief David Artavia. The issue is out on newsstands on March 3, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News +.