An Open Love Letter to Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent | Cup of Jo


Nate and Jeremiah love letter

I am in love with Nate and Jeremiah. There, I’ve said it out loud, and now I feel better, because all I want to do ever is talk about Nate and Jeremiah and look at their Instagram feeds and watch their shows and look at their remodeled homes and read things that have been written by or about them and now I have freed myself to do this.

Like the rest of America, I was introduced to Nate by our mutual friend Oprah Winfrey. I’m going to get real vulnerable and say that Nate Berkus is the most handsome man I’ve ever seen in my life, and I say that as someone who did once see Clive Owen working out at a gym. He has my favorite kind of face, which is to say, a meaty nose and chewy lips and a general warmth to his aura. And then there is also something about his VOICE. Sigh, that voice. Nate always sounds like he’s swallowing ice cream, which is exactly what I want a person to sound like if they’re not in fact actually doing it for real. When he first appeared on Oprah, he would do makeovers on small spaces, which meant the world to me because I lived in a very small space and all I wanted was for this adorable man to come over and drape a string of beads over the corner of one of my mirrors, which I didn’t even know was something a person could do!

Then Jeremiah came along and Nate actually married him, and I’ll admit I was hurt. Hurt and, dare I say it, skeptical. Who was this person, and what were his intentions with my Nate? Who was this YOUNGER man who had won Nate’s heart and was suddenly appearing with him everywhere and seemingly draping beads over things with him? It just all seemed suspicious. He’s too handsome, for starters. He looks like the star of a ’50s musical, like the kind of tempting young sailor you used to see walking wide-eyed around Times Square during Fleet Week. Jeremiah is always outfitted in a pair of perfectly draped pleated pants, ever-so-slightly tight T-shirts, and a perfect loafer. He’s also usually wearing the most tastefully curated stack of gold bracelets atop a perfect vintage watch, which makes me nuts because this is what I want to do, but whenever I put on a bracelet I instantly look like a pirate. I worried that everything about Jeremiah seemed, as they frequently say on The Bachelor, “too good to be true.

I started a casual conversation about my concerns with another Nate aficionado I know. Where did this guy come from, I asked? She informed me that she had seen him before on the short-lived reality show The Rachel Zoe Project, a worrying detail I could not accept. I know this is snobby to say, but that felt like a shoddy origin story. (Who am I to speak poorly of Rachel Zoe when I wolfed down Love Island like a fucking sleeve of Fig Newtons just a few weeks ago? That said, I wasn’t IN it.) I’m only able to write these terrible words about my new best friend Jeremiah now because he himself confessed in a podcast interview, one that I obsessively listened to twice last month while driving to work, that when he and Nate first started dating, “everybody thought I was a prostitute.” HIS WORDS!

So, no, I was not thrilled about Nate and Jeremiah. I felt protective of Nate and couldn’t stand the thought of him finding anything but the purest and most sacred love, which surely should only come in the shape of a best friendship with me.

But then in 2017, they made a TV show called Nate & Jeremiah by Design. I can’t remember what it was about exactly because for me it was about watching THEM. Their body language. I have never seen two people more in love. The way Jeremiah lovingly teases Nate and the way Nate teases back and no one gets overly mad or silently mopey the way some people writing this book and their husband possibly do. I began to fall for Jeremiah. Like Nate, he also has an amazing voice — but whereas Nate’s is deep and ice-cream-y, Jeremiah’s is more mischievous, playful but calm, best friend meets meditation app. There are so many moments in the show where Nate is talking and Jeremiah gazes at him adoringly and then Jeremiah turns to talk to the camera and the way Nate looks at him, lids slightly lowering. I know it’s a cliché, but find you a man who looks at you the way Nate and Jeremiah look at Nate and Jeremiah.

I watched every episode of this show. I watched them fill homes with weathered vases and antique bowls, little sculptures, dining room banquettes. They pulled up carpets and put down little kilim rugs. They threw ugly flush-mount light fixtures in the fucking trash and replaced them with Spanish chandeliers. Every now and then we would get a delicious peek into a slice of their home life, their life as parents, their life as a couple out having fun dinners with friends. But you could feel the emotional balance of their marriage no matter what they were doing. They made doorways twice the size of regular doorways. They filled horrific, dank bathrooms with claw-foot tubs, creating a perfect little oasis that was almost always topped off with a little succulent plant on the back of the toilet tank. That always got me. As soon as I see a succulent, I forget I’m looking at a toilet. How do they know all these tricks?

Nate and Jeremiah had moved to L.A. from New York City with their little daughter right around the time we did. They renovated a twelve-million-dollar Hancock Park home and suffice to say they didn’t need to worry about dressing up a toilet with a plant.

Aside from the voyeuristic pleasure of their marble countertops, their hair, and their casual intimacy, it also felt comforting to me that in a world where they had the means to live absolutely anywhere, they had chosen to live in the same city as me, a city that, to be honest, I do not really like. I am sorry, Los Angeles. But the truth is I have never quite felt at home here. I long for New York City and walking everywhere and seeing a million weirdos a minute as soon as I step out to get coffee.

Underlying my borderline creepy interest in Nate and Jeremiah was — is — my pervasive homesickness. Homesickness has been a problem for me since I was a child. I could never make it all the way through a sleepover; I would last till about 11 p.m., when a specific sense of anxiety that I was in the wrong place would come over me, and then, after an awkward conversation with the host friend’s mom, I’d have to call my parents, through light tears, to come get me. But once I grew into an adult, it all became more complicated. Now when I get the homesick feeling, the only person who can come pick me up is me.

But homesickness isn’t about houses; it’s about that elusive sense of something else, of peace and calm and happiness and belonging and relaxation that all at some point etymologically swirled into that other word over the years: “home,” which is etymologically perhaps related to the Irish “coim,” meaning “pleasing or pleasant.”

When Nate and Jeremiah’s show premiered, my boy was two, and our house was a swirl of plastic toys and blocks and really ugly beeping things and Aquaphor. It was not coim. My marriage was not coim. As a mother I never felt coim. I try not to yell, but I yell all the time. Nothing ever felt coim. What did feel coim was: watching Nate and Jeremiah on basic cable while eating takeout balanced on my lap after my child went to bed; following Nate and Jeremiah on Instagram; and following everyone they followed so that at night, unable to sleep, I could scroll through an endless feed of other people’s beautifully arranged homes. Some of them were fancy, some of them were humble, but all of them pulsed with coim. I would emotionally project myself into these little Instagram squares, imagining myself sitting on some bouclé-covered couch in a cozy Parisian flat, or curled up next to a fireplace in some hygge little A-frame cabin in Norway.

Then one day, in the middle of season three of Nate & Jeremiah by Design, something happened. Nate and Jeremiah were on a family hike in Runyon Canyon. Looking out over the view of the canyon, Nate turned to Jeremiah and said: “What about this? How do you feel when you look at all this?” I perked up. What was really being asked? How does Jeremiah feel when he looks at WHAT?

They teased us for another episode before the big reveal. Which was: THEY WERE MOVING BACK TO NEW YORK. Jeremiah wanted to move back there, and even though Nate seemed fine with living in L.A., that’s what they were doing. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe they were leaving me here!

It is embarrassing to admit how truly and deeply betrayed I felt by these two people I did not know.

A few weeks before I sat down to write this essay, Architectural Digest published a photo spread of Jeremiah and Nate’s newly renovated West Village townhouse. They both posted the link on their Instas at the same time because couples in love know to coordinate their socials!

I looked at them for a long time, and then I put my phone down and tried to do work but came back and stared at them again. I so badly wanted to slip down a magical slide directly to the couch in front of their wall of built-ins. I wanted to get on a plane and move my life back with them.

When I think back to the earliest years of motherhood, when my baby was one and two and three years old, my sense memory is primarily of sitting in an endless series of messes. On the floor, sopping up various baby body fluids with wipes, and then when I ran out of wipes, using my sleeves or my pants. I spent countless hours on the floor in our house picking up toys, and then lying on the floor next to his crib until he fell asleep. In these moments, it’s impossible for your mind not to wander elsewhere. For me, I want to go to Nate and Jeremiah’s house, where everything is arranged in perfect harmony.

Nate and Jeremiah, if you’re reading this (and it can’t be overstated how much I know you’re not, and I do think that’s for the best), I’m sorry that I was ever angry with you. The longer I sat with it, the more I realized my anger was, in fact, a yearning jealousy.

They seemed, as a unit, to be the very embodiment of coim, with each other, their gorgeous surroundings, their sweet family and their perfectly curated accessories. But really the most coim thing about them was the fact that the whole time I’d been watching them on TV, Jeremiah had been feeling that I-want-someone-to-come-and-pick-me-up feeling, and Nate answered the call.

Sigh and swoon.


I'll Show Myself Out by Jessi Klein

Emmy-award-winning comedy writer Jessi Klein is the author of I’ll Show Myself Out: Essays on Midlife and Motherhood, which comes out this week; as well as the New York Times bestselling essay collection, You’ll Grow Out of It. She has served as a consulting producer for the Netflix series animated sitcom Big Mouth since 2017 and provides the voice for one of the main characters.

P.S. Our ultimate TV guide, and what comedy scenes do you love?

(Top photo from Nate and Jeremiah by Design, graphic design by Maud Passini. This piece has been adapted from the book I’ll Show Myself Out by Jessi Klein. Copyright © 2022 by Jessi Klein. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.)





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