exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Danielle Levsky


Date of Interview: May 10, 2018

Name: Danielle Levsky

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Age: 25


If you were an underwater creature, what would you be?

Oh, that’s cool. So the first thing that came to mind, which is what I’m going to go with, is one of those underwater horse things… A seahorse! I’d be a seahorse. I think they’re very elegant and beautiful. And on the Earth, on the ground, I have a very strong connection to deer, and I think seahorses are like the deer of the ocean.

How often do you bathe or shower?

Oh, probably too often for someone that claims to be as environmentally conscious as me. I love bathing so much. It’s one of my favorite activities. I definitely shower once a day. I’ve been told by different hair stylists that I should not wash my hair every day, so I’m trying that out… And I really don’t like it [laughter]. So that’s real. When I’m having a particularly stressful day or week, I have to take a bath. And I put all this stuff around me: my soaps, essential oils, salts, rose petals. I also have a sachet full of lavender I like to throw in here. I usually have a candle burning. I have my different rocks and crystals. Sometimes I actually put the rocks in the tub and bathe with them.

Does this support your mental health?

Yeah. I definitely say so, and I feel like that’s—well, it’s kind of a common thing right now in self-care. Treat yourself and all that stuff. But I think it really is very healing to be immersed in warm water, by yourself and to just like hear this… [splashes water around]. Just that… Some people listen to music, sometimes I listen to music when I’m in here, but I prefer to be in silence, because my world is constantly immersed in sound, noise, just a lack of silence in general. I like to be reminded of calming things around me; I like to breathe and just float in the water… like a seahorse [laughter].

What are you passionate about?

Oh, a lot of things. I do too much arguably, but maybe I don’t. Maybe I do just about enough. So I’m very passionate about my identity. I very strongly and proudly identify with my Jewish ethno-religious identity and with my Ukrainian-Jewish heritage. I don’t say Ukrainian heritage, because Ukraine has a very long history of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and a lot of other fucked up shit that I don’t subscribe to. But I do support and understand my people and my ancestors and what they went through… Even if I might not agree with some of their religious practices. I still think that they did everything they could with what they had [laughter].

I’m very passionate about intersectional feminism. While I’m very strongly rooted in my experience as a woman, I think that extends to not just women, but also W-O-M-Y-N, W-O-M-X-N , W-O-M-E-N+, and everyone that falls into the LGBTQIA+ distinctions. A couple of years ago, I applied for this fellowship in Pittsburgh; Creative Nonfiction Magazine was producing their book series called Writing Pittsburgh. They were calling for submissions about different neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. I submitted a pitch—not about a neighborhood, but about a community that doesn’t have a neighborhood, the LGBTQIA+ community. I found it fascinating that in Pittsburgh—which has one of the most revolutionary spaces for that history—doesn’t have a defined neighborhood for that community. It’s just in pockets all over Pittsburgh. I really wanted to understand and explore why that was and is. So, I’ve always been very passionate about those topics. And I feel like a lot of people have asked me why I wanted to write about the LGBTQIA+ community, because I don’t identify as LGBTQIA, but I very strongly identify as an ally. I also think I really hate gender distinctions [laughter], so maybe that’s part of it. Whenever I talk with my friends who are having kids, and they’re like, “I’m going to buy little Molly a dress,” and I’m like, “Maybe Molly can pick what she wants to wear. Maybe Molly wants a dress, or maybe Molly wants some pants, I don’t know [laughter]”. And they’re like, “Wow, that’s some feelings!” So… I just think gender needs to die [laughter].

I also love art. I love everything that art does and evokes. And the conversations it sparks. I think it’s very healing and transformative. I think it’s sad that arts education is not getting the funding it deserves in the States. I think it’s sad that artists are undervalued, or that some artists are valued over others based on whether they studied at a certain place or whether they were able to give a stupid amount of money to an institution to become artists. I’m specifically very passionate about investigating the world of clowning in the States. With my family coming from the Soviet Union, that was a hugely respected art form. Clowns, comedians and physical performance artists were and are revered as the smartest people in that part of that world there. Whereas here, the term clown is used as like a derogatory term, which I am very confused by because I think funny people are so much smarter than all of us [laughter].

What else? I’m passionate about the forest and nature and being in nature… and the ocean! Every time we visit my partner’s family in Miami, I say hi to everyone, then I say “Okay, we need to go to the water now [laughter]… NOW.” And they don’t get that, I think maybe because they had the fortune of living there their whole lives. Or maybe they just, I don’t know, like it as much as others do. But I love being in the ocean so much: the vastness of it and the seeming lack of end to it is very calming to me. I think for some that’s very scary, but for me, it’s like, “Wow, everything is just flows on and on forever!” That’s cool [laughter].

What is something you still struggle with?

My anxiety and my temper. I am definitely an extrovert, so I get my energy from other people. But I’m possibly also too empathetic, so I can absorb any bad energy that comes my way. I have been learning to deal with this more and more lately by taking out the people, activities and thoughts in my life that have too much negativity to give me. That kind of energy causes me to have more and more anxiety, and then that translates over to me imposing that anxiety on people in my life that don’t deserve it. It also makes my work and art suffer, which I don’t need either. And then the temper. Well [laughter], I don’t know. I think people say things that I don’t agree with, especially when it affects other… When it’s just about me, I can laugh it off sometimes, but when it’s about people I care about or a people that I think have no right to be attacked—no people should be attacked—I get really mad [laughter]. I have trouble censoring and calming myself down when responding. It actually really helps to have a partner who’s just the most stoic and calm human being on the planet. He’s always like, “All right, that was bad, but we’re not going to respond to that now.” And I’m more like, “I’m going to respond to that now!” He helps calm me down.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, familial, otherwise?

I think relationships are the cornerstone of everything we do in life. That’s not necessarily a relationship with another person or persons, it can also be the relationship with yourself. I think different types of relationships work for different people. Personally, monogamy has worked best for me, but that’s because I deal with my own past trauma of sharing intimacy in different forms. To be intimate with someone—not just a physical way but emotional, spiritual, etc.—for me is a big deal. There were many times I wish that wasn’t the case. So, I think whatever works for people and their relationships, solo or otherwise, is great! Everyone needs a different type of care. As long as they’re not hurting others intentionally or unintentionally. Even unintentionally, I think it’s worth making sure you’re never hurting anyone. And if you are… Fucking apologize? I mean… [laughter] Yes.

What do you feel accomplished with?

I feel pretty happy with where I am in my writing career. I didn’t really know where it would go after I left the Tribune. I was like, “I’m not going to work in journalism full-time anymore.” I thought, “Am I not a journalist anymore? Am I not a writer anymore? If I’m not those things, then who am I?” So that was my big, 22-year-old crisis I had back in the day. But I slowly found a way to incorporate writing into my life that worked for me, that worked with my own troubles, anxieties and goals for the future. I had many conversations with people who said, “Well, you could still work as a writer and do it full-time as a freelancer”. And I’m like, “Yeah, if it was only just me… forever.” I don’t mind starving or living in holes in the ground. I’m fine with that, but I do want to have a family someday and I don’t think it’s fair to subject my future children to the way I’m okay with living. So, I’m very pleased with how I was able to keep writing in my life, but also find a day job that I actually enjoy and I can actually see myself doing something meaningful with. I work as an instructional designer right now in a corporate/IT environment/setting. It’s cool, but I know in the future what I can do with it. I could be an instructional designer for kids with learning disabilities, because a lot of them learn so much better with online training. But in order to do that, I need to become really good at what I’m doing now. So, I just feel like I’m on this great path to have a family, provide for my kids, but also continue being a creative person and writer.


Nire Nah


Date of Interview: April 23, 2017

Name: Nire Nah

Age: 31

Pronouns: She/Her


How often do you bath or shower?

One shower per day is what I want for my body, I mean that’s what I aim for. I take baths when it feels like I need extreme self-care, so pretty infrequently.

If you were an underwater sea creature, which one would you be?

Definitely a whale of some sort. They’re so large! And they are…good singers [laughter].

What are you passionate about?

I’m pretty passionate about songwriting. I am passionate about pursuing world peace, even though that seems like a futile endeavor. I’m passionate about constant self-improvement, in terms of just being a good person.

How do these passions manifest daily?

Well, I apologize a lot! I realize that’s not the most productive thing. I meditate often. I don’t know. I’m finding myself more present these days, very much experiencing the present moment and trying not to get too lost in a story about the past or the future. I try to really listen to people when they talk. I try to conserve my energy and use it for good.

What is something you still struggle with?

I definitely still struggle with a lot of self-doubt. I still do a lot of over analyzing. I think sometimes wanting to be a good person leads to a lot of critical thoughts about myself that are not always constructive. I struggle to feel like what I’ve done is enough.

What is something you feel very accomplished with?

Oh, what a great follow-up question. I’m excited about my album, which is coming out on April 28th. That feels like a huge creative accomplishment, very official, very validating. But it’s also– I feel good about who I am right now. I feel like when I’m working with my collaborators on this album I’m being a good collaborator, which I don’t think would’ve been possible in the past. So I’m fully proud of the whole experience.

How long have you been working on the album?

A lot of the songs are multiple years old at this point, but the recording process started maybe in November, around then. And we’ve been rehearsing for the show for the last two months, right? Yeah. Yeah.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, familial, and otherwise?

They’re all very important. I’m a huge advocate of intimacy at all times – whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a person that I’m just meeting. If it feels safe, I want to be intimate with them in terms of my energy, and what I’m talking about, and how I’m speaking. I try to be the same person with everyone. I just try to be exactly myself and be honest. I’m very intuitive about relationships, so there are times when it feels like, “This is not a good match. We may both really like each other and respect each other, but I don’t think that we are going to make each other’s worlds any better by being in them.” So, I don’t know, I sort of lovingly let those people drift away.

Is making each other’s lives better important to you with relationships?

Better? Yeah, but not in a really– not in the way that you’re like, “Oh, I’m looking at your life and I feel like you need a lot of help so I’m going to come in here and rearrange your life.” I actually hate that. I think that the best relationships for me are the ones where– the way that you’re making each other’s lives better is by accepting each other. And, if there’s a change that needs to be made, it’s because you’re concerned about the person. And you’re not going to force it, you’re just going to point out, “Hey, this thing worries me or this thing– this thing might be the reason that you’re finding it hard to keep friendships or whatever.” But yeah, mostly I think it’s all about being able to enjoy moments and laugh a lot and learn things from each other, that’s important.

What is the story of the horse that’s on the side of the tub?

I have yet to discover what the true story is but I know that it has many, many friends and I think they might come from a different planet. We’ll find out in the next three years hopefully.




Date of Interview: March 29, 2018

Name: Boywitch

Age: 31

Pronouns: They/Them


How often do you bathe or shower?

I used to, as a child, be made fun of for not bathing enough. And then I learned how to shower every day, and now I found a happy medium, which is every two or three days. I don’t take baths as often as I should for relaxation purposes.

If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?

Well, I thought about this a lot. I think I would be one of those merpeople that’s the dangerous kind, not a friendly like, “Come over here, sailors,” but kind of like the ones that eat people. I think that they have a right to. I’d feel like I were of the sea, I would probably want to keep it decolonized, and I probably would fight for it as my home and other ocean creatures that are under threat, obviously.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about lots of things. Personal fashion. I really love getting to know people through the choices– the expressive choices they make. I care a lot about television. Oh, yeah. So I think it’s– I was basically raised by television. It feels like a very human object to me, and I feel like it’s a relational thing, watching TV. I love being a critical consumer of television, and I care a lot about activist work and poetry as well.

How do these passions manifest?

Usually in really strange ways. I don’t think that I’m one of those people who has it together enough to be like, “This is my particular activist identity, and you will only see me at these protests, and I will be the one who’s speaking to the cameras.” All of my passions, all of my radical, marginal, experimental, eclectic, chaos, all of that, it just kind of ends up coming out as I’ll make a series of toilet seat cover chapbooks or– I don’t know. I’ll make something weird, or I’ll do something weird, or I’ll take a trip to nowhere and make an installation there that no one will ever see, things like that. So not incredibly useful or productive.

How does it make you feel when you do those things?

It makes me feel like I’m more connected to the place that I live in. So I guess in that way, it is very productive if that is what we’re here to do. And it makes me feel more connected to other people often too.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is I think being a good person. I think that that is– that’s the success that I care about the most. I don’t know what other people would say about me. I genuinely have no idea, honestly . But that’s my greatest success, and I think that as long as I continue to feel that way about myself that would be my answer probably always.

What is something you still struggle with?

Well, I think boundaries, so I know we were just talking about that, but I think that– I think that it’s really hard for me still to know where my limitations are, what’s cool, what’s not cool out there in the world can sometimes seem just like this big noise, and so I think that I’m just learning how to set boundaries and remember where they are. I think that’s something I’ve always been learning, but it took me– I, apparently in this particular case am a really, really bad study, because it has taken me 30 years of my life to get I think close to where other people are when they’re, I don’t know, adolescents. I think that’s a part of– that’s a queerness thing, too. It’s like we’re all kind of stunted in really similar ways, and that’s okay. That’s part of it.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, familial, and otherwise?

My thoughts on relationships. Wow, there’s so many. All of my thoughts I save for relationships, actually. For my entire life I’ve been an extremely almost too relational person, I would say.This is something I just learned about, but my Libra south node says that – so the south node and north node are important things to know about astrology, apparently – but it basically is like, “I’ve been really good at relationality for a really long time and I have to learn more about thinking of myself as separate and individual.” But friendships are incredibly important to me. I do anything I can to maintain them. I’ve lived far away from people I’ve loved for a really long time. I care a lot about loving relationships and intimacies and I like to have them with lots of different people. So Poly is one of those things also. Just making unique kinds of– let the record show that my cat is now wearing a bathrobe [laughter]. Making relationship forms that maybe aren’t recognizable to people who are used to having more conventional kinds of relationships. I have a lot of very intimate friendships and it’s just a part of me.

Do you feel like your relationships and your queerness are completely intertwined?

Yeah. I think there’s really no other way for it to be. And then queerness is such an all-encompassing part of my identity. So many things are wrapped up– are bound up with queerness, including but not limited to my relationships, my creativity, all the things that I– all of my artistic access. All my psychological access to myself, that vault is a queer vault. And yeah, I think, not to evade the question here, but every single relationship I’ve ever had has been informed by queerness. Especially my earliest relationships in ways that are– I’m just learning about. And I think that those are things that a lot of us have to spend a really long time exhuming, because these things get buried.

What comes to mind when you think of your identity?

So boywitch is my gender/performance scene/lots of things. I think that that’s where I’ve landed, is a really simplified term and it just– I think it’s about my gender, and it’s also about my fascinations, and it’s about my investments as a more than just material being. And my alignment with playfulness and magic, those are the kinds of the things that are most central to who I am.


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