by The Bathtub Project
Date of Interview: September 9, 2017
Name: Lauren Yarbrough
Location: Chicago, IL
How often do you bathe or shower?
Usually once a day. Sometimes, in the winter, because I shower in the morning, I will skip it if I feel like I smell nice because it’s cold and I’m already unhappy in the winter [laughter].
If you were a mythical creature, which one would it be?
Oh, my gosh. I meant to think so much more about this question [laughter]. I’m going to go with Loch Ness Monster because it has the word monster in it, which I’m a fan of and, also, I just like the idea of people not being sure if you’re there or not [laughter]. Just on the down low out here, lurking. It’s like the Internet [laughter].
What are you passionate about?
Oh, my gosh. I feel like this has changed and evolved a lot in the last year or two because I’ve spent the majority of my adult life doing theater and, specifically, stage managing, and production managing, and making people’s projects happen. And I hit 26 and I was like, “You know what, I need to go to sleep at night, so I’m not going to be in rehearsal anymore.” But I guess now it’s more specifically– theater is one way you can encourage people to be creative. And I think I’m still about that but now it’s more open-ended. I want to find a niche to encourage people to just be loud and unapologetic about their shit. Yeah. So I guess making or holding space is what some people will call it because I’ve experienced not feeling like it’s okay to speak up or as if you have anything important to say. And I still feel that way a little bit of the time but I’m also louder and have fewer fucks available to me as I grow older [laughter]. So I’m just like, “Just say no to those people. Tell them you need more money, tell them that you have something to say and Chad just repeated it in a different tone of voice. Do your weird thing. Yeah, sure, it’s weird. I mean that doesn’t matter. Just do it. Life is short, we’re all going to die, it’s 2017, we’re all very aware of this fact. Just do it. We don’t have enough time to be afraid of shit.” Yeah. And, basically, what I’m saying is I’m turning into my mother [laughter]. Yeah. That’s that.
What did you mean by you are very aware of the amount of space you’re given?
Well, my experience, being a black woman who’s not a particularly small person. For context, I’m like 5’5, 5’6 now and somewhere around 200 pounds. I’ve been approximately this size since the age of 12, and that was one of the first things my grandfather started telling me when was going through puberty was, “Celebrate your height. Don’t slouch,” and me being, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about, this is awful.” And so I’ve been big, I was a fat kid, and I used to have a whole bunch of hair, like three-and-a-half feet, just everywhere. And I’ve been very aware of– and I was a bully on the playground [laughter]. So I’m very aware of, “Oh, I am going to be bigger and stronger than some of the people around me. I have the ability to do a lot of damage if I’m not being careful,” and preemptively thinking about other people’s’ concerns. And I can make myself take up a lot of space or, if I’m in a situation where I’m worried about my personal safety or trying to impress these white people so they will give me my paycheck, I’m also capable of making myself very small. And for a long time, being small is a reaction to not wanting to be the kid that hurts people and everybody doesn’t like you. Being small has been my default. But I mean, right around the time I got into the relationship that I’m currently in, I was like, “Oh, I don’t have to do that. Some people will like me even when they’re a little bit intimidated. Oh, people being intimidated by you sometimes doesn’t mean they don’t want to be your friends. Oh, well, in that case, that’s just what I’m going to do [laughter],” that side. And so I started doing things like accepting compliments and letting people be good enough friends with me that I would give them my no-bullshit answers to things, which, again, is still relatively new. But it’s great. I’m enjoying it [laughter].
What is something you still struggle with?
I mean it’s definitely vulnerability, which is sort of ironic, given the circumstances. But since I was a kid, I’ve been really good and rigorous about kind of hiding what I’m really interested in and what I really think about things and the stuff that I care about a lot, I want that to be a secret. I don’t let anybody know because I grew up expecting to be judged and corrected about things. I wanted to figure things out by myself and so my reaction to that was to just be very, very secretive all the time. And I’m still kind of getting over that now, being like, “Oh, these are friends that I’ve chosen and they already know that I’m kind of weird or kind of a lot, so it can be okay to not like the same things or to be into something that’s kind of odd and be honest about it because people can’t really know you and it gets kind of lonely if you’re not honest.” It’s all very aspirational [laughter]. It’s not a linear journey by any means. There are degrees and bits where I have to be, “By the way, I was kind of lying when I said that I was interested in doing that. I really want to go home and go to sleep.” But, yeah, that’s the one that’s closest and most in my face, in my daily thoughts right now.
What are your thoughts on relationships, platonic, sexual, familial, and otherwise?
So …my thoughts have definitely evolved. I was raised by very private people who were also evangelical Christians. As we’re doing this interview, I’m still kind of like, “Man, they’re going to find this. It’s going to be weird but, you know, we probably need to have that conversation anyway [laughter].” So I guess my expectations for a lot of my life have been, you’re in a monogamous relationship and maybe you have two or three close friends. And that’s not really what I’m doing with my life right now. I’ve discovered, as I’ve been more real with myself, that, actually, I’m really interested in having different kinds of intimacy with maybe more than just one person. Because intimacy, there’s sexual and there’s emotional, and a lot of other different kinds. I learned about myself this year, that I’m a person who’s very happy with casual touching, whereas my partner is someone who does not like to be touched unless you’re really close. I’m like, “No, actually I don’t feel that way,” and it’s really hard for me to maybe be emotionally vulnerable but other kinds of intimacy are really– I feel more powerful when I have more of that in my life, which is kind of the heady new thing I’m still working out. But, no, relationships are great. Relationships can fuck you up for sure, but not always [laughter].
What is something that you feel very accomplished with?
This feels kind of dumb but in 27 years, I would feel like the thing that I feel the most accomplished about is having a sex life [laughter] because I definitely didn’t expect to have one of those the first, I’m going to say, 18 years of my life, when I was like, “Oh, whatever, that means you have to marry a cis man and have kids and homeschool them probably and just be miserable until you’re dead [laughter].” That wasn’t in the cards. Now, I’m like, “Oh, first of all, none of those things are true and also you can have sex and not be miserable.” Thanks, Obama [laughter]. It’s been nice, you know, being able to divorce those things.