Emilie and Peter
by The Bathtub Project
Date of Interview: June 21, 2018.
Names: Emilie and Peter
Age: 26 and 34
Pronouns: They/Them and They/Them
How often do you bathe or shower?
Emilie: I do not take proper baths a lot because I have a small tub and I get anxious. But if I need excessive self care, if I’m doing a spell, I’ll be in the bath. I try to shower, what? Like three times a week. Mental health is real. So sometimes basic self-care goes by the wayside.
Peter: I don’t really take very many baths unless I’m in a rough mental state. And then I will do that as a ritual for myself to try and ground. But I probably take two showers a week.
Is bathing a source of self-care and stability for both of you or either of you?
Peter: Yeah. I learned a few years back from someone drawing a bath for me, actually, that I need it to be by myself and with myself, and to be sort of intentionally taking care of my own body in a way that I allowed to fall by the wayside because I’m more of a– I tend to focus on other people more than myself. So, yeah, I would say yes.
Emilie: I think showers are more of a necessity for me and baths are more for self-care, grounding, being okay with being quiet. But I have to shower before I take a bath because I don’t like being in dirty water. It makes me nervous [laughter].
What are you passionate about?
Peter: Food and storytelling. Cooking food for other people.
Emilie: Food can be storytelling.
P: That’s true. But that’s not how I use it. I use it to nourish people.
E: Like me.
E: I’ve started eating a lot better food since Peter has lived here [laughter]. It’s a lovely thing about you. And it feels like care. It feels like love as a verb and physical nourishment.
P: What are you passionate about, Emilie?
E: Good question [laughter]. Healing through art, and reiki, and tarot, for myself and other people. Also family.
How does that manifest itself for you on a day-to-day basis?
Emilie: I call my mom every day.
Peter: Right now we’re all on a text thread.
Emilie Yeah. My mom just started a text thread with me and Peter, which is really sweet to me because she’s really coming around to the reality that I have a life partner and a fiancé in two different people. So that’s really sweet. But I try to do Tarot every day. And I do it for a lot of other people. But it’s emotionally, pretty draining. And I try to incorporate art into things as simple as my wardrobe. Art as a lifestyle instead of just a practice. What kind of art do I do? I do a lot of art because I can’t decide what my favorite is, which I think is okay.
P: How do I work it into my day-to-day? I am a performer. I’m trying to be a performer [laughter].
E: You are.
P: So I think storytelling is naturally wedded to performance. That’s what performance really is. And so I would say, yeah, with my art and storytelling, I try every day to teach myself and the world empathy.
E: I also wake up to a story every morning.
P: That’s true [laughter].
E: Because Peter’s brain works so quickly, I either hear a crazy story from the past or a full plot from a movie.
P: A plot of a movie, before we get out of bed usually [laughter].
What do you feel accomplished with?
Peter: What do I feel accomplished with?
Emilie: Do you want me to go?
P: Yeah. I’d love if you would go [laughter].
E: Hard to say. I’m hard on myself. I guess I’m proud that I’m constantly creating. It’s easy to say you’re an artist, but having a daily practice takes determination. But, my biggest accomplishment is getting sober, for sure. Yeah. Especially at 20– I got sober when I was 24.
P: Yeah. That’s legit. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up [laughter]. But I feel that I have driven myself to learn and hone skills that I didn’t ever think were possible. I started doing carpentry six years ago and I had been working in restaurants since I was 14. So that was a huge switch for me and I made a job out of it for five or six years. And I’m back in the kitchen again and I’m working on honing those skills, but I feel that I’m– what am I trying to say exactly? I don’t know. You want to answer for me?
E: I would hesitate to answer for you. But speaking from my perspective would say that you, more than a lot of people I know, work on self-improvement.
P: I’m trying to find a way to feed my body and my soul together. I think that what I feel accomplished in is that I’m turning 35 this year and I recognize that there is a disparity between the jobs that I take that feed my body and the work that I do that feeds my soul. So I’m trying to find that balance. And I feel good about that, that I’m trying to do that. That’s an accomplishment for me.
E: Can I be really gross for a second? This relationship feels like, personally, an accomplishment. Coming from being a serial toxic monogamous to actively working on being a partner and less selfish than I have been before. I think we work really hard in a way that’s not a burden, in a way that’s really lovely. I love you [laughter].
P:I love you. [kissing noises]
What are your thoughts on relationships, platonic, sexual, romantic, familial, and otherwise?
Emilie: Platonic love is so important.
Peter: Yeah, and I think that’s a huge thing that I’ve been learning, When I first came out as poly when I was 25, I got messy. I made a lot of mistakes. And I confused a lot of different types of love, I think because I was putting the option on the table for me to have sexual relationships with people who I was feeling intimacy with. I took that as, “I got a get-out-of-jail-free card. I’m going to run with it [laughter].” And then I started to learn that what being poly means is learning to be responsible to all the people who you are intimate with and learning to recognize that platonic love and intimacy are just as important as sexual intimacy, and they don’t always live in the same body, and that’s okay. And my thoughts on family are complicated [laughter]. My biological, my blood family and I have very strained– my father’s side and I have a strained relationship. My mother’s side and I are just getting to know each other. So I feel like family is important. But for me, it means something different than it might mean for Emilie. My family are my chosen family, my queer family, the people who actively work to stay in my life, who I actively work to stay in their lives. And we are trying to learn and grow together, and are excited to see the new changes that we’re growing, instead of trying to force some identity or whatever on one another.
E: I have a different experience. I have a very traditional family situation. I have a younger brother, who’s also sober. I have a mom, and dad, and a really large extended family. And they’re my whole world. It was really rough for a while when both my brother and I were active in our addictions. But I’m really lucky to have a family that decided, instead of internalizing that and being toxic, they decided to take care of themselves and become better. And now, it’s pretty great. I see them a lot. I call them a lot. I’m in a band with my brother. And I know how privileged I am to have that. I’m very conscious of how privileged I am to have that. I think my parents have been married like 35 years. Monogamous as fuck [laughter]. Yeah.
P: Can I clarify my answer a little bit? Is that okay? I came to envision my queer family, all my intimate partners, the ones I’m platonic with, or otherwise– I started to envision it as a– yeah. Like an aspen grove or a cottonwood grove where– for me, I like cottonwood better because they grow in the desert. And they just pop up in these little oases of trees that are all connected at the roots. And as I have met people or come close to people in my life, I get the feeling where I recognize that someone is in my grove. And once I recognize that, you’re it. You’re there.
E: I also came out as poly when I was 25. It’s not been that long at all for me. I think it’s been consciously in there. But I grew up in a place where I didn’t know that was a thing. So when I found out, I grappled with the idea of do I want this because this is who I am, or do I want this because I’m a bad monogamist? And I very quickly came to the place where I realized that wasn’t the case. But I think coming out as poly has made me work on myself more than I thought it would. I date myself first. Do you know what I mean? I have three or four partners including myself. And for the first– I guess I came out when I was 24. The first year, I was single and celibate. Still fucking poly. But I had to do that for myself in order to figure out what I needed and wanted in all sorts of relationships so that when I finally got back into potentially dating, I wouldn’t fall back into those toxic patterns that I had for 10, 15 years.
What’s something you still struggle with?
Emilie: Clearly, addiction to substances, behaviors and people. Control, and pretty intense self-loathing, though I publicly preach radical self-love, and empathy, and softness. I’m a pretty big hypocrite in that sense.
Peter: I think everybody is a little bit.
E: I agree. I agree. But I really don’t want to be like that. It’s a bad feeling– or I do want to be like that, but I want to be able to sit in it and work past it instead of vilifying myself for that, I think. Does that make sense?
P: Yeah. I struggle with all sorts of things [laughter]. Saying no, saying no first as opposed to realizing after saying yes that I should have said no, sitting with my own needs and trying to suss them out, instead of sort of backwards sussing them out by saying, “I’m feeling this from you right now, but what I really mean is, what I’m feeling is this thing [laughter].” Yeah. So that’s a big one.
E: We have a phrase. The story I’m making up in my head is–
P: Yeah. We got that from Brené Brown.
E: Yeah. We did.
P: That’s a really big one. Recognizing what is a fear and what is a truth, and also recognizing that I can’t get out a truth by myself. I have to come to it with someone else. And that doesn’t mean that we have the same truth. It means that we’re able to tell each other what our truths are, and then figure out what our shared narrative really is.
If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?
Emilie: A sea otter.
Peter: A seahorse [laughter]. A sea otter?
E: Yeah. They hold hands when they sleep!
P: Do they?
E: They’re the puppies of the sea. They fucking hold hands when they sleep.
P: Oh, I would definitely probably be a puppy. Some puppy. A sea otter? They’re the puppies of the sea. I guess I would definitely be a puppy.
E: But why did you say seahorse?
P: I like them. No other reason except that I like them.
E: That’s valid.
P: They have cute little noses. And the seahorse daddies carry babies.