exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Month: June, 2018

Mar Curran

Mar Curran


Date of Interview: May 30, 2018

Name: Mar Curran

Age: 28

Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs

How often do you bathe or shower?

I’d say a bath specifically, I bathe like three times a week. I’m a very big bath person. And then I try to shower like once every two or three days. I’m into my own natural musk/laziness [laughter]. So that’s where I’m at emotionally.

What makes you a big bath person?

I have chronic back problems [laughter]. So taking a bath, sometimes, is the only way I can get my body to cooperate with me, so that’s our nice middle space. Plus, I have ADHD. So if I force myself to sit in a bath where I can’t do an activity, that’s some good relaxation time for me.

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

I think I’d be a friendly stingray. I think that they are just very cute. And as babies, they look like little ghost raviolis. I would like for that to be my origin story [laughter]. Maybe then I’ll be like– if I didn’t not believe in white people rap that would be my rap name then [laughter], Ghost Ravioli. I’ll use it for something else. It’s a good zine name. That’ll make sense.

What are you passionate about?

Plants, animals, cooking for my friends, writing funny things and performing it live. And then social justice issues as an overarching umbrella, I would say.

How do these things manifest in your day-to-day life?

I think that plants and animals are very much a self-soothing thing that I engage in daily. I think that I try to engage in a lot of healthy cooking and communal activities. I think that social justice stuff is kind of the framework that I view the whole world in. So I don’t know that there’s any, especially, aspects of my life that is removed from that. So it’s just kind of a daily occurrence. Sometimes, I think of it through the lens of ignorance is bliss. And it’s like, “I already know now. I can’t not see the things that are happening. Sorry, I’m not trying to be the Debbie Downer of every situation, it’s just that racial inequality is real,” and stuff like that [laughter].

What is your love language?

I took the test, and it said that words of affirmation was, so I love receiving those. But I feel when I express my love, it’s more often through gift-giving lately, which I know is the one that everyone hates. But I feel when everyone talks about it, they’re very much like, “Gift giving, that’s because you’re selfish and materialistic.” I’m like, “No. It’s because your stomach is upset, and I brought you some chicken soup, and like, a movie that I bought at Blockbuster eight years ago, and it reminds me of you.” Stuff like that very intentional, thoughtful stuff. Plus, since I feel I can’t do a lot of quality time with people, both for schedules and chronic illness/pain stuff that always comes up, then that helps me feel like I’m more able to say like, “I am thinking about you. It’s not that I’m just in my cave on the south side [laughter] being friendless.” It’s that like, I’m thinking about you while I’m down there.

What is something you feel very accomplished with?

I guess I’m trying to feel accomplish with my emotional health stuff because I feel like– this is actually something I read about where it was you can either focus on your emotional health or your professional health for what my Saturn Return cycle is. You can only focus on one at a time and you’ve surely been working on one up until now thinking that you’re forcing your Saturn Return. Now you have to work on the other one. It was like, “Goddammit, that’s so rude.” So I’m trying to appreciate all the work I’ve put in throughout my twenties on emotional health, thinking like, “I’ll have an easy Saturn Return. I know how to speak about my feelings. I feel centered as a human being, blah, blah.” Now it’s like, “No. You have to actually go out there and show up and show other people who you are professionally.” I said, “Dammit [laughter]. I thought I was ahead of the game. Thanks a lot, space. You’re so rude [laughter].” I’m not saying that I’m the most emotionally healthy person. But when I look at straight people around me or I just read a book about– it was fiction but it was about straight people’s interpersonal relationships. And I was like, “Why aren’t any of you saying anything to each other? This is so fucking rude. You’re sitting there brooding about your husband not communicating to you properly and you’re not giving him the tools to succeed. This is so dumb.” So I was like, “At least I got that covered.” I’m not going to be in a situation where I’m like, I don’t know how to say, I love you, because I’ll just be like, “I LOVE YOU” really obnoxiously. I can’t control it at this point [laughter].

What is something you struggle with?

I guess adult career and money stuff is where I’m at right now. Really having a profound struggle with capitalism, on an emotional and practical level. Because I was focusing on the emotional health I really did not put any prioritization on, “I need to figure out what kind of job I need.” I’ve been floating through barista and retail jobs because those are what give me the freedom to do artistic stuff, which I appreciate and I would still like. But now that I’m getting to the point where I’m like, “Oh, it would be nice to pay my bills.” And I live with my parents after leaving an abusive relationship. I still need to financially get to a certain place before I feel comfortable moving out. I’m just like, “You work three days a week at a grocery store. It’s not going to happen [laughter]. You need to figure out a different plan.” Plus I would like to have a job where I actually sit down and do something that I feel is meaningful as opposed to lifting 50-pound bags of potatoes all day.

Specifically, potatoes?

They’re so heavy and ungainly and the bag is always ripped. It’s really unfortunate. I have a lot of packaging problems with how we transport food and that’s a whole separate interview that should be sent directly to food manufacturers. But foods are hard to lift. People don’t realize [laughter].

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

I just got a friend got broken up with right before you got here by a best friend. And I was like, “I’m 28 now. I don’t have the emotional capacity to chase you. I’m not going to chase you.”  That sounds dramatic and stupid and hurtful, but if that’s what you’ve got to do I understand that sometimes people need to make selfish choices. I think that it’s also very reflective of where I’m at. I’m trying to be like– there was this really good line from The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. And it was that, “I think that I can give you everything without giving myself away”; And I was driving on Lakeshore Drive like, “I’m about to crash my fucking car right now.” But that’s like everything’s in me right now where I think that when I’m in relationships, whether it be platonic or romantic– because I get really platonically attached. I think that I’ve been really bad about not giving myself away in those situations and then not feeling grounded. Or like I’m able to recover when something happens in the relationship. So right now I’m trying to be very emotionally healthy. I am like, “This time these things are in orbit around me. Everything is cool. I can send up my solar flares and be fine by myself. It”s not a big deal.” So I’m trying to stay centered and present and appreciate relationships for what they are right now and be okay with the transition as opposed to my past viewpoint of, “I need to know what’s going to happen. I need to have a trajectory for this. I need to be prepared at all times. I love control [laughter].” So now I’m like, “I guess I can sit in the gray space. That’s cool [laughter].”

What about romantic entanglements?

I was with someone for a year and a half. For the first half a year that we were together, she lived in Philadelphia, then moved out here and moved immediately in with me. And just nothing about the situation was good. She had a lot of emotional baggage that ended up coming out in emotional abuse and then later, physical stuff. And because I’m a mentally ill person who’s been in abusive situations before, it was like after the first year of it I felt myself becoming a mean person. It wears down on you after a certain point. So it was harder to be the kind of person that I want to be, which is really generous and gregarious and able to see the bright side of things. And I think, at my core, that’s who I am. But if I’m put in a situation where every day I’m being told, “You suck and you can’t do anything correctly,” at some point I’m just like, “Cool. I can’t do anything correctly. I fucking give up. I’ll be in the living room.”

What is a goal you want to accomplish?

My show, Choose Your Mar Adventure has the intention of being a podcast at some point. My plan is to edit together random segments that have some tangential connection, and then have me and my co-host, my friend Bianca, just kind of do segments in between where I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t know why I said this to this person but here’s this person. Go look them up on this website. Sorry, Mom. Here’s the interview [laughter].” I feel at this point in my life a lot of my material is centered around, “My mom’s going to be really upset if she ever finds out about this.” So figure out a way to tell my mom, “Either stay away from all my media or here are all the deep, dark secrets I’m keeping from you, let’s just get it out there.” I got to wait until I move out first [laughter] then I can be like, “Here are the things on a platter. Like John the Baptist’s head.”



Date of Interview: May 23, 2018

Name: John

Age: 36

Pronouns: He/Him/His

How often do you bathe or shower?

I’ve been thinking about this lately. I think I shower three or four times a week. But it’s unclear to me recently [laughter] how often it’s happening.

What are your feelings about baths?

Baths are absolutely a way that I survive Chicago winters. I try to get them as hot as possible. And then I can get in as– it’s not even comfortable. I can just feel the capillaries and blood vessels in my hands and arms swell. It’s this amazing feeling [laughter]. Like the life being brought back into part of my body that I was going to lose [laughter].

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

Probably a sponge [laughter]. Not an animated sponge [laughter]. Maybe I’d be the fish that Gollum takes a bite out of [laughter] in The Lord of the Rings [laughter]. Because if I’m involved in a cool story [laughter], it’s usually as a tangential character who accidentally makes an appearance and something kind of unfortunate happens to in the process.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about music. And I’m passionate about teaching young people other things through music. I’m not super interested in making great musicians out of kids. I’m more interested in the fact that I can use music class to teach conflict resolution, or to teach self-expression, or something about identity. And that’s the point of music, anyway, not sound [laughter].

Can you expand on that?

Yeah. That sound is just the accidental way that music has to happen. But it must be more important– there must be something else going on in our brains because if you just look at sound objectively– it’s like if you listen to music objectively, it’s like “boom, boom, squeak, squeak, bop, bop, long, short, high, loud”. So it won’t inherently– it’s not inherently anything. But we assign all kinds of meaning so it’s really abstract. Just, so– so I guess what I’m trying to say is, music is inherently kind of stupid. And I like that, I feel safe there [laughter]. But it’s also– it also must be more than that. We all know that music can take us out of this world. And it’s also just gone as soon as it happens. So it’s just mysterious, it comes into you. But it’s also inherently, kind of dumb. So it’s a weird combination of things. So I like to explore that. And I like to explore that with students.

What is something that you feel accomplished with?

I feel accomplished with emotional intelligence. I feel accomplished in my ability to connect, to meet someone where they are, and be able to make a connection with somebody. I might not always know the right words, or the right thing to say or do, but somehow I feel like foundation-ally I’m aware of something emotional happening for somebody that I can be present with. And usually, maybe find some comfort in connection with somebody.

Is that a learned skill or always been present in your life?

Not for me, it’s been more present than me sometimes. I think it comes from deep listening. I guess that’s a learned skill. But even when I was a kid I remember adults being easy for me to find emotionally– like, “Oh, wow, they have all the emotions I have.” That was my first– that first feeling that I’m like adults, like in the sense that I’m going to be one one day in a very real way. It was like, “Oh, cool. Adults do all the things I do emotionally”.

Were you the wise kid that’s in every sitcom or major motion picture?

I need examples of wise kids.

The immediate reference in my head is 500 Days of Summer, the little sister. Were you that?

I was an enigma for my family, because I was really into being– I was really into solitude as a kid, I was really into art, and creation, in a really private way. And it was enigmatic when I was a little kid, and then became very suspicious when I was in high school. And so I was like an outsider. I don’t know that I was wise, but it always made people treat me a little different, whether they just were unsure what I was up to, or were unsure what I was really moved by, motivated by.

What is something you still struggle with?

I struggle with clarity. Being clear with myself about what I want from life, even in a lowercase-L kind of way. Even in a like what do I need today, or this afternoon. And ultimately that’s what capital-L Life is made of, is just a bunch of those little questions over and over again. And then the bigger ones I can build on that. And those are usually very unclear for me. I feel like I struggle with just– my time just floating away from me. Which would be fine if I didn’t have hopes and dreams [laughter].

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

I think they’re always changing. I think– I meant my relationships are always changing, but I guess I also mean the relationships themselves are always changing. I wish family could be something you could opt into or opt out of in a more– in a less violent way, like in a way you didn’t have to tear yourself out of it. I think sex can be anything you want it to be. It can be an expression of friendship, or even just meeting. But it can also be used to lock down a lifelong trust and commitment to somebody. So it can– and all of this– all these relationships are just tools for us to sort of plant ourselves in place. I think of all of them, family has been the hardest one for me to manage. And I’ve grown to appreciate it more recently, as I’m thinking about how it’s– I think mandatory relationships are also important, and that it can align in a vertical way, generationally time-wise, that most of our other relationships we’re choosing people who are probably within a certain spectrum near us age-wise. So that value is becoming more apparent for me.




Date of Interview: May 20, 2018

Name: Juliet

Age: 26

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

How often do you bathe or shower?

I take a bath on average…once a week–well, we’ll say once every two weeks if I’m busy, and once a week if I’ve hit a good pace. I shower every two to three days when it’s cold outside, which in Chicago, is most days.

Do you have a ritual with bathing?

Yes [laughter]. Yeah. I didn’t used to take baths. I grew up in a religious culture that shamed self and body, so that mindset permeated anything that involved your body exposed – likes swimming or baths. Also, as a long body – I’m 6ft – bathtubs have never been accommodating for my size. I could never get most of my body in, so I was always cold on one half or the other.

But then there came a point when I was in a really stressful living situation and unemployed for several months, desperate for anything to help me cope with it all. Bath bombs had just hit “big” so I was thought, “Let’s see what all the fuss is about.” The funny thing is, the bathtub in that apartment wasn’t at all accommodating, but it was also at a point when I was really fed up with being defined by other people’s perceptions. A lot of that boiled down to my body image, so the bathtub became a safe space where I could have a conversation with my body without anyone else’s input.

I think there’s something really beautiful about levitating. There’s that sense of otherness when you’re equalized in the water with your mind and your body. A literal elevation of self that allows you to be objective and accept wherever you’re at; whether you’re on your period feeling really bloated, or if you feel sexy and want to be celebrated! Baths have become a way that I channel myself, especially when I feel life is being projected onto me — whether that’s work, or other people’s perceptions of who I am, or a difficult relationship, etc.

It’s an event I create as a gift to myself.

Candles are always a necessary element, and from there I kind of build a small altar of my favorite things: plants, special crystals, flowers, etc. Deciding what I want to put there becomes a meditation as I walk around the house and collect things from my shelves, slowly building a small piece of beauty to enjoy for that hour of purposeful self-love.

How has your sexuality been supported by feeling yourself in this way?

It’s helped me practice how to have a conversation with my body, to figure out where I feel central and where I don’t. Then, in the places I don’t, space to figure out why and how to reach the parts that feel neglected. Sometimes it’s because needs aren’t being met, or I’m mentally abusing myself in those areas, or they’re places someone else has abused. Over time, I’ve been able to figure out different ways of healing.

I sent my first nude two years ago. It was to an artist friend who sent out a call on Facebook for nudes on National Nudie Day! It was a competition, so whoever inspired him the most got to be painted, and mine won!

It was a huge moment for me, turning something that would have previously been a source of shame into art. In that same vein…taking pictures in the bathtub! My phone’s never fallen in the water, cross my fingers [laughter]–but when I’m feeling sassy or if I just want to just see what my body looks like in a new way, taking selfies in the bathtub has become a fun way I get to know myself better.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, familiar or otherwise.

I think relationships are very much about how much you’re able to take yourself out of the equation to see people for who they are without projecting expectation, desire, or need onto them. However you do that affects whatever the relationship is going to be, whether it’s family or friends or with a partner. I think that a lot of times-with family-there’s always an element of obligation that complicates boundaries. But when we’re able to be objective about who we are as people, what we’re looking for, and what we want our relationship to be outside of that obligation – we inevitably come out stronger. With friends I think a lot of times it gets messy once you get in deeper, and start encountering the complexities that accrue with time.  If the friendship was born out of circumstances that eventually fall away, there’s a choice whether or not you’re going to be vulnerable with one another outside of that. Or maybe the spark that bonded you guys goes away? I’ve lost several friendships that I perceived to be deep, only to realize I was projecting what I thought they would be for me instead of listening and responding to their needs. When people permanently choose to leave your life or vice versa, no matter the type of relationship, it always leaves a scar. So I try to be open about those experiences without letting them cloud new relationships with the fear of vulnerability.

What is something that you feel accomplished with?

A huge accomplishment for me? Hmmm…I think there’s a lot…but I also tend to think of accomplishments as concrete moments in time, because we’re trained to think in this linear timeline instead of valuing the slow evolution of interior growth.

[thinks] So! I have a very queer family! And for a long time my identity in the queer world was by association, just because that was how I was introduced in queer life, and so it felt like it was “their” thing first. I think a lot of this imposter syndrome stemmed from the fact that they are all male-assigned, which informed my perspective of queerness as a cis-bodied woman. It wasn’t until I started understanding feminism on a personal level that I was able to explore my body, and in turn my sexuality, which made me much more comfortable in including myself in that narrative. It’s a huge accomplishment to give myself permission to explore the limitless breadth of what it means to be a person.  

What is something you’re passionate about?

Advocacy.  I’m definitely a warrior spirit. From a young age I often identified as an outlier, partly because that was the religious ideology that defined our family’s lifestyle, but also because I used books to escape that world and explore alternative ways of thinking. I gravitated towards untold stories – mostly historical femme leaders – which directly influenced my artistic development and resulting love of storytelling. That curiosity turned into passion as I grew to recognize the massive gaps in representation through personal inequities and the experiences of my peers. I identify as a cisgendered woman, so advocacy for femme identified people feels inherently fundamental. Learning to advocate for myself has been a huge practice in vulnerability, and given me the context to encourage and uplift other femmes in their journies. Self-advocacy is vital, but it’s a huge process of unlearning oppressive systems, and a lot of people aren’t given the resources to learn how; whether that’s support through mentorship or access to knowledge. And so, whether it’s with kids – I’m a nanny so I work a lot with kids – or with other friends, or with artistic peers…I’m passionate about helping people advocate for their story.

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

I think…a jellyfish….Yeah, a jellyfish. I like that they’re not a predator and that they’re pretty neutral on the animal spectrum…They’re very communal, like, you always see jellyfish in mass quantity….They appear to be more art than animal…Their variety of colors and textures are truly mesmerizing…And also, they’re blobby! They’re disproportionately beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever felt proportionate in my life! So just physically, I like that they can be chubby on top, and also have these gorgeous ribbons that protect them and allow them to live their lives. The most beautiful parts of them are the most deadly, I think that’s key…as if to say, “Underestimate me at your peril”…not as a threat, but a beautiful way of saying “I’m here.”

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