exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Sydney Shewmaker

Name: Sydney Shewmaker

Age: 28

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

How often do you bathe or shower?

Only once or twice a week. I think that your body can self regulate if you let it and that you don’t need to shower that often. Also, I don’t like being damp. I don’t like the drying off process. I like showers actually. And when I take showers I take very hot showers and stay in them for a very long time. And when I take a bath I’m usually in here for an hour or two. But I don’t like drying up afterwards. I don’t like the in-between. It just feels weird. You’re usually kind of cold and if you put clothes on they feel gross, and they stick to you so you have to get dry enough. I don’t know. It just feels weird.

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

I’m between a couple. I would either be a squid or a cuttlefish or that shrimp that sees a million 

Why for each?

I actually used to go by Squidney, and that was one of my animals for a really long time. And it was when I had dreads and my dreads were green, and they kind of looked like tentacles. But I also do kind of naturally identify as a water creature, so it’s fitting. And squids are just really cool. They don’t really have any– they’re all just cartilage. Cuttlefishes just because I like the name and the way they look. I like cuttles and cuttlefish have that nautilus shape to them too. And then I’m just also fascinated by– which you should look up the actual name of the shrimp, but because they have like 20 cones or something in their eyes and humans only have like 3. And it is also one of the most beautiful, colorful creatures. But I just think it’s so interesting that there’s so many colors and stuff that we don’t– there’s so many things that we can’t see and that’s proof that there’s so many things that we can’t see. And also shrimp are kind of cool because they’re like the insects of the ocean and I like bugs.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about creating which from the bones you can tell I’m also kind of into that. And I like the whole life, death cycle and I think that we are constantly going through life, death, rebirth cycles and that’s just part of the human experience and just part of our natural process for most of the world. But by processing roadkill or taking found bones and stuff and turning them into something new, you’re giving them another life. So it’s part of the life, death, rebirth cycle.

When did you start really looking at that cycle?

A couple of years ago I mean I’m also into yoni magic and red tents. And that is something that they talk about a lot with that too is that your menstrual cycle is part of that life/death cycle. And that is part of what’s so beautiful about people who menstruate is that they carry both of those energies simultaneously which everybody does but especially people that menstruate. It’s part of it. And just realizing that– I don’t know, death is important. Change is important. And it’s something that everybody sees as being really scary, but it’s actually really beautiful.

What is yoni magic?

Yoni, I get messed up about the origin. I think it’s Sanskrit, but it is the pussy portal womb magic, vaginas, vulvas, all that good stuff. But a lot of it is just kind of embracing the power that you get from having a yoni and menstruating which definitely you can still tap into that whether or not you have– you don’t have to menstruate or have a uterus to be able to tap into yoni magic. But it’s just been really empowering and a really positive experience. I’ve been able to find a lot of community and feel more connected to my body and also paint with my menstrual blood. It is wonderful. Everyone should do it.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

I’m just pretty happy with where my life is at right now for the most part. I feel like I have a really awesome support system with my friends and my family, and I have a job that I like. And I actually get to– I get paid to make stuff which is what I always wanted. I have a beautiful studio that I’m neglecting. No, I do just like– I feel pretty happy with where I’m at right now.

What is something you still struggle with?

Taking care of myself. It’s a lot easier. I only just noticed recently that it’s something I struggle with. I have a lot of caregiver energy, and it’s a lot easier to take care of other people than it is to take care of yourself. And I will often dump an excess amount of energy into other people and neglect myself. So I’m learning boundaries for that so that I can also have better self-care.

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

I have recently been embracing the idea of romantic friendships, and I think they’re incredibly fulfilling and beautiful. And I’m so happy to have few relationships like that in my life right now. I also identify as polyamorous and pansexual, so gender identity isn’t super important to me in terms of who I’m attracted to. I’m kind of just like– I also identify as demisexual. I really need to get to know somebody to have a connection with them to even be able to be attracted to them on any kind of real level. And then polyamorous just been something I’ve been figuring out how to navigate for the last 10 years or so. But it provides a lot of interesting– and then communication skills get a lot better. And you get a lot better at navigating boundaries. And it just had a lot of potential and freedom. I need freedom in my relationships.

What about familial relationships?

I actually, recently repaired and still working on repairing my relationship with my sister. They’re always complicated. There are a lot of layers to it and a lot of– I think that if you have family that you’re connected to that’s willing to work on the hard stuff. I think a lot of people don’t because they’re like, “Oh, it’s blood.” You just do it because you’re blood. We don’t have to buy it. There is something interesting to blood ties but also figuring out how to navigate that in a healthy way.

Shawn Kevin Muhammad

Name: Shawn Kevin Muhammad

Age: 29

Pronouns: He/Him/His

How often do you bathe or shower?

Every two days in the wintertime, every day to every other day in the summertime. The difference is weatiness. I don’t really sweat in the winter– I don’t do anything for real. I’m about to start a new job, so maybe showering will change because I’ll be doing a little bit more moving. But maybe not, I don’t know. My skin get dry with all the water, so I’m going to have to keep my natural oils on my skin. So I’m usually trying to do every couple of days versus every second day.

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

A sea horse.I really like seahorses. Also, the seahorse is the dad carries the babies and gives birth to them. And I always thought that was cool because it’s the only animal in the animal kingdom that does that. And I like horses, but a seahorse is crazy. They move with this little tail. It’s just cool. They’re kind of like a majestic creature. It’s weird and awkward. And nothing really bothers them. I think, like, I have this kind of dad vibe. My personality is very dad-like. So it makes sense that I would carry the kids. That’s when I have my own kids, I look forward to being able to hold my kids and them go to sleep in my arms and things like that. And then I kind of move majestically I think I would say [laughter] so, yeah. They’re pretty colorful too. A lot of animals have the male or the female’s more colorful. Usually, it’s the male. But the seahorse, they’re the same. They’re usually the exact same color it’s hard to tell the difference. For a long time, they didn’t even know that it was the male who was carrying the babies.

What are you passionate about?

Wow. That’s a weird question just because– it’s not a weird question. I guess it’s a hard question. I put a lot of passion in everything that I like doing. So if I’m tattooing, then I put a lot of passion into it. Or if I’m taking care of plants, there’s a lot of passion for it. So things that I like doing become an expression of myself. So I will just naturally passionate about it. So I guess that’s why that question is kind of hard because everything that I am doing, I’m putting a lot of passion into.

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

They’re work. They’re any kind of relationship is a little bit of work from both sides. You can’t be selfish in any relationship that you’re in if it’s friends, lovers, or sexual. That’s how I think about it. I’m always trying to put– they like to say like, “50/50 in a relationship,” but that kind of, I think, tricks you to think that you only do half of the work instead of being like, “I give 100% in a relationship and the other person does too.” So relationships for me are like you put in as much as you can and hopefully, that’s a person that also does the same thing, not necessarily like, “I’m going to do half. They’ll do half.” You just put in as much as you can. And hopefully, you made a good decision in a person, and they do the same thing for you.

What about familial relationships?

My family, I’m not super close with family, but that’s a lot of childhood trauma stuff. So I was never really close with them. But what is family at the same time? I decided early that my friends can also be my family members. So in my head, I have almost like a class system where I’ll be like, “A friend–” I’ll be like, “An acquaintance, this is somebody that could be a friend. And this is somebody that is a friend.” And once you make it into a friend and– like next to [inaudible] is my family. So I have people that are not blood to me, but they are my family. It’s crazy because I have my friend, Jess, who I can tell everybody she’s my sister. Even her family, I treat them like my family. So her mom and dad treat me like their oldest son. They literally will introduce me to people as like, “This is our oldest.” So I think a lot of people are like, “Oh, these are people that gave birth to me. These are blood-related to.” But that’s not always just who your family is. My parents, I love them very much. But whom am I closest to is usually my people that I’ve made my family. So you had this– if you are getting to a relationship then you have kids, you made your own family. So why can’t you do that with other people? And if you decide to marry somebody or this is your partner, you made that person your family, so you could do that on other levels as well. And I do that.

What is something that you’ve struggled with?

I mean opening up, honestly. That’s always been hard for me. I grew up with the kind of parents that are like, “You listen to what I say.” So you don’t really get to share your own ideas on things or how you feel about stuff. I’ve always been very opinionated so that was hard for me as a kid. But then you grew up. It becomes a pattern to like– you just hold on to your ideas like, “Nobody really cares. Nobody wants to listen to it.” And that’s something I’m in the process of breaking now as being more open with stuff because I always been the type of person that ‘s like, “Tell me anything. I’m not going to judge you. I’ll help you if I can. I’m always listening.” And I’ve never given anybody that chance to do that for me. It’s cool to be in that right now because I’ve never done it. I’ve opened up a little bit with people and it comes that class system of friendship that I have, It comes a lot do that because I’m like, “Whoa, this person.” I wouldn’t call even my friend or an acquaintance. But a lot of other people will be like, “Those are your friends. And sometimes, it’s confusing for people.” But yeah, I struggle with being open with a lot of people.

Is that one of the reasons why you chose to do this?

I mean, I just didn’t think about it. It was like, “Just do it.” I didn’t even give myself a chance to– I do that a lot where I think so much about things before I do it, which also comes from me being told to do that as a kid. I think five times, pay attention to details. So, I naturally do that. I’m a Scorpio, Aquarius moon, so that’s going to be natural for me to do anyway. And then, for it to be pushed onto me so much as a kid, I just do that so much. So, I didn’t think about it that much. 

What is something you feel accomplished with?

I’ve accomplished a lot because I think for myself. That was a big thing that I needed. I thought I needed, as a person, for people to be able to not necessarily like me but to be like, “Oh, he’s awesome.” So I do love to do a lot of things. But I’ve accomplished a lot. I got my first black belt as a 12-year-old. And I love doing martial arts. But the idea of having a black belt at that age was an accomplishment to me. I was like, “Yeah.” I felt very accomplished. I’ve opened for stars, dancing. Doing that was an accomplishment to me. But even something as small as completing a manga online, I accomplished that. I get accomplishment for that kind of stuff, too. So, I mean, even this is an accomplishment for me, coming from where I came from. So I probably would have not done this a couple of years ago.

What would have kept you from doing it?

I would have been like, “Nah, I’m not comfortable with being open with anybody.” So I don’t even think I would have consciously been able to figure out that that was why. But I probably wouldn’t have done it. Okay.

You mentioned when you said your name, that it changed. So what did it change from and why?

So, my mom was married to my biological dad. So, his name is Shawn Hayford. And so I was born of Shawn Hyford] the second. They divorced when I was an infant. I don’t think I was a year-old yet. And my dad, they were friends before. They worked together. He would help out. They end up dating, and they got married and how I have my little sister. All my siblings are from them. They’ve been together for– I’m 29, so. 26 years. They’ve been married for 26 years now. So they got married. He adopted me. So, my name changed. And also, I’ll say that to a lot of people in there like, “Oh, his last name was Mohammed, but his wasn’t either. His last name was Jordan, but they converted from Christianity to the Church of Islam around that time as well. So they were both changing their names, and we just– he adopted me, and everybody has the same last name now.

Do you identify with Islam?

I don’t claim any religion. There’s parts of it that I’m like, “That is cool.” It taught me a lot. It’s funny because now, you have all of these protests, and this kind of feels like a civil rights movement. But the nation of Islam is where some of this came from. So I knew a lot about the stuff that’s happening now for black people at three years old, so. Yeah. I definitely identify with it, but I don’t like the idea of religions and stuff like that. I’m spiritual but not religious. I always felt religions are like gangs. And growing up, as a little kid with a last name Muhammad– a little black kid with a last name Muhammad is wild because I’ve had a teacher being like, “You’re going to go to hell,” a fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Brinkman. I remember her name. She said, “You’re going to go to hell because you’re not a Christian,” which is wild. The rest of my family is Christian, and they’re cool with it. And I’m like– I mean, I didn’t have– that wasn’t my battle. That was my parents’ battle. And I went to church and I went to mosque, and it’s the same thing, [laughter] literally. And I’m like, “If you speak to not even Americanized Muslims, they’ll be like–” it’s funny because Christians will be like, “They believe in Allah.” And I was like, “Do you even know what you’re saying?” Then they don’t because Allah is the same as God. I’ve spoken with foreigners that I went to school with, because I was curious what was going through their head about it. And they’re like, “It’s the same. It’s the same.” It’s just like, “If you want to believe in all these prophets, Jesus came down to talk to this group of people in their language and how they are and why with that person, do that across the entire world. Why wouldn’t the God they believe in have multiple people talk to different people?” So Jesus is to Christianity, prophet Muhammad was speaking from the same God just to different people. So it’s crazy? It’s the same. The books are almost identical. Islam is actually easier to understand because it didn’t have– it’s a lot more pure of a religion despite what people think, but that book has not been rewritten by anybody. There’s one version of it. There always has been one version of it. No white king got his hands on it and changed, took out something that he didn’t like. And who knows how many times that’s happened with the Bible? So there’s a lot– it’s a lot easier to understand. So it’s wild that people will be like, “Muslims are evil.” [laughter]

What is something you appreciate about yourself?

I have the ability to see multiple sides to almost everything. If a person– how do you explain that? If I see a fight, or say– Maggie actually used this. If you go into a restaurant, you see this lady yelling at the hostess, your natural reaction to that has to be like, “Damn, she’s fucked up yelling at this hostess.” But I’m like, “What did the hostess do? What happened?” And then I’m like, “She might just be having a bad day.” A lot of people are either going to be like, “That she’s fucked up,” or, “The hostess is fucked up and did something wrong,” and not like, “Oh, she might just be having a bad day and something little happened. And now, she just kind of blew up.” And that’s how I’m going to look at the situation. And I’ve always been like that. I don’t know if that has to do– well, yeah, I’ve talked about that in therapy how I do that. And he was like, “Less than 10% of people can do that.” And normally, you don’t do that. So that’s something that I’m happy that I can do. It helps a lot. I’ve taught kids a lot in my life, and it helps so much in just in other people, not even just kids. I’m very understanding of different ways to do thing. There’s not always one way to do something. So I preach that there’s always multiple ways to do the same thing. So we have that. There’s a comic book strip where like, “These people are arguing over what number six or nine is,” and they’re standing on opposite sides of it, [laughter] then I’m like, “The person is right– both of you guys are right. [laughter] Shut up.

Matthew Frank Gamble

Name: Matthew Frank Gambill

Age: 33

What pronouns do you use?

Dude. Him. Guy. I don’t really mind. I consider myself to be Zen Buddhist, and it’s like if somebody that wants to say he, you, they, and what is it? Him, he, I guess is– yes. So that’s who I am [laughter].

How often do you bathe or shower?

Every day. I have a bad back. I have scoliosis and tendinitis, and a healthy drinking habit, and it dehydrates my muscles. And so it’s like I’m at this pool bar downstairs I can hang from, and get my spine out, but sitting in a bath is also the best thing. If there’s Epsom salt there. That stuff is like magic. I’m in a large body. I mean, if I’m going to go– if I have to work, shower trumps it. You know what I mean? If I’ve got enough time, and knowing I don’t have to worry about the time in the bath. I’ve been known to– if I could live in a bathtub I would. I do a little bit of everything in the tub. Sometimes I watch videos or shows. Sometimes I listen to music. Sometimes I listen to a podcast. I mean, sometimes I’ll just sit, but I love to read, but you’ve got to– you can’t force it because– yeah. I don’t just go home and sit down and read. I mean, I like reading on the bus, or waiting in line, or in the bathroom. So if I am reading in the bath, it’s like I either really enjoy the book, or I’m trying to just get away from technology for a minute.

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

Several of them. So when people always ask what kind of animal would you be, and I always thought I would either be like a dog or an otter. And then I found out that male otters are called dogs. Yeah. And they hold hands, and they play with pebble rocks. And then also, they can kill crocodiles, which is pretty cool. They play and slide. Yeah, they can kill crocodiles. They get pretty big in South America. Yeah.I would probably be an otter. Or a dog. I mean, anybody that’s ever worked with me, or known me for a period of time, I’m probably like a Labrador. just just like. I go through times I don’t talk here at all, or don’t talk to anybody, but if I’m in the moment, I’m just like– people, things. I like to be very– I get excited. I’m very easily excited.

What are you passionate about?

Food. People. I cook a lot. My roommate just started eating meat again for the first time in like 15 years. And so I introduced her to a home cooked bacon. She never had home cooked bacon, and now it’s her favorite thing. Yeah. We’ve got a crock-pot here. Can’t figure out how the pressure cooker works. I think it is missing a piece. But yeah, I just got this sweet juicer thing. I love it. Plus I work at a grocery store, so I get 30%, and on top of the deals, so I just got food all the time.

When did this passion start?

Well, I mean, I loved food from a very young age. It started with Colby Jack cheese. I used to be– when I was a kid, I would ask my grandparents or my mom. “I want that camo cheese.” While I grew up, my parents worked a lot, so it was mostly fast food with this one frozen food or cereal and shit like that. And so I didn’t really eat vegetables on sandwiches. It was pepperoni pizza or a cheeseburger with ketchup and mustard. It wasn’t until college when I tried sushi and I put all the veggies on my subway sandwich. And now I’m just constantly trying to learn things I don’t know like, “Oh, what’s this? How do you cook it? How do we use that?” It’s cool.

Is there a connection between food and people?

Oh, yes. Yes. There are some Buddhist monks who won’t eat anything unless they know the person that prepared it. You put your energy in the food. But also you can eat crappy gas station food and feel like crap, or you can eat– when you eat home-cooked good food, you just feel different. You feel different. I love fast food. I will eat the crappiest stuff. I will put the worst stuff in my body. But at the same time if I’m just cooking regularly, I just feel better. I don’t know. And I’d say you get to control what you taste and how you taste it. Also what I found is cooking for other people. I can’t just go wild with it. I can’t just throw stuff in because I’m just like, “Somebody else is going to eat this.”

My friend that I work with, we take lunch together, and I was like, “Well, if I’m going to be going out and paying for food all the time, I’m going to have to bring you food with me too,” and she goes, “Oh, I’ve never tasted your cooking.” And I was just like, “My cooking?” The way she said it, I was like, “Oh, shit. Now I’ve got to come up with a plan. I can’t just do rice and chicken.” I mean, yeah, that’s fine, but. You know what I mean? It can’t just be some random shit. It’s like, “Ah, fuck.” But it’s also cool because it’s like, “Okay. I’m not going to grab this and that and this because I like it.” It’s like, “Okay. I’m doing lemon pepper chicken,” or, “This is carne asada,” or, “This is beef-free tacos.” It’s not just like, “I like this and I like that. I’m just getting carried away.” It’s too easy to get carried away, and then you’ve got way too much stuff, and it’s all salty. One time I accidentally didn’t realize it was the wrong kind of top for soy sauce, and you don’t want too much soy sauce in a dish. I mean, it’s not like inedible, but it’s just like, “Damn it, this is salty.” Yeah.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

Well, I haven’t been playing music lately, but I’ve played guitar for over 20 years, and I got a bunch of music instruments. I think one thing I feel really accomplished in is my ability to learn new things and develop my skills. I can decide how good I want to be at something and to grow, as opposed to my dad who thinks because he’s not in the NBA he was never meant to be in the NBA. He’s also really not that great at golf. And if he’s doing bad at bowling, if he’s having a bad time, he goes and just plays with his phone. I don’t have that mentality. I’m like, “If I want to be good at bowling, I’m going to focus. I’m going to practice, and I’m going to really just try to be good at it,” or pool or cooking or music or just whatever it is.

I didn’t use to value myself as much. I would just drop out of art school, smoke pot, and drink with your friends, and no one’s paying you for all your time. And now that I’m working three jobs and cooking for myself and trying to be more responsible – I’m not in my 20s anymore – it’s cool to see that while you can bounce around for most of your life, you can still pull yourself together when you need to. So I like being able to let loose and pull myself together, and hopefully that’ll work out some day.

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

I would say the family ones are the most complicated ones for me right now. My roommate and I are domestic partners – we’re not sexual partners at all – and so we work really well together getting things done in the domestic situation. But then I’m also dabbling in the waters of dating again, and that’s weird because it’s like, “Oh, I really like talking to this person,” but then we also have intimate times, and I’m figuring out how to transition between the two because now that’s weird again. I don’t know. I think every relationship can be– God, I hope my mom doesn’t read this if I’m going to get too personal. [laughter] Relationships can go from being very, very cold or distant, and we have to sort of be ready for that. You could be complete strangers with someone, or you can be very, very intimate with people.

I have a friend who now is married and has a kid, but back in the day we hooked up a couple of times. And one time she was drunk next to her very large husband, just going like, “Matt and I had sex, and we’re fine, and we’re fine.” And I was just like, “Can we not? Rocco’s right next to you. Can we not talk about this right now or at all?” Having sex with your friends and co-workers is messy, so try not to do it. But you can do it. [laughter] Yeah. Everybody likes sex, but you also shouldn’t have sex with everyone. Yeah, yeah.

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