exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Category: Interviews

Eli Weston

Name: Eli Weston

Age: 31

Pronouns: He/Him/His

How often do you bathe or shower?

Not tons. I take more baths in the wintertime because it feels like something you’re supposed to do in the winter. I honestly only shower twice a week. I can say that it’s because I want to save natural resources, but I don’t know if that’s the actual reason. I think I also am scared of getting into a habit of feeling too clean, because, then, I feel like, if I take showers too frequently, I’ll get scared of feeling dirty. And I don’t want that. So, yeah, so I end up not showering a lot. But I shower more when I exercise, of course. And, yeah, bathe more in the winter.

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

Well, so I was watching videos today of the deep ocean. And there were these amphipods that live under high pressures of ocean water. And I don’t know if I associate with them. But they’re on my mind right now. And they just live very simple lives in the dark ocean. And I don’t know. I was thinking about them today. So maybe those: deep ocean amphipods.

Do you aspire to live a simple life?

Yeah. It’s always there for me — I think maybe that’s part of not taking tons of showers, too. I’m always thinking, “Do I need that?” and trying to reduce the amount of resources– not just, I guess, it’s not just items but things in my brain, too. And from a perspective of living sustainably, I try to be simple for that, yeah, cook with simple ingredients, yeah.

Can you give an example of cooking with simple ingredients?

Yeah. I do a lot of just really simple–people would say bland–dishes. Just rice with eggs, or tortillas and chicken, or spinach and some olive oil, just very simple little dishes that, I don’t know, I just don’t get too fancy with it. My brother’s always saying, “Why don’t you put some spices on this, Eli?” And I’m just, I don’t know. It’s fine the way it is. I don’t need to make it complicated. So maybe I’m not adding the spice of life to everything, but I keep it simple.

What are you passionate about?

I’m definitely passionate about the environment, trying to create a positive legacy on the environment rather than a destructive one, which I feel is almost inevitable. We are consumers. We do consume by nature, but trying to change things systematically so that as a group, we consume less. Yeah. That’s my passion. I also really like dance, and I am trying to train myself on spinning poi. And I would like to dance more, but it’s kind of hard because it’s such a forbidden social activity during coronavirus. So yeah, I think the environment and dancing. Yeah, those are my passions.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

Accomplished with. When I am able to– when I am able to, yeah, do something that has a positive legacy, whether that’s helping somebody learn something or changing a policy or even just helping somebody through something. Anything that has a positive long-term legacy gives me a sense of accomplishment.

What is something you struggle with?

I struggle with depression. [laughter] Anxiety. I want to do great things, and I feel like I haven’t. And that gets difficult, or I have a hard time with that. I want to do more than I’ve been able to do, or I feel like I’m being allowed to do. I struggle with authority. I struggle with being fearful of getting in trouble. I have always been a rule follower, and I think I’ve been fueled by that fear since I was a toddler. I didn’t want to break the rules because I didn’t want people to get mad at me and I didn’t want people to punish me. So I have a hard time with authority and breaking rules. Yeah. I don’t know if I’ll ever not be challenged by that. I think it just might be part of me.

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

That’s a huge question. My thoughts on relationships, I think that to me, relationships are how our human brains are programmed. Everything is in the context of a relationship, and I think that I learned to create lines between all of these different categories of relationships, but I don’t know if it’s natural. I think I’ve just developed that organization through society and culture and learning. But I think if my natural self hadn’t been trained in this environment, I think that I would view them so much more fluidly–that a lover and a sexual partner is sometimes just that, and sometimes a friend can become a lover. I think that they would flow a lot more, but I think that we’ve been trained–maybe good, maybe bad–to position certain people into these categories of relationships. It’s okay. It’s fine. I just don’t know if that’s how it would have become otherwise. Yeah. It’s fine. Maybe I slightly struggle with it honestly. I think that maybe we all struggle with it, and I think that’s half of the drama out there is people deep down struggling with that. And they just don’t have the language to talk about it, or they are too scared to talk about because it’s so taboo to talk about people not being in their proper categories. So yeah. I just think of chimpanzees and bonobos and other creatures that maybe have– they still have culture but maybe a little less ingrained culture, a little more natural selves. Would we be more violent, more sexual? Maybe. More loving and more hating? Yeah. So maybe we learned to calm and categorize ourselves as we age, like a, “It’s fine. It’s fine.” I don’t know. Maybe it’s not all bad.

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.

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