THEBATHTUBPROJECT

exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Boywitch

 

Date of Interview: March 29, 2018

Name: Boywitch

Age: 31

Pronouns: They/Them

 

How often do you bathe or shower?

I used to, as a child, be made fun of for not bathing enough. And then I learned how to shower every day, and now I found a happy medium, which is every two or three days. I don’t take baths as often as I should for relaxation purposes.

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

Well, I thought about this a lot. I think I would be one of those merpeople that’s the dangerous kind, not a friendly like, “Come over here, sailors,” but kind of like the ones that eat people. I think that they have a right to. I’d feel like I were of the sea, I would probably want to keep it decolonized, and I probably would fight for it as my home and other ocean creatures that are under threat, obviously.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about lots of things. Personal fashion. I really love getting to know people through the choices– the expressive choices they make. I care a lot about television. Oh, yeah. So I think it’s– I was basically raised by television. It feels like a very human object to me, and I feel like it’s a relational thing, watching TV. I love being a critical consumer of television, and I care a lot about activist work and poetry as well.

How do these passions manifest?

Usually in really strange ways. I don’t think that I’m one of those people who has it together enough to be like, “This is my particular activist identity, and you will only see me at these protests, and I will be the one who’s speaking to the cameras.” All of my passions, all of my radical, marginal, experimental, eclectic, chaos, all of that, it just kind of ends up coming out as I’ll make a series of toilet seat cover chapbooks or– I don’t know. I’ll make something weird, or I’ll do something weird, or I’ll take a trip to nowhere and make an installation there that no one will ever see, things like that. So not incredibly useful or productive.

How does it make you feel when you do those things?

It makes me feel like I’m more connected to the place that I live in. So I guess in that way, it is very productive if that is what we’re here to do. And it makes me feel more connected to other people often too.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is I think being a good person. I think that that is– that’s the success that I care about the most. I don’t know what other people would say about me. I genuinely have no idea, honestly . But that’s my greatest success, and I think that as long as I continue to feel that way about myself that would be my answer probably always.

What is something you still struggle with?

Well, I think boundaries, so I know we were just talking about that, but I think that– I think that it’s really hard for me still to know where my limitations are, what’s cool, what’s not cool out there in the world can sometimes seem just like this big noise, and so I think that I’m just learning how to set boundaries and remember where they are. I think that’s something I’ve always been learning, but it took me– I, apparently in this particular case am a really, really bad study, because it has taken me 30 years of my life to get I think close to where other people are when they’re, I don’t know, adolescents. I think that’s a part of– that’s a queerness thing, too. It’s like we’re all kind of stunted in really similar ways, and that’s okay. That’s part of it.

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

My thoughts on relationships. Wow, there’s so many. All of my thoughts I save for relationships, actually. For my entire life I’ve been an extremely almost too relational person, I would say.This is something I just learned about, but my Libra south node says that – so the south node and north node are important things to know about astrology, apparently – but it basically is like, “I’ve been really good at relationality for a really long time and I have to learn more about thinking of myself as separate and individual.” But friendships are incredibly important to me. I do anything I can to maintain them. I’ve lived far away from people I’ve loved for a really long time. I care a lot about loving relationships and intimacies and I like to have them with lots of different people. So Poly is one of those things also. Just making unique kinds of– let the record show that my cat is now wearing a bathrobe [laughter]. Making relationship forms that maybe aren’t recognizable to people who are used to having more conventional kinds of relationships. I have a lot of very intimate friendships and it’s just a part of me.

Do you feel like your relationships and your queerness are completely intertwined?

Yeah. I think there’s really no other way for it to be. And then queerness is such an all-encompassing part of my identity. So many things are wrapped up– are bound up with queerness, including but not limited to my relationships, my creativity, all the things that I– all of my artistic access. All my psychological access to myself, that vault is a queer vault. And yeah, I think, not to evade the question here, but every single relationship I’ve ever had has been informed by queerness. Especially my earliest relationships in ways that are– I’m just learning about. And I think that those are things that a lot of us have to spend a really long time exhuming, because these things get buried.

What comes to mind when you think of your identity?

So boywitch is my gender/performance scene/lots of things. I think that that’s where I’ve landed, is a really simplified term and it just– I think it’s about my gender, and it’s also about my fascinations, and it’s about my investments as a more than just material being. And my alignment with playfulness and magic, those are the kinds of the things that are most central to who I am.

 

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Lex Z

 

Date of Interview: March 26, 2018

Name: Lex Z.

Age: 25

Pronouns: She/Her

Location: Chicago, IL

 

How often do you bath or shower?

I try to every other day. I don’t take baths as much as I want to.

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

Well, I’ve been told by a psychic that I was a mermaid in a past life, but I would totally settle with being a manta ray. They’re beautiful and they’re so majestic and the way they just glide through the water is hypnotic.

What are you passionate about?

Everything. Love, art, teaching, connecting with people, fucking improving myself, family, friends, expression. This doesn’t manifest as fully as I would like it to. I get stifled by being human a lot, but I will take breaks to play guitar and write music. I will take breaks to write poetry. I will call somebody and talk about how I’m feeling and then hope that jars something artistic. I’ve done performing my whole life. So when I was in kindergarten, I told at the National Storytelling Convention, told two stories that I made up and that was really cool. I was like 10.

What is something that you still struggle with?

I struggle with a lot, but a lot of it is stuff that I’m starting to learn everybody struggles with, so they’;re not unique to me. Like liking myself. Who am I? What is my purpose? That kind of stuff, but then I struggle with, I don’t want to put myself into a box, but I have– just for practical use, I have PTSD, I have bipolar ¬†and I have just a fuck ton– I don’t even know, just a fuck ton of trauma. All right. I have a lot and I’ll try and wrap it up quickly. When I was in middle school I was bullied so badly. I was like the most teased kid and had no friends. I had maybe three friends but they never were there when the bullying was happening. I was cyberbullied. People told me to kill myself. Somebody made a screen name called KillLZSlowly and messaged me. Someone made a screen name like I Fucking Hate Lex and messaged me. I had a guy ask me out in front of a group of people and then break up with me in front of a group of people. I got punched in the face. I got canned food poured over my head. And I eventually had to switch schools because my parents were like, “You’re not doing this anymore.” And I didn’t want to leave because I was like, “This is the hell I know. Don’t give me something new.” Then I went to high school and the damage was done already from that, so I hung out with kind of a sketchy crowd because at least nobody would fuck with me if I hung out with tough kids.

And so then I met some boys, some really abusive men, and there’s nothing I can say that can paint a correct picture of what the abuse is like. But it was sexual, it was verbal, it was emotional, and with one of the guys, it was physical like choking, slapping. And then the emotional is crushing down into the size of a grain of sand and then leaving me with all of the pain that they had caused, mentally, then coming back when they felt like it. So I got really demoralized. And then I went to college and I stayed close because of the main abuser, David. And I started drinking, by the way, because I wanted to have fun. I was bullied. I had strict parents. And when my friends got to college, I was like,”I’m going to fucking drink now, all right.” And I partied really hard and I had a lot of fun, it wasn’t bad. Then one of my friends died of a heroin overdose, and that was the first time I had to see a 20-year- old dead body. The imagery isn’t as scarred in my head as it used to be. I’m close with his mom. But that was really hard because we talked the night before. I had a lot of friends die. I feel like that’s way too common.

So I dated this guy, Sunshine, and Sunshine was a damaged boy, but I was damaged too. So I thought maybe through love we could transcend our damaged-ness and become something great. But no, usually what happens is it becomes toxic. So it became very toxic. I put on some weight and he told me I look like I’m letting myself go. He ended up cheating on me. It was this horrible breakup. It took me two years to get over him, but he broke up with me and I was just devastated. My family and I– on Valentine’s day, he broke up with me two days before Valentine’s day. And on Valentine’s day, my mom and dad took me to Hackney’s and I just cried over my food. That was in February. And then April, I invited a guy over from my class to do homework with me, and he ended drugging me and raping me. And I was awake for it but I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t move, and I just had to– it was a battle. It was like a legit battle. And he had a knife and I had roommates that were really close and I could’ve yelled for help but I always think about that but on some level was feeling protective of them and I thought, well I’m kind of battling this guy in here, so I don’t want anybody else to get hurt. And that fucked me up.

After that happened, the way my brain worked kind of changed and kind of triggered like a manic thing. Like my thoughts were going really fast. And I tried to talk to people but we didn’t have the same MeToo culture back then. Back then, it was like, “You got raped. We don’t know what to do with you.” I lost a lot of friends because they couldn’t ride the lows that I was feeling and so I turned to getting high and drinking to make it go away and through that, I got raped more. One of them was my best friend at a Fourth of July party. Another one was at my birthday party I got stuck in a closet with a guy and I even told him, I had just been raped, I don’t want to hook up, and I had to literally grab his hands, pull them off of my body for three hours, and then eventually I was so beaten down I followed him to his place and the opportunity came for him to rape me, he didn’t have it in him so he let me leave. And then that night I pulled over on the side of the road and just started crying and a cop found me and he saw the state I was in, he saw my bruises, and he sent me to the hospital. And the doctor was a piece of shit. I had a torn nipple, I had everything, and he was like, “You know, I have people dying in here.” And that just created so much in me that I’m still working with. And then the drug use started to get more.

I remember listening to Lana Del Ray in a parking lot. There was like a firework show and there were families in this field but I just wanted to be away from everybody so I was in a parking lot and I had a convertible at the time, so I just laid back and I just looked at the fireworks and I just listened to this woman singing how broken her heart was and I just felt like I was resonating with her. And I had such a thing for Lana Del Ray. Like spiritually. Everyone else is like, “Oh yeah, flowers in our hair”. But it’s like, “No dude, Lana and me roll deep.” So I got abused a lot more. I started hanging out with shitty people because I thought, “Oh well, at least they’re not going to judge how low of a place I’m in.” I had a whole bunch of fair-weather friends. People that were drug addicts that I thought cared about me but they didn’t. I got raped by another guy, I was doing Xanax and there was this guy named Cole who got really close to me and I actually liked him as a friend and he started giving me drugs to put me in a state where he could have sex with me. So he started doing that to me. And I remember one day– I mean, I never told him about the rape. I wanted a friendship free of all of that. And he gave me Kolonipin one day and that really relaxed me so I told him about it and then we had made a fort and then I looked at him because he was looking at me kind of funny and I was like, “Do you want to have sex with me?” And he said yeah and he kind of overpowered me and I kept falling asleep and he kept waking me up and fucking me. And that continued because I thought that’s what love was. So he would do really bad stuff. He would do BDSM type stuff on me while I was drugged up so he would scratch me from the inside, snap his fingers in me, step on me, choke me.

And eventually I was so broken from it that I told him to fuck off and I started going into PHP programs and IAP programs and I was in PHP and I went to the psych ward for the first time. I had to move out of my parents house because I was so afraid of men I couldn’t be around my dad. I was terrified of him. I felt like– I was a little deluded and I thought that he was preying upon me. I couldn’t sit on a bed with my brother. I was in treatment struggling beyond what I could wrap up in those 15 minutes. And I ended up going to treatment for three rounds at TK – Timberline Knolls – and first time we went there, I was just a broken puppy, crying about trauma and I had a boyfriend at the time, so I wasn’t really dealing with it, I was just numbing out through him. And then the second time I went, I had a thing with a girl there and that kind of fucked up my whole treatment. And then the third time I went, I had to address my addiction issues and I had the support of a program and that actually really helped me make use of my time there. But I broke down. I went crazy in treatment. I didn’t think, “Oh, I’m going to rehab, I’m going to fix it.” No. I let shit hit the fan. And apparently that’s what you’re supposed to do when you go to treatment.

Have you learned positive coping mechanisms?

Yeah. I talk to people. I get out of my head. Because when I’m left alone with myself, I will torture myself and it’s not even me doing it on purpose. My coping skills are self-care like getting myself to the gym, doing esteemable actions to make myself feel like I have some self-esteem. I do distraction, but I don’t do that as much as I do doing the next right thing.

What do you feel like your narrative is like now? What is the narrative that you’ve written for yourself?

It only goes up from here. Still, like in the back of my mind, I feel like sometimes I should just kill myself, because it’s so bad, it can’t possibly get better. My narrative, under being all that my mind tells me, is I’m a badass warrior princess that has had her castle and comforts stripped away from her forcing her to face down the deep evil. I have gathered a cast of characters as companions on my travels to this great battle and each one has altered my heart to rejuvenate softness, humor, simplicity and strength back into it. What is my new purpose? To regain my peace to a deeper extent and free the land of an evil like the one I know.

 

Beef

 

Date of Interview: January 9th, 2018

Name: Beef

Age: 30

Pronouns: She/Her

 

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

Oh, God. I’d be the kraken [laughter]. Yeah, I’d be a famous squid octopus thing. Famous as shit. It’s the bigness, just the bigness. The big mythical-ness of that motherfucker [laughter].

How often do you bathe or shower?

Well, in the cold season it’s every other day but in the summer it’s twice a day because I bike and I’m fucking gross. I know. Because I have two pairs of pants so I’m wearing those a week at a time. You have to bathe a lot when you’re biking. It’s amazing I have a girlfriend.

What are you passionate about?

Nothing since the depression. Jesus Christ. Seriously, it’s a struggle. Going to work. I’m passionate about going to work and keeping my job [laughter], making money, yeah. But I mean, honestly, one of the things that– one of the only things that I give a shit about when I’m super depressed like this is using what little people skills I have to make a bunch of money and put it in some sort of cause. I bought one of my ex’s social worker Christmas list for the kids in her families and stuff and bought them presents, and I donated a bunch to Puerto Rico and stuff. Blah blah blah so.

What makes you want to give back?

I think just because I feel so shitty, and I’ve been in so many different positions in my life that I’ve had it really fucking terribly and I know that people can always and do always have it way, way, way, way, way worse. So not only does it put things into perspective but it gives me something to focus on and it’s doing better for folks that– their good day is my worst day, you know what I mean?

What do you struggle with?

The depression and anxiety. It’s crippling. I was just at a doctor’s appointment this morning for it. Got my meds. It’s been a thing my entire life but I’ve also had a whole bunch of really crazy shit happen. My half-brother’s mother was murdered when I was in the fourth grade. My brother drowned in a golf cart. I know that sounds crazy, I know it’s probably weird that I’m laughing but this is insane. My great-grandmother was 100 years old, in better health than I am, and then she fell down the stairs. My dad died in Costa Rica, just crazy shit nonstop so it’s just something I’m going to have probably forever and ever and ever.

What do you think is a good coping skill that you use?

I notice I pick up a lot of shifts when I’m really depressed because I just want to work. And, again, I’m a bartender by day so I get to focus on other people and their bullshit, and if I’m really feeling low I’ll collect their tip money because I work in a park and everyone’s wealthy, and I can give it to people that need it way more so that’s dope.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

God, I don’t know. I really like conning– not conning necessarily, but convincing people to give up their money, and fortunately I use my powers for good, donating these charities, but I own a traveling art gallery, too. I don’t do anything with it hardly anymore but I used to sell the dumbest shit. So, yeah, I realized how good I was at that. I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to get money for people that are in shittier situations than me,” and, yeah, I feel accomplished with that.

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

Oh, God. They’re so complicated [laughter]. Jesus. I mean, I don’t know. My concept of relationships is so weird because most of my family is dead, I don’t have at all strong or even remotely conventional relationships with the ones that are alive, so that affects every part of my life. I’ll find myself searching for the wrong things in romantic relationships. It’s really weird. And I’ve also found that I like doing things like living alone and stuff like that because of it because I never had much family whatever life, home life. So I don’t know. I mean, they’re good. I’m not going to say they’re necessary because I’ve lived pretty isolated before. I mean, aside from social media, I would go months and months at a time without being on that at all, just traveling the country in my pick up truck, not living anywhere, not having a job, living off mountains and stuff, eating road kill, no joke, no joke. I’m sure you’ve seen the pelts and bones everywhere. That’s legit, that’s not some shit I got on Etsy [laughter]. Yeah. What was the question? Sorry. I haven’t had my coffee yet today.

Thoughts on relationships?

Oh, God, yeah. Yeah, like I said, they’re complex just like my train of thought. I don’t know, they’re great when used well. They can be really harmful. Keeping ahold of some of my familial relationships was a huge detriment to my life and so it was good to drop them but having friends and stuff has helped me but I’ve also had friends that have made themselves seem there and ended up being absolutely terrible for me so it can go either way. It’s just all how you handle it and it’s about being able to cut people off, too. As long as you have the power to do that, relationships aren’t so bad.

What is something that you are looking forward to this year?

I’m just like, “The sweet release of death [laughter].” Sorry. I do low key work in the funeral home industry on and off and stuff like that, I’ve done autopsies and shit in coroners offices and shit so I’m dark and depressed. I don’t know. Surviving into the year.

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