exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Emilie and Peter



Date of Interview: June 21, 2018.

Names: Emilie and Peter

Age: 26 and 34

Pronouns: They/Them and They/Them

How often do you bathe or shower?

Emilie: I do not take proper baths a lot because I have a small tub and I get anxious. But if I need excessive self care, if I’m doing a spell, I’ll be in the bath. I try to shower, what? Like three times a week. Mental health is real. So sometimes basic self-care goes by the wayside.

Peter: I don’t really take very many baths unless I’m in a rough mental state. And then I will do that as a ritual for myself to try and ground. But I probably take two showers a week.

Is bathing a source of self-care and stability for both of you or either of you?

Peter: Yeah. I learned a few years back from someone drawing a bath for me, actually, that I need it to be by myself and with myself, and to be sort of intentionally taking care of my own body in a way that I allowed to fall by the wayside because I’m more of a– I tend to focus on other people more than myself. So, yeah, I would say yes.

Emilie: I think showers are more of a necessity for me and baths are more for self-care, grounding, being okay with being quiet. But I have to shower before I take a bath because I don’t like being in dirty water. It makes me nervous [laughter].

What are you passionate about?

Peter: Food and storytelling. Cooking food for other people.

Emilie: Food can be storytelling.

P: That’s true. But that’s not how I use it. I use it to nourish people.

E: Like me.

P: Yeah.

E: I’ve started eating a lot better food since Peter has lived here [laughter]. It’s a lovely thing about you. And it feels like care. It feels like love as a verb and physical nourishment.

P: What are you passionate about, Emilie?

E: Good question [laughter]. Healing through art, and reiki, and tarot, for myself and other people. Also family.

How does that manifest itself for you on a day-to-day basis?

Emilie: I call my mom every day.

Peter: Right now we’re all on a text thread.

Emilie Yeah. My mom just started a text thread with me and Peter, which is really sweet to me because she’s really coming around to the reality that I have a life partner and a fiancé in two different people. So that’s really sweet. But I try to do Tarot every day. And I do it for a lot of other people. But it’s emotionally, pretty draining. And I try to incorporate art into things as simple as my wardrobe. Art as a lifestyle instead of just a practice. What kind of art do I do? I do a lot of art because I can’t decide what my favorite is, which I think is okay.

P: How do I work it into my day-to-day? I am a performer. I’m trying to be a performer [laughter].

E: You are.

P: So I think storytelling is naturally wedded to performance. That’s what performance really is. And so I would say, yeah, with my art and storytelling, I try every day to teach myself and the world empathy.

E: I also wake up to a story every morning.

P: That’s true [laughter].

E: Because Peter’s brain works so quickly, I either hear a crazy story from the past or a full plot from a movie.

P: A plot of a movie, before we get out of bed usually [laughter].

E: Yeah.

What do you feel accomplished with?

Peter: What do I feel accomplished with?

Emilie: Do you want me to go?

P: Yeah. I’d love if you would go [laughter].

E: Hard to say. I’m hard on myself. I guess I’m proud that I’m constantly creating. It’s easy to say you’re an artist, but having a daily practice takes determination. But, my biggest accomplishment is getting sober, for sure. Yeah. Especially at 20– I got sober when I was 24.

P: Yeah. That’s legit. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up [laughter]. But I feel that I have driven myself to learn and hone skills that I didn’t ever think were possible. I started doing carpentry six years ago and I had been working in restaurants since I was 14. So that was a huge switch for me and I made a job out of it for five or six years. And I’m back in the kitchen again and I’m working on honing those skills, but I feel that I’m– what am I trying to say exactly? I don’t know. You want to answer for me?

E: I would hesitate to answer for you. But speaking from my perspective would say that you, more than a lot of people I know, work on self-improvement.

P: I’m trying to find a way to feed my body and my soul together. I think that what I feel accomplished in is that I’m turning 35 this year and I recognize that there is a disparity between the jobs that I take that feed my body and the work that I do that feeds my soul. So I’m trying to find that balance. And I feel good about that, that I’m trying to do that. That’s an accomplishment for me.

E: Can I be really gross for a second? This relationship feels like, personally, an accomplishment. Coming from being a serial toxic monogamous to actively working on being a partner and less selfish than I have been before. I think we work really hard in a way that’s not a burden, in a way that’s really lovely. I love you [laughter].

P:I love you. [kissing noises]

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

Emilie: Platonic love is so important.

Peter: Yeah, and I think that’s a huge thing that I’ve been learning, When I first came out as poly when I was 25, I got messy. I made a lot of mistakes. And I confused a lot of different types of love, I think because I was putting the option on the table for me to have sexual relationships with people who I was feeling intimacy with. I took that as, “I got a get-out-of-jail-free card. I’m going to run with it [laughter].” And then I started to learn that what being poly means is learning to be responsible to all the people who you are intimate with and learning to recognize that platonic love and intimacy are just as important as sexual intimacy, and they don’t always live in the same body, and that’s okay. And my thoughts on family are complicated [laughter]. My biological, my blood family and I have very strained– my father’s side and I have a strained relationship. My mother’s side and I are just getting to know each other. So I feel like family is important. But for me, it means something different than it might mean for Emilie. My family are my chosen family, my queer family, the people who actively work to stay in my life, who I actively work to stay in their lives. And we are trying to learn and grow together, and are excited to see the new changes that we’re growing, instead of trying to force some identity or whatever on one another.

E: I have a different experience. I have a very traditional family situation. I have a younger brother, who’s also sober. I have a mom, and dad, and a really large extended family. And they’re my whole world. It was really rough for a while when both my brother and I were active in our addictions. But I’m really lucky to have a family that decided, instead of internalizing that and being toxic, they decided to take care of themselves and become better. And now, it’s pretty great. I see them a lot. I call them a lot. I’m in a band with my brother. And I know how privileged I am to have that. I’m very conscious of how privileged I am to have that. I think my parents have been married like 35 years. Monogamous as fuck [laughter]. Yeah.

P: Can I clarify my answer a little bit? Is that okay? I came to envision my queer family, all my intimate partners, the ones I’m platonic with, or otherwise– I started to envision it as a– yeah. Like an aspen grove or a cottonwood grove where– for me, I like cottonwood better because they grow in the desert. And they just pop up in these little oases of trees that are all connected at the roots. And as I have met people or come close to people in my life, I get the feeling where I recognize that someone is in my grove. And once I recognize that, you’re it. You’re there.

E: I also came out as poly when I was 25. It’s not been that long at all for me. I think it’s been consciously in there. But I grew up in a place where I didn’t know that was a thing. So when I found out, I grappled with the idea of do I want this because this is who I am, or do I want this because I’m a bad monogamist? And I very quickly came to the place where I realized that wasn’t the case. But I think coming out as poly has made me work on myself more than I thought it would. I date myself first. Do you know what I mean? I have three or four partners including myself. And for the first– I guess I came out when I was 24. The first year, I was single and celibate. Still fucking poly. But I had to do that for myself in order to figure out what I needed and wanted in all sorts of relationships so that when I finally got back into potentially dating, I wouldn’t fall back into those toxic patterns that I had for 10, 15 years.

What’s something you still struggle with?

Emilie: Clearly, addiction to substances, behaviors and people. Control, and pretty intense self-loathing, though I publicly preach radical self-love, and empathy, and softness. I’m a pretty big hypocrite in that sense.

Peter: I think everybody is a little bit.

E: I agree. I agree. But I really don’t want to be like that. It’s a bad feeling– or I do want to be like that, but I want to be able to sit in it and work past it instead of vilifying myself for that, I think. Does that make sense?

P: Yeah. I struggle with all sorts of things [laughter]. Saying no, saying no first as opposed to realizing after saying yes that I should have said no, sitting with my own needs and trying to suss them out, instead of sort of backwards sussing them out by saying, “I’m feeling this from you right now, but what I really mean is, what I’m feeling is this thing [laughter].” Yeah. So that’s a big one.

E: We have a phrase. The story I’m making up in my head is–

P: Yeah. We got that from Brené Brown.

E: Yeah. We did.

P: That’s a really big one. Recognizing what is a fear and what is a truth, and also recognizing that I can’t get out a truth by myself. I have to come to it with someone else. And that doesn’t mean that we have the same truth. It means that we’re able to tell each other what our truths are, and then figure out what our shared narrative really is.

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

Emilie: A sea otter.

Peter: A seahorse [laughter]. A sea otter?

E: Yeah. They hold hands when they sleep!

P: Do they?

E: They’re the puppies of the sea. They fucking hold hands when they sleep.

P: Oh, I would definitely probably be a puppy. Some puppy. A sea otter? They’re the puppies of the sea. I guess I would definitely be a puppy.

E: But why did you say seahorse?

P: I like them. No other reason except that I like them.

E: That’s valid.

P: They have cute little noses. And the seahorse daddies carry babies.


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.

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