exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Robert Stagge


Name: Robert Stagge

Age: 30

Pronouns: He/Him/His

How often do you bathe or shower?

Every day, sometimes twice a day. I like to be clean. I get dirty from my job, I’m a Journeyman Pipe Layer, so, I lay sewer main and water main and I’m covered in mud from the time I start work from the time I leave. So, when I’m not at work, I like to be clean. Saturdays and Sundays, when I’m not at work I’ll take a shower in the morning and in the evening. It’s nice. ::Laughs::.

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

I wanna say a shark. I don’t know, seems cool. I like their teeth ::laughs::.

What are you passionate about?

Couple things, really. I’m passionate about my sobriety, I’m also passionate about my job. And most important, I’m passionate about my kids. I have two, Alaina who’s six and Levi he’s three. Typically, I see them every other weekend. I’m on the typical divorced dad schedule. We like to go skateboarding together, so I’ll take them to the skate park sometimes. We just recently started going on hikes, it’s just fun to be outside with them. Watch them experience the world.

What drives your passion with work?

With work, it’s hard labor, so I sleep well at night. I enjoy working with my hands and doing something that matters. Like, if I didn’t do what I did, you wouldn’t be able to flush your toilet. Or turn on your shower and things wouldn’t operate the way that they do. It’s kind of a thank-less job, but at the same time, I know the importance of it. The infrastructure… That’s one of the big reasons why I’m passionate about it, the other reason I like it so much is that there’s a little bit of a danger aspect to it. It’s a dangerous job, there’s something about that, which attracts me to it. I’m proud to do it.

Does your work and children support your sobriety?

Ummmm… No. I’m sober because I want to be sober. You know, if I could have found a wife and sat in church and been sober, I woulda done that a long time ago, but I couldn’t. I was married with kids and obviously, I’m not married anymore but… the sobriety thing is for me. Does it make me a better father? Yeah, absolutely. Does it make me a better employee? Yes. Even when I was in active alcoholism, I’d still show up to work every day. I was still passionate about my job, they’d just make me rake asphalt until I’d sweat it all out. Then I’d go lay water main. But uh, I do the sobriety for me. It’s a me thing.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

I guess, I just bought a rental property. So I feel kinda accomplished with that. I’m still in the uphill battle stages of it where I’m about to start tearing stuff out and fixing it up. I feel accomplished with it.

What is something you struggle with?

Self-love. Self-love and intimate relationships in general. I’ve had a really hard time being vulnerable. Especially with women in relationships. I don’t know if that stems from my first marriage. Maybe it stems from childhood, I don’t know. I’m currently going to therapy to try and figure that out.

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

I think they’re good, it’s what makes us human. My friendships are extremely important to me. Without my friendships, I don’t know where I’d be. My friendships play a part in my sobriety, a fellowship has grown around me. That’s what comes to mind. I’m going out to eat with friends just about every day of the week.

Is there anything you would tell a younger version of yourself?

I donno. I have no idea, I’m happy with where I’m at. A part of me wants to say, the damage that alcohol can cause, but… the other side of the same coin, I wouldn’t be who I am without going through what I went through. I wouldn’t be the same father that I am today. I wouldn’t be the same friend that I am today. I guess that’s it though, the damage that alcohol can cause. I’d have probably still done it though ::laughs::.



Name: Emily

Age: 29

Pronouns: She/They

How often do you bathe or shower?

::Laughter:: it varies! I can often get away with every other day. I’ve been more active lately, so I probably shouldn’t be doing that… but I usually bathe after doing something super active. In the winter I bathe like, twice a day because I get super cold.

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

Oh, man… I would be an angler fish. They’re really scary-looking ::laughter:: which I vibe with. They have these huge lights on their heads and big teeth everywhere and the females are way bigger than the males. They also have this really weird, really intense mating mechanism where the males latch onto the females and become parasitic or something? Which is a scenario I relate to on a deep, personal level.

What are you passionate about?

I think my biggest passion is connecting with other people. I’m a huge people person, I love people and making new friends. I’m really big on fostering connections with others. I’m studying to be a social worker right now. I feel like it’s the right field to be in if you’re a very people-oriented person and love to make connections. I want to be a helper of some sort and it’s the right field for that. Also, I belong to a bunch of different communities in the city. I do a lot of networking. I could talk forever about the things I’m passionate about, but that’s a big one.

How do you engage with self-care while being extremely social?

Yeah, I don’t know… living alone helps a lot. I think that, if I had a roommate, I would have a lot less energy to socialize. I also go long stretches without socializing and stuff. I have a bunch of things that fill my time. Like I said, I’m in school, working on a Bachelor’s in Social Work. I sing in the May Festival Chorus, which is the official chorus of the Cincinnati Symphony, so that keeps me pretty busy 9 months out of the year. I climb once a week and do physical therapy 3x a week. Yeah. It’s a lot.

What do you mean by “climbing”?

I go to a climbing gym in Sharonville called Rock Quest and I have an instructor there who belays me, which means she’s the person who controls all the ropes and makes sure that I’m safe up there. It’s all indoor…if you’ve ever seen a rock wall with those funny looking, different colored shapes—it’s that kind of thing. But a whole room of it, with different levels of difficulty. You can do bouldering in the middle, which is climbing without any kind of equipment… there’s rocks on the celling, which I think is really insane… maybe someday ::laughter::.

How did you get into rock climbing?

I had done it a few times as a kid, at summer camp and stuff like that. I went a few times in high school and I tried once, shortly after high school and just could not do it. At all. And then, I lost a large portion of my mobility in my mid-20s and I have struggled with needing to feel strong. Climbing makes me feel really strong; it makes me feel, for the first time in my life, that I’m athletic. There’s finally something athletic that I’m capable of. Which is a really amazing feeling. I feel like it has bolstered my confidence a lot. I also struggle quite a bit with being in the moment—I have a lot of anxiety and am often dwelling on either the past or the future in some way—and climbing literally forces you to be in the here-and-now, and I really appreciate that about it.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

That’s a hard question for me to answer. I have a tendency to hold myself to able-bodied standards, which is a huge trap and something I should absolutely not be doing because I’m not able-bodied, never have been, never will be. So sometimes I have to sit down and remind myself: “HEY! You can drive a car. You live on your own. You have all these different groups of friends, you can take yourself to your appointments, and you take yourself to class. You’re doing it.” It’s a pretty cool feeling when I’m able to stop and recognize what an independent life I’ve created for myself. Independence is really important to me.

What is something you would like able-bodied people to know about you?

Oh Jesus, that is so hard to answer. There are so many things!! ::Laughter:: Ummm… It’s hard. It’s hard to know how to answer that because… I feel like people either constantly under-estimate what I’m able to do, or in a weird way, over-estimate me. I think a lot of people look at me and think “Oh, her legs don’t work. Whatever, that must be it”. But it’s a lot more complicated than that. I have spina bifida and hydrocephalus, which means I was born with my spine coming out of my body, and my cerebral spinal fluid—there’s a blockage in my brain, so it doesn’t circulate properly. I have a magnetized valve in my brain that keeps me alive. I’ve had roughly 30 hours of bladder work done, four brain surgeries and it’s so much deeper than people understand. But at the same time, I’m pretty “high-functioning” for someone who has been through all of that. So it’s tricky. I find myself wanting to tell my entire medical history to everyone I meet so that they’ll understand. I don’t know if people are afraid or don’t know what questions to ask, but I don’t feel like I get enough questions, and I LOVE getting questions. Questions, to me, show that people want to understand the way I work. Which is really import to me.

What is something you still struggle with?

Oh god. So many things! I have always really struggled to navigate academia. Which is why I’m still in it ::laughter::. I’ve dropped out twice and this is my third time, in undergrad. Third time’s a charm, I’m hoping. I have a lot of learning disabilities, but not ones that are super well known or clear-cut. I struggle a lot with motivation, planning, focus, processing. All that sort of nebulous stuff that is what it takes to be a successful person in the world ::laughter::. That’s all stuff I have a really hard time with. It’s been really difficult, knowing how to navigate that.

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

That’s a good question…I’ve been single for five and a half years, so my love for platonic love has strengthened more than I ever could have possibly imagined. I would love to be in a romantic relationship, but I could probably get by on platonic love for the rest of my life.

How has your understanding of platonic love changed?

I didn’t have friends for a really long time. Growing up, it was really challenging to form lasting connections with good people who had my best interest at heart, and weren’t going to fuck me over. I do have two really close friends, one from elementary school and one from middle school, but they’re major anomalies. Most of my current friends, I’ve met in my 20s. I always thought romantic love is what has been missing from my life, but then I made friends and it was like… “OH! This is what has been missing from my life, this is what I needed. Awesome.”



Name: Courtney (my real friends call me Corky)

Age: 23

Pronouns: She/Her/It

How often do you bathe or shower?

Ummmm. Every other day, usually. Unless I’m feelin’ extra lazy. The it’s like, once a week.

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

A manatee. They just look so happy all the time. Nobody fucks with them. They just eat and float all day- sounds like an ideal life to me. 

What are you passionate about?

Fooooood. I like to eat food, I like to cook food. I’m not a super deep person ::laughs::.

But I am passionate about my sobriety. Complete and utter demoralization happened. I was waking up in my parents’ bed when I didn’t live there. I was thinking like, “Why did I come here and not go to my own bed?” I would ask them what happened and they would say something around “you came here at four in the morning, crying your eyes out, saying that you don’t know who you are or what to do with your life”. They would ask me if I wanted to go to rehab and I would dip. I was 15 when it started. The second time I ever drank, I woke up in the hospital with a catheter in me. With hypothermia. Alcoholism runs in the family. I’m an alcoholic. I always knew. I kind of used it as fuel. Like, I’m an alcoholic, I’m gonna do what alcoholics do best- drink themselves into oblivion on the daily. Then a physic change happened and I started thinking like “Imma do what alcoholics shouldn’t do”, which is drink. I don’t really know how it happened. I was smoking my last blunt before heading to rehab and started thinking, “this is so superficial. It’s not enjoyable anymore”. I now have relationships I always dreamed of having and even cooler i’m capable of being a good friend, daughter, sister ect. 

What do you feel accomplished with?

My sobriety. It’s pretty much all I got ::laughter::.

What’s something you still struggle with?

Definitely a relationship addict. I struggle with being alone. I have so many wonderful friends and bad ass family but crave validation from men. Mmmmmmm I just… I’ll let any guy who gives me attention into my life. Then convince myself that I’m in love with them. I’m not a person yet! It’s fine. Give me a break ::laughter::.

What are your thoughts on platonic and familial relationships?

They’re great. They’re the reason to be alive. Yeah. The people I surround myself with big time affect me. I notice that, if someone I’m hanging out with is going through a body complex, I’ll start having a body complex. If I hang out with someone inspiring, I’ll leave feeling inspired and try to be inspiring for others. 

What does support mean to you?

Listening. Unconditional love. They’re both things I’m working on, they aren’t skills I naturally have. We’re working on it- the unconditional love thing. It’s a process, it’s weird ::laughs::. It’s recognizing that others are going through shit in their own lives too. I can’t judge their journey. They’re in a different spot that I’m in and neither are better or worse than the other. And I shouldn’t judge anyone. Everyone deserves love. It’s enlightenment!!! Even Hitler deserves love. He’s sick, he needs help.

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