exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Amanda Buttsquash III



Date of Interview: June 28, 2018

Name: Amanda Buttsquash III

Age: 33

Pronouns: She/Them/His

How often do you bathe or shower?

So it depends on the time. There are weeks when I will shower once and there are weeks where I will shower every other day, usually not every day though. That’s the one pattern I don’t keep up. Bathing is like once every month adventure. Then it’s like– then I usually bring out the candles and have all the little fizzies and go all out because it’s relax, wind down time.

What are you passionate about?

Passion? Hmm, well. That’s a good question. I mean number one I’m passionate really about pop culture. So I study literature but really what I was studying was the long history of pop culture. And I mean I was obsessed with Star Trek TMG growing up. Not because of the high tech future sci-fi thing but because it was such a good setting for exploring just ordinary people’s relationships. So you just took these really low key ordinary dramas and set them on a spaceship with a bunch of aliens and then it’s just beautiful things come out from it. So I’m really passionate about that, the ways that pop culture can kind of teach us about ways of being in our contemporary world. One of the things I’m most passionate about– what other things? I mean like passion for me kind of comes in waves and so I’ll get really passionate about something like rock climbing and then I’ll be like so gung-ho and I just do it every day for three months. And then it’s time for the next thing and then I get really passionate about origami [laughter] and then I fold all of the paper cranes and fold all of the turtles and whatever. And then the next thing comes up and it’s time to get passionate about homelessness in Chicago and how different artists are trying to address it. So that’s kind of like my current passion track. It’s just how passion works for me, in cycles.

How do you think the cycles or the routine of cycles started?

How did the routine of cycles start? I mean I think– so I used to think that I was just bad at finishing things I mean because I’ve always been a space cadet sort of person not quite in tune with the actual world. Hence, the sci-fi passion track. But I think that for a while so, yeah, it would be that I would start a thing and then drop it, and then everyone around me would be like, “Oh. There goes Amanda again with the inability to follow through.” And after a while, somebody – I think it was a therapist once – who suggested to me that maybe that was just my natural rhythm and maybe I should try working with it instead of against it. And so it’s kind of been more of a thing that I’ve been consciously embracing lately. But, yeah, where it used to be, “Ugh. This is one of the bad things about me.” And now, it’s just kind of like, “Yeah. It’s a thing and I have to work with it.” When I tell people I’m going to get involved now, I’m going to be like, “So I’m going to get involved. I’m going to be really into it for two months, and then you’re going to have to find someone else because I’m going to find the next thing.” So I think that’;s the origin of the cycles.

What do you feel most accomplished with?

I mean, one would think that the kind of obvious answer would be the whole PhD thing just awarded last week. But oddly, I don’t feel very accomplished about that one which I know a lot of people find very strange but I just don’t. Honestly, I think my greatest accomplishment was leaving the Mormon church. Yeah. Because that was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my entire life, and I did it and I came through and I survived. I was raised very strictly Mormon. Ancestors go back to Brigham Young. Our people are Utah people [laughter] through and through. We all have our family stories and the punchline is always, “But that’s how Utahns are.” And really by which they mean Mormon, but the Mormon part has almost fallen out of my family because it’s such a, “That’s just how you’re born,” thing. And it’s not even a conscious practice for my family. It’s just what we are. And so for awhile, I stayed in it for a really long time because of that dynamic. I moved to Chicago for grad school and I stayed in the church. I was teaching six-year-olds for a couple years where we had this lesson manual that was telling us how we were supposed to interpret the scriptures for the kids. It really upset me so I just started having the kids read the scriptures themselves and it just turned into a literacy lesson. And then I would ask them what they thought it meant, and they had all kinds of answers for what they thought it meant. We would just explore those aspects. And after awhile, I mean, Prop 8 happened which was hard. In California in– when was this? I want to say 2006 or 2007, California proposed Proposition 8 which would ban gay marriage, and Utah got real into it. Up on the pulpit, preaching about how we needed to give our money and our time and go to the phone banks and call everyone we knew to vote yes on Prop 8. That was kind of like a big beginning to break for me. Which, of course, then took like seven years. But again, it was like, this is not an active belief thing for me. It was sort of a practice and I was still going to church every week. But after awhile– I would toss out the beliefs as they came up. Proposition belief came up, and I was like, that’s not the church I belong to, that’s not my community. Because I had my community, including some gay people who were in the church. And people from all over the world. I think it’s actually a really interesting group of people that I hung out with in the church, which also kept me in it for a while [laughter]. But yeah, then I moved neighborhoods. Actually, moved up to Logan square from Hyde Park. And that ward was– it was not the ward that it was down in Hyde Park. There were very few children, so I was no longer the Sunday school teacher. It was a lot of really true-believing young people, which are a hard crowd to deal with [laughter]. And then a bunch of true-believing older people. Which is another hard crowd to deal with. And so I woke up one Sunday and just decided, “I’m not going to church today.” And I laid there in my bed, and I just stretched out and just felt my sheets, and I was just like, “It’s Sunday, and I’m not at church.” I just did that every Sunday for the next four months. And then finally, at the end of four months, it just stopped being this new feeling, and it was just like, “This feels right.” Then came the other parts where I had to actually find my community, make sure I had people to support me because that’s what the church was. When I moved, when I got sick, they brought me casseroles. When I was feeling blue, my visiting teacher would bring me cookies. So it was hard to give up. It was hard to say goodbye. I’m still in contact with some of them, very few, because it was hard for them too, for me to leave. My sister was devastated. I left right before she got married. I couldn’t see her get married. She got married in the temple, and so did I, but [laughter] it just seems it was time to go. And then I went, and it was hard, but I did it, and I survived.

What do you think of relationships? Platonic, sexual, familial and otherwise.

Relationships are hard. They’re so much work. I don’t know about– when I got married, it was really to my best friend. And we had so many relationship talks, all of them. Because I wasn’t sure I believed in monogamy, I wasn’t sure I was straight, it just seems that we had to answer so many questions, and we could talk about it for hours. And then we got in trouble because we were together after midnight, and midnight was curfew [laughter]. This was right before we got married. And then after we had enough conversations, we decided to just do it, in part because it got us out of the scrutiny. Because every goddamn day, it was like, “So when are you getting married?” At the pulpit in church, it was like your whole point in being here is to get married. Get married and start a family as soon as possible. Don’t wait, don’t wait, don’t wait. And I was an old maid. I was 21. So everybody had started giving up on me. And then, yeah. I met Dave, and we just– we had this really intense connection. It wasn’t sexual. So that kind of also changed the way I thought about relationships because I still don’t regret marrying him. It’s over now, and we’ve gone our separate ways, but we occasionally stay in contact, help each other out. Good friends, because that’s what it was always, to begin with, it was friendship. That didn’t mean that we didn’t have our fights and stuff, but I’ve always had fights with my friends. Especially my girlfriends [laughter], I think my main attitude in relationships is that they’re fucking work. Any of them, all of them. And they’re just– they’re never what you expected them to be at the outset. So I’ve stopped having expectations for them.

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

A humpback whale. I just think they’re beautiful and graceful and they make those sounds. They just give me shivers all up and down my spine every time I hear it. I remember when I was little I went through a whole phase where I would just draw humpback whales. I had a whole notebook, every page was a different humpback whale [laughter]. Just majestic.


Becca Brown



Date of Interview: June 25, 2018.

Name: Becca Brown

Age: 25

Pronouns: She/Her and They/Them

How often do you bathe or shower?

I shower every day at least once. Baths are not a thing that I regularly do, so thank you so much for letting me bathe.

Is showering every day part of your routine?

Yes. I shower to wake my body up. I have very complicated skin, so I also do– as a part of my daily ritual, I do a lot of skincare. And a lot of that is stuff that lives on my face and I have to let it dry on my face. And in my current apartment situation, there’s only one sink and it is in the kitchen, so I prefer to get all that off in the shower. So sometimes I shower twice a day. Yesterday, I showered thrice. I showered once in the morning, and then I went for a long walk, and I got really sweaty, and was going to the beach. So I showered before going to the beach, and then when I went to the beach, I got sand all up in my everything, so I had to shower it out [laughter].

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about art. Creating. Doing. Making. I love making art. I love seeing art. Always looking for new, interesting forms of art to see or experience. I see a lot of plays and musicals, and read a lot of poetry, and go to different kinds of shows, concerts. Ever since I was a little girl, I loved going to concerts, and seeing theater, and going to fucking Disney on Ice. And any kind of performance, any kind of art museums, galleries, etc., that’s kind of been a huge thing for my entire life.

How do these passions manifest in a day-to-day practice?

Well, right now, I am doing School at Steppenwolf, which is, for me, one of the biggest accomplishments I could ever ask for. And I probably wouldn’t be here if– I don’t know. I am going through a bit of a spiritual reimagining of myself and realignment of myself. So right now, my passion is manifesting in getting to work for my favorite theater company that’s ever existed. The place that, ever since I started acting, was the place for me, that I’m like, “I want to work there. I have to work there. I must.” And now getting to study under these amazing professors who are like-minded and equally as driven as I am and as my classmates are. Artists who are working – directors, actors, casting directors, etc. – in my field is such a gift. And then when I get home, after I’m done doing my homework, I cook for myself, and that’s my one thing that I do that doesn’t have to do with art.

What is your favorite thing to feed yourself?

Right now, I taught myself recently how to make a biscuit in a mug. It’s also gluten-free. I found this recipe on the keto Reddit. And I put almond flour, and eggs, some cheese, baking powder, and a bunch of herbs in a mug. I whip it all up and microwave it for three minutes, and then out pops a little biscuit. And it’s so quick and so easy, and if you use the right amount of cheese, it can be comparable to the Red Lobster biscuits. It’s awesome.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is– right now, I’m going through it. It’s crazy and I never thought I’d be able to say this, but I have six months of continuous sobriety. Without that, I am fucked. Without sobriety, I am either in jail, in the hospital, or dead. So I’m very grateful to be able to say that I haven’t had a drink in six months. And getting sober has opened up so many doors for me, not only as an artist but as a person. It’s great. I feel like my inner child is so happy right now, and I’m getting to see people for the first time, and I’m getting to know myself for the first time. And I don’t know, she’s pretty cool. I like her so far [laughter]. Right now, I’m kind of still in the pink cloud phase of, “I love being sober.” And there are days where I’m like, “Fuck, I hate this. Fuck. I wish I could just drink or smoke a blunt.” But I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. I just wouldn’t. I can’t. And a big part of getting sober that was scary for me was when I do stand-up, I would usually lubricate. So I was like, “I’ll be funnier if I’m a little loose, a little drunk, a little on my toes and able to riff.” And I was so scared that cutting out alcohol and drugs would make me not funny anymore, make me not fun, make me not a good artist anymore. But it’s actually made me so much better. The material that I’m writing now is much more honest, and it’s not about a boy who didn’t text me back. It’s about how wonderful the world can be sometimes. And it sounds so cheeseballs, but– it’s very cheesy, but it’s very real for me right now.

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

Honesty is the best thing, in general. Communication is so important in relationships. And for a long time, I think, in my addictive past, I would just do the opposite of the right thing all the time. And while I haven’t tried being in a relationship yet sober, the friendships that I’m making and the connections that I’m making with people in my family – my chosen family and my blood family – is so amazing. And I think that, yeah, it’s so much easier to be honest with people than to lie, than to have to remember, “Oh, what did I tell this person? What did I tell that person?” And having to correct yourself, or really think through what you said [laughter]. It’s so much easier to fucking tell the truth. It can be hard because sometimes the truth is really ugly or messy. But I’m kind of giving myself permission to be ugly and be messy for the first time because it’s so much easier to do that than covering it up and being fake.

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

An octopus. An octopus, for sure. Octopus is the only animal that I don’t eat because they’re so smart, and they are graceful and ferocious, and I feel like I identify with all of that. Yeah. And also, all those arms, they’ve got to be really good at multitasking, and I can relate [laughter].

LeCiel Nejema

LeCiel Nejema


Date of Interview: June 24, 2018.

Name: LeCiel Nejema

Age: 34

Pronouns: She/Her

How often do you bathe or shower?

Every single day. Every day. Yeah, every day [laughter]. Yeah. Yeah. I mean I love showering. I love taking hour-long showers, but the problem sometimes being out in California, I have to be more conscious of the water so I can’t take the longest showers that I’m used to taking. So ever since I’ve been visiting Chicago, I’ve been soaking in them hour-long showers [laughter]. Yeah, so I guess that’s my routine. It’s just getting up, taking a shower and making sure it’s long and it’s hot as it could be. Yeah.

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

I’d be an octopus. Yeah. Because I feel like there’s something interesting about octopuses and all the tentacles that they have and how sensitive their tentacles are and how their tentacles can be like extra sources of eyes for them and I think it’s pretty cool. I would be an octopus. Yeah.

What are you passionate about?

What am I passionate about? Justice. I’m passionate about seeing justice being served and holding myself and other people accountable and how that ties into justice being served. I’m very passionate about music, sound in general, because I feel like sound is an energy source that we just transfer and transfer and it can be a source that can be very powerful and empowering in the world if it’s used in a way that the frequency is vibrating on a much higher level.

How do these things manifest for you in a day-to-day basis?

Well, I work on music pretty much every day and when I say that, I want to explain to people that working on music is not necessarily what people think, like its not about picking up an instrument and singing in front of a computer or doing whatever all the time. It’s actually the entire process of my being, of living. So this conversation right now, this interview that we’re having right now, is me working on my music. Cause the process is the message. It ties into my value system and going back to how I’m passionate about holding ourselves accountable– everything you do becomes your message, it all goes into my music, all these experiences and processes. Sometimes this is what creating the music looks like. It’s just this.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

My mother told me a few months ago, “You’re living your best life,” and I never thought about it like that because I feel like I work so much, and– even if my work is what I love, it’s still work, right? So I don’t think I notice sometimes that actually, yeah, I am living my best life. Keeping in mind where I came from, the innocence of coming from poverty and also coming from the heart of oppression and injustice; and the fact that I somehow found a way out of that to be free on my own terms– I think that’s probably one of my biggest accomplishments.

What is something you still struggle with?

Surety, in a sense of like– I don’t know but sometimes it doesn’t matter how much work you put into it, you’ll never know what the results will be like– with that finished project. Even when you’re sure of your work, there’s still this unsurety of, okay, then what next after the work is complete and the work is released? And then what does that look like? So, I struggle with surety I guess.

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

Relationships. Well, I am personally non-monogamous. There’s this misconception surrounding non-monogamy like, “Oh, you just want to be with multiple people.” And, for me, it has less to do with other people, even though that’s a perk. But it is more so about my independence and my freedom within myself. I want to be able to experience whatever on my own terms, whenever I want, with no ownership restrictions upon me. And I also think all those familial bonds can show up in intimate relationships, in romantic ways and it can be actually really, really good for you and healing.

What does the word intimacy bring to mind?

So much. It brings so much to my mind. A spiritual connection with someone, a soul connection with someone, this mental connection that you have with someone. And even this right now is an intimacy. You know like that consent and that choice to share ourselves with each other. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a sexual way, everything could be intimate.

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