exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time




Date of Interview: October 25, 2018

Name: Daisy

Age: 25

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

How often do you bathe or shower?

Every other day usually.

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

Okay, I’ve been thinking about this and it would be a snail. I love snails and I feel that they are perceived as the ugly creature and I have a love for animals and creatures that people think are ugly.

What are you passionate about?

So many things. I feel like the things that I’m most passionate about, are usually the things that I feel like I can’t do anything about. I feel like advocating for people who are oppressed is something that matters a lot to me, but I feel sometimes my voice on the internet or the help that I try to give, even a small bit locally is not necessarily making a huge impact. I don’t really know how to make what I’m passionate about spread wider and actually reach the people who need help. Something I am also passionate about that is] animals. I love animals. I have three cats that I rescued, two of which have FIV. FIV is basically, the equivalent to feline Aids and much like Aids, there’s a stigma and with cats that people are afraid they’re going to get Aids [chuckles] from their cat. Which sounds ridiculous, because it is. And a lot of them sadly are in shelters for years and sometimes even die in the shelter because there’s nothing wrong with them. I remember when I was adopting my third cat at the local shelter here, the woman who was helping me adopt him said to me, “Do you have any other cats at home?” I said yes, I have two other cats they have FIV and she looked at me like I just said they have alien brains coming out of their mouth. She looked at me with such disgust and she was like, “Do you really think it’s a good idea to bring a cat home that has–” and I was like yes, he needs a home so he’s coming home with me.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

One thing is, that I recently had an art show where I sold my cross stitch. It was a two-month art show and I didn’t quite sell everything, but I sold enough that they were really impressed and they were happy with me. And I was happy because when I started cross stitching, it was just like a form of therapy for me. It really helps with my anxiety. I make funny stuff that people like, and that people are [almost] sad when it’s sold like, “Oh no, you already sold it, I really like that one.” It’s a really nice feeling. [It started when] I saw someone doing it and I was literally just like “Can you please teach me how to do that?” And she taught me how to do it and then I started looking up more stuff online at home. And I started making that stuff. I I never use any patterns, I just make stuff for and look for other people’s work for inspiration and get funny ideas. I realized how just doing that was, watching TV for hours made me feel so calm. It’s such a form of self care. 100% and I even wrote something about this because I know a lot of the tips out there about self care are really expensive, unrealistic habits, [like] go and get your hair done every time you feel bad about yourself or even using bath bombs because it’s really unrealistic for people to have $10 every time. But for me cross stitching is such an affordable habit. There are stores and other places that really cheap and I find it to incredibly peaceful to just pick a product to work on. And even if everything else in my life is going badly I’m like “Whoa, I made something. This is nice.” The other thing that I feel proud of is that I’ve been working in the same field for seven years, and I’ve been doing that full time for about four years and recently I just got a really nice acknowledgment from my work and it was just words but it really made me feel really good about the quality of work I’m doing and feel really appreciated. I work in copywriting so I guess that it’s like marketing or advertising. It’s basically when someone hires a company to make their website, they usually only really think about the design. But behind the design team is someone putting all the content in there. So I mostly work for lawyers, and doctors, and people in the blue-collar field, just basically trying to make them sound good, and trying to help them sell their services.

What is something that you still struggle with?

Some days I struggle with a lot is my self-worth. I find that I often rely on other people for affirmation that I can’t just like look myself in the mirror and say “You did a good job. You look beautiful. You’re worthy.” I’m clinging to what other people say and how that made me feel. I’ve been working on it, but it’s really hard to get that with it. Because they’re so much negativity coming from a thing and it’s hard not to shut that down. That at the end of the day I  just want someone to tell me they love me and tell me I’m pretty and whatever else. And tell me I’m doing a good job.

What is your love language?

It’s so hard to choose just one. But I would definitely say that words of affirmation is my top one. I guess I think a little bit goes a long way and I’ve always felt that way. Just hearing just a little bit of, just for your own sake, “You’re doing a good job” or “You’re beautiful” or “You matter to me”. Whether it’s from a lover or even as friends, is like– that stuff impacts me so much. And I have a hard time with the five love languages with recognizing that someone else’s love language might be different than you, especially if you’ve never talked about it. They don’t know what that is, what that concept is. You’re wondering, “Well, why doesn’t this person ever say really nice things to me?” And then you realize they’re doing other things for you that they value, but you’re not really matching up.

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

Oh, I have a lot of thoughts. Oh, boy. So in therapy, I’ve been working with my therapist on what she calls “my bullseye”. And it’s basically if you picture all over relationships falling in intrinsic circles, how much importance and how much energy you put into things. So if you have your best friend, your partner, your mom, your dad in the middle and from there you build out. And people can move at any time. And that has helped me a lot. Because I’ve been guilty of sort of putting too much volume, too much energy on people who aren’t necessarily giving the same thing back. So that has helped me a lot to sort of gauge things. But I still find myself like– I tend to obsess in romantic relationships. I tend to get in my head, tend to not be able to enjoy it at all because I’m over analyzing things and wondering if someone– if it’s enough, and if it’s right and if it’s this and if it’s that. And I don’t even get to enjoy it. Where was I for all this? I got lost in that– and then the honeymoon state is over and then suddenly I’m like, “Wait, wait. But I wasn’t there for it. I want the honeymoon state back.” I think it ties back into self-worth. Sometimes I tend to stay or chase things that aren’t good for me because I’m too afraid to just remind myself that I deserve better. Because in my head it’s like, “But where’s better? So this is what I’ve got so–.”

What is something that you have learned this year?

That’s hard. I think that I’ve learned that sometimes – I’m trying to figure out how to word it – letting go of something doesn’t have to mean that you’re moving on from it. Because a lot of people, including myself, get really caught up in like, “How can I possibly fully move on from that situation? I can’t possibly. I’m not over it yet.” You don’t have to get over it yet, you’re healing. Granted it’s totally valid but you can make a step to cut something or someone out of your life. So when dealing with toxic people I kept feeling like I had to be all the way at my destination of healed. But I don’t have to be there yet. I just have to make that first step. And that’s been really powerful for me, really helpful.

Emma Casey



Date of Interview: Aug 31, 2018

Name: Emma Casey

Age: 27

Pronouns: She/Her and They/Them are also fine.

How often do you bathe or shower?

Every other day. I shower mostly at the gym right now.

Is it a better shower?

Yeah. It’s also just easier in transit. So yeah. And then I bathe when I’m at this house that I’m house-sitting maybe every two weeks just for fun.

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

A snail. Snails live underwater. They live under and above. And yes because I think they– I like them because anytime I’ve had roommates who have fish they get snails to help clean the tanks and so I like that snails have this janitorial purpose. And also I think I’ve been, the past few months, have been carrying a lot on my back… like carrying my home on my back. Feeling just a lot like a snail.

Is that where the comparison for you and snails ends is carrying the home on your back or does it continue?

I don’t know too much more outside of that and their janitor services. I think that’s what I– I think in my mind I would like an occupation or a life that is like that simple. Yeah, for some reason, nuns also occupy that space in my mind. They get to go live away and they’re not at all concerned with romance or any of these– well, maybe some nuns use social media. But a lot of the sort of things that can make days really cluttered in one’s brain. And then they get to do lovely things like farm, so. Farm and make cheese and have a regular schedule and stuff like that. So I think I like the idea of just having an occupation that is enough, which could be anything but– yeah. Nuns, and janitors, and firemen, and stuff like that.

What are you passionate about?

Oh gosh. If I knew, I would be a nun. Right now I don’t know. Yeah, I think I don’t know what passion means. But right now I– I don’t know what passion means. I’m really enjoying the beauty of Chicago. I feel like this summer I’ve spent a lot of time just reveling in how much I enjoy the look and the feel of the world around me. And that we have assigned that to be the city of “Chicago” is fortunate coincidence or something. It’s so much land and it’s so big and I have just been biking around a lot and really enjoying that. And then just been thinking a lot about, “Why bother enjoying how this looks? What purpose does that serve?” It’s also been just like an interesting summer as far as just spending time with people which is something that I don’t think I’ve done as purely before, just hung out. So I wouldn’t say that that’s a passion but that’s definitely a new thing to be excited about yeah, is people and just being able to spend time.

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

Yeah, they’re good. They’re necessary. I don’t think I realized how necessary until maybe this past month; I was like, “I want to disappear,” not in a– that’s the flip side I suppose of hanging out is I felt like I was just around a lot and not for any purpose. And there are a few areas of the city that I can go, where just walking down the street I’ll run into people and I’ll greet people and I’ll go into the coffee shop and talk to people and know the baristas —– so that was starting to feel like, “Has this become my occupation?” and I think I need to back away from that. I need to literally move away from that and put myself into somewhere more unknown.  So put myself into somewhere more unknown and just see how that feels, and it’s felt really quiet. I’ve realized that I’ve been really quiet. And that’s good but I also just don’t know how to talk to myself right now and that’s something that I didn’t know I had maybe lost a little bit because in my mind, I’m very much a loner. But I think I accidentally became — worked my extrovert muscle too hard and now I’m just having to swing back, which I’m excited about. Oh, yeah.  So relationships with others. I like them. I think it’s exciting. And then I also think that that’s a lot of how I want to show love [laughter] is showing up and talking to people. Going to events and providing support for when people are being brave and vulnerable and skilled. So. Yeah. So I like people and I like relationships, but then I was starting to feel out of sync with myself as well.

What do you feel most accomplished with?

Well [laughter], last night was the first night of The Fly Honey show of this weekend and I get to be a performer in that. And that is amazing [laughter]. That’s so many people. Yeah. Last night was a weird night of co-workers in the audience for me, both past and present. And then people tangentially who work around where I work. And somebody did come up to me and was like, “You serve coffee and you can say poems like that?” So I don’t know what to do with that other than it felt good, because the answer is, “Yeah. I do [laughter]. I do serve coffee and I did write that poem.” So I think that, yeah, writing is definitely, I guess, what I’m most accomplished at. Though that feels a little “good for you” to say right now, because I definitely feel like a writer with no sort of active writing practice at the moment. I’ve also received a couple of really encouraging sort-of angels on the streets in preparation for this performance. A couple of times when I’ve been really, really nervous – before the dress rehearsal and before another event where I was sort of sharing a rough draft of this piece in particular. It happened twice, where I was in my own quiet strange head, hadn’t talked to anybody that day, and somebody just walked up to me, was like, “Hey, I like your work. I’ve seen you perform before [laughter].” And that was kind of flabbergasting. That hasn’t happened in that kind of concentrated way before. Because it was these two instances, it really did feel like something sent me a little encouragement angel. So that was really cool. And I guess I’m also aware that I’m defining the word accomplishment as an outside sense of accomplishment, of people giving me validation or affirmation. But it also feels really good to get that and know that you’ve touched somebody three years ago with a poem that you wrote [laughter].

Ariel Atkins

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Date of Interview: Aug 21, 2018

Name: Ariel Atkins

Age: 26

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

How often do you bathe or shower?

I try to shower every day, but a lot of times it ends up every other day. I shower every other day, and then I take baths whenever I need to take a bath. Like, if I’m stressed out or if I just really feel like I need a self-care day. And then in this apartment, I can see the TV from the tub. So [laughter]. But most of the time I like to either read or listen to music. It’s a good place to think. I like the tub a lot. We used to take a lot of baths when I was kid so, whenever I meet people who are like, “Oh, I don’t like baths. They’re weird.” Like, “Y’all are weird.” Baths are the best thing in the world.

How does bathing now compare to when you were a kid?

I think other than when it was required when you were a kid and you didn’t want to take one– Did you ever do the thing where your mom’s like, “Go take a bath,” and then you just run the water for a long time and come out like, “I totally took a bath.” You just sit there. It would have been less work for you to just take the bath [laughter]. But instead, you like sit, and wait, and run water. Oh, it’s the dumbest thing. So, then it was a chore but, sometimes it was play. And that was fun. And now it’s like a moment that I can take to myself. And that’s really important because I don’t think I get a whole lot of those. So it’s really nice to be able to just take a bath and ignore everything else for a bit.

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

Okay. This is really interesting because I read Wild Seed by Octavia Butler recently. I know. It’s so good. The character is Abu– No. That’s not her name. I cannot remember her name at the moment, and I’m so sorry. She becomes a dolphin and lives as a dolphin for a long time and talks about how intelligent they are and how loving they are, and this idea of family. And so I feel like I would probably be a dolphin if I was anything. Like constantly traveling and trying to take care of everybody else. Such is my life.

How does that manifest in your everyday life?

Just constantly checking in on people and being an activist. I think that’s one of the biggest things that brings me to being an activist is I feel like I can’t sit back and watch anything. Anything wrong that’s happening, I feel like, as an able-bodied person, as an intelligent person, that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Which feels really good, but also is very stressful. Very stressful. I’m passionate about Black Lives. I’m passionate about helping people, but mostly, in this moment, helping my people then all people. A lot of my focus is in decriminalizing Black Lives. Decriminalizing poor people. And then, hopefully, getting us to a point where we can fight poverty in stronger ways, clearer ways. So, like right now, the way that we think of poverty, I think, as a whole, as a country, is just like, “Oh, people are poor; people aren’t working hard enough,” as opposed to really looking at it for what it is, which is there would not be poverty if there wasn’t capitalism. And so people have to be poor in order for people to be incredibly wealthy. People have to be poorer in order for there to be these different levels of goals that you’re reaching for. There has to be a bottom, and it shouldn’t be that way, especially in a country and in a world where there’s so much wealth. And, of course, what also goes into that are what keeps capitalism going when you’ve got racist systems, such as policing, and, of course, the prison system, so pretty much the justice system as a whole. Everything that goes into– When you break it all down, it just all goes back to capitalism [laughter]. And so, I guess, in the end, I’m fighting capitalism. You can’t have capitalism without racism. You can’t have capitalism without poverty. You can’t have capitalism without anything that is oppressive to human beings.

When did activism become your way of life? Or has it always been your way of life?

No. Not always. It’s weird because most people say I’m old for an activist. Once you get to like 20, then everybody’s like, “You’re old for an activist,” because you start at like 15. But I did not have that experience, especially growing up, like I was not comfortable being black at all. I went to high school and middle school at a very white school. And then, just being black growing up, it’s very difficult because you’re constantly being told that you can’t be black, but you are black, and that your life is going to be harder because you are black, and then, you have to work 20 times harder, which was something that my parents hounded into us. Like, “You can’t just get good grades. You have to get great grades. You can’t just speak well. You have to speak eloquently. You have to be better because everyone is going to automatically look at you and see less.” And so it was very frustrating. So I was very uncomfortable being black. And, oh, this is going to be sappy. But it wasn’t until like three years ago, I was– like it had been leading up to this moment because watching the death of Trayvon Martin, Kalief Browder, Mike Brown, Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, just all these people just being murdered one after the other. And just feeling this increasing discomfort, and while at the same time while all of this is happening, I’m coming to terms with my blackness. And I’m able to say out loud that I’m not comfortable being black, and working through that and becoming very intentional about falling in love with myself and who I am and who I’m supposed to be. And then, one night I was watching the PBS documentary – it had just come out – Vanguard of the Revolution, which is the history of The Black Panther Party. And by the end I was just like– It was kind of like a spiritual experience. I don’t always like to say that, but it was because I just couldn’t stop crying; like my whole body was just crying. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Such a weird thing to say out loud. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And I was like, “This is why. This is it.” I’m moved by the story of Fred Hampton, somebody who had this idea of how you can bring everyone together, and how you can really build a movement, and this strong belief in everything you do should be for the people. And it’s like, “If you’re not doing it for the people, then why are you here? And if you can’t do it right now, there is no later.” Like, “Someday I’m going to do this, or someday I’m going to be involved.” And it’s like, right now, in this moment, I am able-bodied. I have a clear head. I have all this energy. This is what I should be doing and dedicating my life to. And so I was like, “Well, that’s it.” So I spent a year reading as many books as I could and researching. And then, suddenly, you get Trump elected. And I was like, “Well, I guess this year is cut short. I’m just going to have to jump right into it.” And then that was, “Here we are. Here we are.” Oh, God. Yeah.

What do you feel most accomplished with?

I think right now I feel most accomplished with my life. It’s been a very interesting year. So, I deal with depression. This is so much. I deal with depression, and I’ve been in and out of the hospital a few times. That year I decided– The morning after Trump was elected, I was in the emergency room — It was my second stint in a psych ward. So I got out and I was like, “Oh, well, I guess we got to do this now.” But it had been a rough 10 years. And so this last year– I had been on and off of meds for five years because nothing was working. And then I went and saw a new psychiatrist in October. No, November 1st because it was the day after Halloween. No, it was Halloween. I saw her on Halloween. That’s crazy. I saw my psychiatrist for the first time on Halloween. And she was like, “You have bipolar disorder, and we’re going to put you on a mood stabilizer.” And then after a few months, I finally felt the, I guess – what was it? – starting in February or March, I started feeling like a metal plate had been lifted off of my brain, and I had never seen anything so clear. I had never been able to– I started to get up for work again, which I thank God I have a great boss because I could not get to work before 11:00AM for a year. And she still kept me. She’s great. Oh, my God, she’s great. But I couldn’t get to work until like 11:00AM. First, I started getting to work at like 9:30AM. And then I started getting to work at 9:00AM. And then like 8:00AM and 7:00AM. So then I could focus on things. I could do more things at once. I wasn’t having as many breakdowns. And then I realized like, “Oh, I am gay.” I’m not just unhappy. I’m not broken. I am like 100% gay. And then, we should deal with this. And I started, unfortunately, seeing somebody while I was with my partner, my boyfriend at the time. I met someone and started really kind of falling. And I broke up with him, of course, maybe like a week later. I was like, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m so sorry.” Because I wasn’t really seeing them. I started talking to them. And I was like, “Okay. This is a big confirmation for me that this is not what I want.” And so I broke up with him, and then, in a month, found an apartment, moved out of that apartment, got into this apartment [laughter], and I’m living my best gay life [laughter], my best very gay life. So this, right now, my life feels like my biggest accomplishment, like being able to get to this point of being able to live alone, which is huge because I wasn’t allowed to do that for a long time. And then being able to be happy in a relationship, which was something that I haven’t been able to do for a long time, and be open about my sexuality. Also, to just be involved in activism and really realizing where my life is supposed to go for the first time. So, it’s been kind of big deal.

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

I think as long as they’re healthy [laughter], relationships can be really good, I mean are really good. I think that they are– I think it’s for, depending on the person– Like I’m non-monogamous, which is– because I couldn’t be that before. And now I get to be in a relationship where we are in agreement that we are ethically non-monogamous, which is great. And I feel like that works for me because of how I see people and can get to know people. And then, I feel like platonic relationships are really big because my best friends, my friends– I’ve had the same friends since college, and we’re all super close. And I don’t think I would be here without them. I feel like those are super important. I think those might be more important than romantic relationships, honestly, because your friends are always going to be there. The other people come and go. But I’ve had the same friends for almost 10 years now. So it’s like, they’re not going anywhere. They’re going to be here. Even if they piss me off, they’ll be here [laughter]. I guess, overall, I think relationships are super important.


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