Date of Interview: June 28, 2018
Name: Amanda Buttsquash III
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.