THEBATHTUBPROJECT

exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Tag: Community

Aim Ren Beland

 

Date of Interview: October 10th, 2017

Name: Aim Ren Beland

Age: 26

Pronouns: He/Him

Location: Chicago, IL

 

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

Any underwater creature? I’d be those little crabs that have no eyes that live next to the ventilation ducts in the ocean, the little white ones, you know, that feed off the weird phytoplankton. Maybe that one. They’ve adapted to live so uniquely to their environment, and they are so a part of their environment that if you remove them from that context, they literally cease to exist. And not just in that it kills them kind of way like a fish out of water, like a very literal– they can’t live in any other water or in any other space. It’s a very unique situation. I like that [laughter].

How often do you bathe or shower?

I shower twice a day, once in the morning to wash, once in the evening to rinse off from the day, and then in the winter, I bathe more because it’s like a warm comfort, a fetal womb kind of feeling, but otherwise I don’t bathe [laughter]. The wash-off and rinse-off is my way to decompress. I have a lot of anxiety, and I like to find little tactics to manage it that aren’t destructive to other people or myself. So I shower at the end of the day. You usually shower alone, so it’s your own space. You can’t do anything else besides just be in the water, so you have to tune into your head and your body, and then you have the good sensation of getting clean so that when you go to your bed or wherever you go to next, you’re really coming there fresh and revived.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about the arts and whose voice gets represented in the arts. I’m from up north, and there’s a lot of focus about the environment and the arts there, but the arts community there is predominantly white, middle-class, and straight. I intentionally moved away from that community to Chicago because I felt there were no voices but the stated prior being represented in the kind of art I was seeing around me. So I came here to experience more narratives and grow and see the world through lenses of other people and hope it helps me and my work mature. To find missing pieces of my voice in others. I’m mostly a visual artist, so a lot of stuff I do is drawing or print. I’m really involved right now in the comic scene, so a lot of zines, and I love zines because they’re accessible. They’re usually extremely inexpensive to produce and buy. Almost anyone of any class, creed, whatever can partake in zine making, buying, sharing, so I find that’s a good way to get art into the masses and to spread various messages of not only the current things that are taking place in the world but also the human experience.

What is one of your main thoughts or memories when it comes to human experience?

Things that stand out in my mind about the human experience… I’m still young enough that my childhood plays a large role in my perception of the human experience, so a lot of it is the different things like nature versus nurture that impact you as a person, whether from your parents or the community you grew up in, or the academia that you become a part of– so that’s a significant role. Going into the larger role as an adult and taking on other narratives, I am always more conscious of the ways that the universities and the other infrastructure around us impact other people’s narrative, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

How do you think you impact your community’s narrative? If you do.

Yeah. I think everyone does, whether they intend to or not. And right now, I am still coming into this particular community, which is Chicago– queer Chicago, as relatively an outsider. I’m still kind of a newcomer. I’m queer, but I’m definitely not from Chicago. I don’t know the infrastructures as well as other people, so right now, I’m kind of taking a step back and trying to listen to other voices, especially those that came here before me who understand the infrastructures at hand. And most of my work right now is purely introspective because I feel like I can speak on myself. But as I become more part of the community, I feel more comfortable taking in the various narratives I’ve heard, and with the guide and consent of those voices– putting that back out into the community.

What does the word community mean to you?

Community, to me, means a large group of people working together for a common cause. And as a queer person living in Chicago, those roles are mostly– just having the rights to various infrastructures [laughter]. Just having rights to infrastructures with the acknowledgment of the various privileges we all hold, I am white and I am from a predominantly upper-middle-class background, so I’m aware of those privileges. And using those privileges for good, and not just feeling guilt because guilt doesn’t make change. So using the privileges I do have to foster the voices that are otherwise not heard or not seen. You know what I mean? Just taking it in and listening, and when you mess up, apologize.

What are our thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, and familial, and do they overlap?

Yeah, tying back into my thoughts on community, I feel like community is built through those relationships, whether it be sexual, platonic, familial, I feel like the backbone of a community is good relationships of varying scales. And my current social circle, I try and build that sort of effect. I have this large circle of friends, lovers, roommates, coworkers, collaborators, and they all sit in this very misty area where they kind of switch roles in my life, from one to the other. But the people never disappear. Do you know what I mean? Other than an event of moving or some other grand thing, the people stay in my life no matter what space they’re occupying, and I like to manifest conversations and communities that help build those bonds instead of tearing them down because they don’t fit whatever need it is at the time.

What are you looking forward to?

What I’m looking forward to– it’s a mix of apprehension. So I’m young. I’m 26. The future is so way ahead of me. The world is a really scary place right now, so that means a lot of changes happening very quickly and it’s really easy to feel powerless. But at the same time, I feel very fortunate to be in a city like Chicago because the communities that do exist know their power and they know their worth, and they know what actions they have to take to see what kind of change they want to happen, and it’s not just talk it’s actual action. So that makes me super excited, and I feel super fortunate to be a part of that community in an artistic sense, and welcomed into it, and to be able to take a part in it.

Molly Brennan

 

Date of Interview: June 13th, 2017

Name: Molly Brennan

Age: 46

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers or any mistakes made without malice

Location: Chicago, IL

 

How often do you bathe or shower?

These days I don’t take a lot of baths. I’m also not a huge showerer. I take a shower, maybe every three days.

If you were an underwater creature what would you be?

Elasmosaurus. It’s a water dinosaur. The Loch Ness Monster. Just classic long neck. I like dinosaurs a lot. I love the notion of a real creature still being alive. So the idea of the Loch Ness Monster is really cool to me [laughter].

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about not harming. I don’t want to harm. That’s a core value. It’s a struggle. I am aggressive with a real fighty instinct. I fail a lot. So that’s one thing. In terms of how-I-spend-my-time passionate, I’m an actor and a theater maker and a performer and a clown.  

What got you into theater?

I grew up in a really story based legend and myth based family. My mother is an actress, and my father is a great consumer of literature and performing arts, so it was always part of my life. And I decided to do it as a living because I couldn’t think of another thing that I’d rather do. My favorite way to be with people is live performance.  

Do you think that there is community within theater?

There is community within theater yes, I think so. And it’s huge in Chicago. I mean, the Chicago community is huge. Within that are subsets of tribes that I have definitely found among the artists, the production people, the audience, –so, yeah. A larger culture and then subcultures, and I’m very happy with a lot of the values of some of the subcultures of theater and performing arts in Chicago.  

What does community mean to you?

Community is why we’re here. This thing about not harming being really important to me – taking care of each other – it’s very painful to be here for most people. It’s very painful to just live. Things are hard. Things are always hard. Things feel really hard right now. But you die eventually and you suffer a lot before that. Community is a way to keep ourselves healthy. Keep ourselves engaged. Take care of each other and find health and joy.

What is something that you feel accomplished with?

I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job sticking to my values as I’ve navigated an industry which often asks you to compromise. I’ve been able to do this work at a professional level while criticizing some of the problems of the system and fighting some of the problems of what happens everywhere and in the spaces of the little communities that I roll around in.

What is something you still struggle with?

I struggled with depression. I’m clinically depressed and suicidal. And it’s a daily exercise to keep myself in a functioning, generous, and productive place. My self-care involves exercise, eating well – I’m a healthy eater – and getting out and doing things for my friends or with my friends, doing things for other people, and committing. I’ve found over the years, and years, and years, the role of therapy, and medication, and treatments, and things, the thing that actually keeps me alive, literally keeps me alive is committing to something that people are depending on me for. If I commit to something, I will show up for it. If I have nothing to do, then I really fall off. So I get involved in a lot of stuff, commit to it, and often, have the needs of other people in there somewhere.

What do you think of relationships platonic, sexual, and otherwise?

I feel like we, as a society and– I lived in the United States my whole life, so I don’t know how it is everywhere– But here, I feel like we don’t actually know those things. I feel like I’m only learning about relationships now. And I’m almost 50 years old. But there are  marketed relationships in everything: through the entertainment that we consume, the products that they’re selling to us. There’s this kind of agenda of what relationships are. And I feel like I’m only recently discovering what a good relationship is, a healthy relationship, a valuable relationship. I mean, I would describe my relationship with my lovers as being largely problematic throughout my whole life mostly because of trying to make whatever was happening fit the narrative. And I think what I’ve discovered is that narrative is false. And so discovering with a romantic partner the reality is kind of where I’m at now, I think, with the person I’m with. We’ve been together for three years, and I feel like we’re figuring out what relationship is.

And then, outside of those kinds of relationships, I have great relationship with my parents and my sister. We’re very close. And then, I have some really good friends. And those, my family and my friendships, have all been well-cared for through the problems, through the conflict, through difficulty and with a commitment to keep certain people in my life that are important to me. And I’ve let a lot of people go, people I am and I’m not related, so yeah, yeah, making, kind of lifting the veil and realizing there is no way to match what you see and observe. This is not real: the kind of mass marketing relationship with anyone, your mother, with your kid, with your lover, with your lovers. And in terms of the discovery that it seems like a lot of folks are making now, especially younger people seems to be faster and more immediate, maybe. Then, people of my generation– I mean, in terms of the amount of people who are healthfully non-monogamous, for instance, seems like  in that area we’re evolving, and I really have a lot of admiration for that and have a belief in evolution and change.

Liz and Abrina

 

Date of Interview: June 12, 2017

Names: Liz and Abrina

Ages: 20 and 21

Pronouns: They/Them and They/Them

Location: Chicago, IL

 

How often do you both bathe or shower?

Abrina: I shower usually every three to four days, just because I grew up with acne issues and stuff. Skin care is a really, really big part of my life and I also use it as a self-care thing. Obviously, I don’t always enjoy showering. It feels more like a job than I want it to. But I feel like it’s important to shower more often, for myself at least.
Liz: I’m usually like two, and maybe if I’m feeling extra cleanly, I’ll do it three times a week [laughter]. But that’s about it. And I’m a bath fan over showers, always. Like baths over showers, forever. So, that’s just for me. I took only baths until I was in fifth grade and people thought it was very weird.

Is bathing a self-care act for you?

Liz: I think so. Yes, it’s a lot more relaxing for me. And it’s also, you just get to sit down [laughter]. The idea that I’m standing up just makes it feel less relaxing for me, and then once I’m sitting in the bath I’m like, “Now I can chill [laughter].” But when I’m in the shower I’m like, “Oh shit. I’ve got to go.” I don’t know. Just the body language of showering vs. bathing.
Abrina: So I have major depressive disorder, and I have anxiety. And when I was 12 I experienced a really traumatic episode. So I was diagnosed with PTSD really early on. And it was always really hard for me to deal with my mental illness, and just find effective ways to handle it and cope with it. So I think that, with also struggling with acne issues, got me into makeup and skin-care. So I started using makeup and skincare as a way to not only help my skin, and make me feel better, but also as a way to make me feel better about myself.

If you were an underwater creature, mythical or real – whatever it could be – what would you be?

Liz: That’s a good question. I have to think about that. Probably a turtle. A sea turtle. I feel like they just live forever, but then they also have their own thing going on. They know how to form a group effectively, and travel well. And I respect that. I’m a social person. I’ve got my own thing going on. Also, they live a very long time, which I was always like, “Fuck that,” but now I’m interested [laughter] to live a long life.
Abrina: I think that I would be an octopus. I just really like them. I think they’re really weird and I just really like very weird looking animals [laughter].

What are you passionate about?

Liz: Everything? I feel like that’s cliche to say, but I feel like there are so many things that I love and care about. My friends, the people that I love. And creating things. Helping other people. Love. I could go on. But I’m not going to [laughter] because that would take forever. I would be here listing things that I love and it would just be midnight immediately.
Abrina: I agree. I definitely am passionate about people that I love and my relationships and kind of bringing good energy to the world and always trying to keep a really positive outlook. I’m really passionate about Andrew W.K. [laughter] because I really love his Facebook status post because he’s always– I don’t know, he just has this idea of partying, but partying in a way that’s positive and just bringing good energy and vibe to the world and like loving people and taking care of yourself. I just really, really love that and I really respect that. And I think that’s a big motivation for me.

Do you think social media and community are intertwined?

Liz: Oh, yes. I think absolutely. Social media is part of how I maintain my sense of community. It’s very easy to keep in touch with people when they have social media, and I have friends that don’t and it is more difficult. Of course, I’m totally willing to do that, but there are certain things where I’ll be like, “Oh, I want to invite you to this Facebook event,” and then I can’t. But being able to share things like that on the internet, where I know that we can all interact with each other with such greater ease, it’s just easier to interface with the people that you want to interface with.
Abrina: Yeah, I think social media community is really important, honestly, because I think it gives us a wider range of access to people. And also, I feel like, especially if you’re a person who’s a POC or LGBTQIA or any combination of different identities, it gives you an outlet to see and meet other people who are like you and who can share similar experiences to you, whereas you might not always get that depending on where you are.
L: Yeah, if it wasn’t for social media, we wouldn’t have met.
A:Yeah, we wouldn’t have met, because we met on Tumblr.
L: Yeah, I followed Abrina on Tumblr for a long time.
A: It was a thirst follow.
L: It was a thirst follow [laughter]. But I realized how similar we were from the things that we would post, and the things that we would say and care about. Of course, that’s not all that there is to a person, but I got a really good sense of who you were.
A: Yeah they sent me– I reblogged this ask meme at night [laughter], and then it was like, “Oh, tell me something about yourself, but don’t be–”
L: On anonymous.
A: On anonymous, yeah. And they sent me something like, “I’m really bad at taking care of plants but I’m really good at smoking them,” and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I need to–
L: Now they were like, “Oh my goodness.”
A: –to talk to them in person [laughter].”
L: I was like 17. Oh my gosh. But yeah. And then I started Skyping with Abrina [laughter].
A: Yeah. And now we’re here [laughter].
L: Shit is so wild.

So the two of you are engaged?

Liz: Yes.
Abrina: Yeah
L: As of June 21st. Oh my gosh, what, a year ago? We took a vacation in Portland with my family, and that’s where we got engaged.
A: Yeah, we got engaged at a ramen shop because ramen is my favorite food. But their ramen sucked. But they gave us free alcohol, so it was okay [laughter].
L: That’s true. We’re doing long-distance now. It’s definitely hard sometimes. I remember just before you were here, I was like, “Okay, I have no physical touch outlet in my life, because you’re not here.” But then also, I don’t want some people who want to do that in their life. But also that you’re the only person I really want to touch, so then it’s like I just got to wait around until you’re here to sensually touch you. But it is hard though because I feel like– of course I’m an affectionate person, I get affectionate with my friends, but that’s not the same thing. And also, for my friends, I want just to have friendships. I don’t want to have a different element to that relationship personally for me. And, as much as I’d love to be like, “Monogamy is overrated. I hate it. It’s stupid,” I don’t feel that way. I want to be with you. I like being only with you.
A: I want to be only with you, too! And yeah, I mean, I’ve always been an openly sexual person and I have been in open relationships before, but they just never really worked out for me. And I feel like I can get affection from my friends, obviously not in the same way as I do with my partner, but I feel like that affection is able to hold me over, basically.
L: Right. And there’s a lot of power in a hug. Hugs are a powerful thing.
A: I think that, as a society, we are made to crave affection in a specifically sexual and romantic way and we demean affection in other ways. And I think what we need to focus on is how important just small acts of affection are from any person that you’re in a relationship with, whether it would be a romantic, or friend, or familial, or anything like that.

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

Liz: Relationships are basically one of the number one things for me. And even a relationship with yourself is important; how you relate to yourself. Relationships, I feel like they’re one of my favorite things [laughter]. No, but I love people so much and I love sharing the experience of being a person with another person because that’s, I feel like, one of the most unique things we can do as humans, with each other, is share what it’s like for us to be a human because hey, we’re the weirdest animals there are [laughter].
Abrina: Yeah. I think that having a relationship with yourself is definitely the most important thing and should always be your top priority because I feel like it’s really hard to have effective relationships with other people if you can’t have a relationship with yourself. And obviously, I don’t mean that in a way to demean people who find it hard to have relationships with themselves for other reasons, but I feel like any effort you put into having a relationship with yourself, first and foremost, is really the most important.

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