exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time





Date of Interview: May 20, 2018

Name: Juliet

Age: 26

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

How often do you bathe or shower?

I take a bath on average…once a week–well, we’ll say once every two weeks if I’m busy, and once a week if I’ve hit a good pace. I shower every two to three days when it’s cold outside, which in Chicago, is most days.

Do you have a ritual with bathing?

Yes [laughter]. Yeah. I didn’t used to take baths. I grew up in a religious culture that shamed self and body, so that mindset permeated anything that involved your body exposed – likes swimming or baths. Also, as a long body – I’m 6ft – bathtubs have never been accommodating for my size. I could never get most of my body in, so I was always cold on one half or the other.

But then there came a point when I was in a really stressful living situation and unemployed for several months, desperate for anything to help me cope with it all. Bath bombs had just hit “big” so I was thought, “Let’s see what all the fuss is about.” The funny thing is, the bathtub in that apartment wasn’t at all accommodating, but it was also at a point when I was really fed up with being defined by other people’s perceptions. A lot of that boiled down to my body image, so the bathtub became a safe space where I could have a conversation with my body without anyone else’s input.

I think there’s something really beautiful about levitating. There’s that sense of otherness when you’re equalized in the water with your mind and your body. A literal elevation of self that allows you to be objective and accept wherever you’re at; whether you’re on your period feeling really bloated, or if you feel sexy and want to be celebrated! Baths have become a way that I channel myself, especially when I feel life is being projected onto me — whether that’s work, or other people’s perceptions of who I am, or a difficult relationship, etc.

It’s an event I create as a gift to myself.

Candles are always a necessary element, and from there I kind of build a small altar of my favorite things: plants, special crystals, flowers, etc. Deciding what I want to put there becomes a meditation as I walk around the house and collect things from my shelves, slowly building a small piece of beauty to enjoy for that hour of purposeful self-love.

How has your sexuality been supported by feeling yourself in this way?

It’s helped me practice how to have a conversation with my body, to figure out where I feel central and where I don’t. Then, in the places I don’t, space to figure out why and how to reach the parts that feel neglected. Sometimes it’s because needs aren’t being met, or I’m mentally abusing myself in those areas, or they’re places someone else has abused. Over time, I’ve been able to figure out different ways of healing.

I sent my first nude two years ago. It was to an artist friend who sent out a call on Facebook for nudes on National Nudie Day! It was a competition, so whoever inspired him the most got to be painted, and mine won!

It was a huge moment for me, turning something that would have previously been a source of shame into art. In that same vein…taking pictures in the bathtub! My phone’s never fallen in the water, cross my fingers [laughter]–but when I’m feeling sassy or if I just want to just see what my body looks like in a new way, taking selfies in the bathtub has become a fun way I get to know myself better.

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

I think relationships are very much about how much you’re able to take yourself out of the equation to see people for who they are without projecting expectation, desire, or need onto them. However you do that affects whatever the relationship is going to be, whether it’s family or friends or with a partner. I think that a lot of times-with family-there’s always an element of obligation that complicates boundaries. But when we’re able to be objective about who we are as people, what we’re looking for, and what we want our relationship to be outside of that obligation – we inevitably come out stronger. With friends I think a lot of times it gets messy once you get in deeper, and start encountering the complexities that accrue with time.  If the friendship was born out of circumstances that eventually fall away, there’s a choice whether or not you’re going to be vulnerable with one another outside of that. Or maybe the spark that bonded you guys goes away? I’ve lost several friendships that I perceived to be deep, only to realize I was projecting what I thought they would be for me instead of listening and responding to their needs. When people permanently choose to leave your life or vice versa, no matter the type of relationship, it always leaves a scar. So I try to be open about those experiences without letting them cloud new relationships with the fear of vulnerability.

What is something that you feel accomplished with?

A huge accomplishment for me? Hmmm…I think there’s a lot…but I also tend to think of accomplishments as concrete moments in time, because we’re trained to think in this linear timeline instead of valuing the slow evolution of interior growth.

[thinks] So! I have a very queer family! And for a long time my identity in the queer world was by association, just because that was how I was introduced in queer life, and so it felt like it was “their” thing first. I think a lot of this imposter syndrome stemmed from the fact that they are all male-assigned, which informed my perspective of queerness as a cis-bodied woman. It wasn’t until I started understanding feminism on a personal level that I was able to explore my body, and in turn my sexuality, which made me much more comfortable in including myself in that narrative. It’s a huge accomplishment to give myself permission to explore the limitless breadth of what it means to be a person.  

What is something you’re passionate about?

Advocacy.  I’m definitely a warrior spirit. From a young age I often identified as an outlier, partly because that was the religious ideology that defined our family’s lifestyle, but also because I used books to escape that world and explore alternative ways of thinking. I gravitated towards untold stories – mostly historical femme leaders – which directly influenced my artistic development and resulting love of storytelling. That curiosity turned into passion as I grew to recognize the massive gaps in representation through personal inequities and the experiences of my peers. I identify as a cisgendered woman, so advocacy for femme identified people feels inherently fundamental. Learning to advocate for myself has been a huge practice in vulnerability, and given me the context to encourage and uplift other femmes in their journies. Self-advocacy is vital, but it’s a huge process of unlearning oppressive systems, and a lot of people aren’t given the resources to learn how; whether that’s support through mentorship or access to knowledge. And so, whether it’s with kids – I’m a nanny so I work a lot with kids – or with other friends, or with artistic peers…I’m passionate about helping people advocate for their story.

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

I think…a jellyfish….Yeah, a jellyfish. I like that they’re not a predator and that they’re pretty neutral on the animal spectrum…They’re very communal, like, you always see jellyfish in mass quantity….They appear to be more art than animal…Their variety of colors and textures are truly mesmerizing…And also, they’re blobby! They’re disproportionately beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever felt proportionate in my life! So just physically, I like that they can be chubby on top, and also have these gorgeous ribbons that protect them and allow them to live their lives. The most beautiful parts of them are the most deadly, I think that’s key…as if to say, “Underestimate me at your peril”…not as a threat, but a beautiful way of saying “I’m here.”

Lex Standard


Date of Interview: March 26, 2018

Name: Lex Standard

Age: 25

Pronouns: She/Her

Location: Chicago, IL


How often do you bath or shower?

I try to every other day. I don’t take baths as much as I want to.

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

Well, I’ve been told by a psychic that I was a mermaid in a past life, but I would totally settle with being a manta ray. They’re beautiful and they’re so majestic and the way they just glide through the water is hypnotic.

What are you passionate about?

Everything. Love, art, teaching, connecting with people, fucking improving myself, family, friends, expression. This doesn’t manifest as fully as I would like it to. I get stifled by being human a lot, but I will take breaks to play guitar and write music. I will take breaks to write poetry. I will call somebody and talk about how I’m feeling and then hope that jars something artistic. I’ve done performing my whole life. So when I was in kindergarten, I told at the National Storytelling Convention, told two stories that I made up and that was really cool. I was like 10.

What is something that you still struggle with?

I struggle with a lot, but a lot of it is stuff that I’m starting to learn everybody struggles with, so they’;re not unique to me. Like liking myself. Who am I? What is my purpose? That kind of stuff, but then I struggle with, I don’t want to put myself into a box, but I have– just for practical use, I have PTSD, I have bipolar  and I have just a fuck ton– I don’t even know, just a fuck ton of trauma. All right. I have a lot and I’ll try and wrap it up quickly. When I was in middle school I was bullied so badly. I was like the most teased kid and had no friends. I had maybe three friends but they never were there when the bullying was happening. I was cyberbullied. People told me to kill myself. Somebody made a screen name called KillLZSlowly and messaged me. Someone made a screen name like I Fucking Hate Lex and messaged me. I had a guy ask me out in front of a group of people and then break up with me in front of a group of people. I got punched in the face. I got canned food poured over my head. And I eventually had to switch schools because my parents were like, “You’re not doing this anymore.” And I didn’t want to leave because I was like, “This is the hell I know. Don’t give me something new.” Then I went to high school and the damage was done already from that, so I hung out with kind of a sketchy crowd because at least nobody would fuck with me if I hung out with tough kids.

And so then I met some boys, some really abusive men, and there’s nothing I can say that can paint a correct picture of what the abuse is like. But it was sexual, it was verbal, it was emotional, and with one of the guys, it was physical like choking, slapping. And then the emotional is crushing down into the size of a grain of sand and then leaving me with all of the pain that they had caused, mentally, then coming back when they felt like it. So I got really demoralized. And then I went to college and I stayed close because of the main abuser, David. And I started drinking, by the way, because I wanted to have fun. I was bullied. I had strict parents. And when my friends got to college, I was like,”I’m going to fucking drink now, all right.” And I partied really hard and I had a lot of fun, it wasn’t bad. Then one of my friends died of a heroin overdose, and that was the first time I had to see a 20-year- old dead body. The imagery isn’t as scarred in my head as it used to be. I’m close with his mom. But that was really hard because we talked the night before. I had a lot of friends die. I feel like that’s way too common.

So I dated this guy, Sunshine, and Sunshine was a damaged boy, but I was damaged too. So I thought maybe through love we could transcend our damaged-ness and become something great. But no, usually what happens is it becomes toxic. So it became very toxic. I put on some weight and he told me I look like I’m letting myself go. He ended up cheating on me. It was this horrible breakup. It took me two years to get over him, but he broke up with me and I was just devastated. My family and I– on Valentine’s day, he broke up with me two days before Valentine’s day. And on Valentine’s day, my mom and dad took me to Hackney’s and I just cried over my food. That was in February. And then April, I invited a guy over from my class to do homework with me, and he ended drugging me and raping me. And I was awake for it but I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t move, and I just had to– it was a battle. It was like a legit battle. And he had a knife and I had roommates that were really close and I could’ve yelled for help but I always think about that but on some level was feeling protective of them and I thought, well I’m kind of battling this guy in here, so I don’t want anybody else to get hurt. And that fucked me up.

After that happened, the way my brain worked kind of changed and kind of triggered like a manic thing. Like my thoughts were going really fast. And I tried to talk to people but we didn’t have the same MeToo culture back then. Back then, it was like, “You got raped. We don’t know what to do with you.” I lost a lot of friends because they couldn’t ride the lows that I was feeling and so I turned to getting high and drinking to make it go away and through that, I got raped more. One of them was my best friend at a Fourth of July party. Another one was at my birthday party I got stuck in a closet with a guy and I even told him, I had just been raped, I don’t want to hook up, and I had to literally grab his hands, pull them off of my body for three hours, and then eventually I was so beaten down I followed him to his place and the opportunity came for him to rape me, he didn’t have it in him so he let me leave. And then that night I pulled over on the side of the road and just started crying and a cop found me and he saw the state I was in, he saw my bruises, and he sent me to the hospital. And the doctor was a piece of shit. I had a torn nipple, I had everything, and he was like, “You know, I have people dying in here.” And that just created so much in me that I’m still working with. And then the drug use started to get more.

I remember listening to Lana Del Ray in a parking lot. There was like a firework show and there were families in this field but I just wanted to be away from everybody so I was in a parking lot and I had a convertible at the time, so I just laid back and I just looked at the fireworks and I just listened to this woman singing how broken her heart was and I just felt like I was resonating with her. And I had such a thing for Lana Del Ray. Like spiritually. Everyone else is like, “Oh yeah, flowers in our hair”. But it’s like, “No dude, Lana and me roll deep.” So I got abused a lot more. I started hanging out with shitty people because I thought, “Oh well, at least they’re not going to judge how low of a place I’m in.” I had a whole bunch of fair-weather friends. People that were drug addicts that I thought cared about me but they didn’t. I got raped by another guy, I was doing Xanax and there was this guy named Cole who got really close to me and I actually liked him as a friend and he started giving me drugs to put me in a state where he could have sex with me. So he started doing that to me. And I remember one day– I mean, I never told him about the rape. I wanted a friendship free of all of that. And he gave me Kolonipin one day and that really relaxed me so I told him about it and then we had made a fort and then I looked at him because he was looking at me kind of funny and I was like, “Do you want to have sex with me?” And he said yeah and he kind of overpowered me and I kept falling asleep and he kept waking me up and fucking me. And that continued because I thought that’s what love was. So he would do really bad stuff. He would do BDSM type stuff on me while I was drugged up so he would scratch me from the inside, snap his fingers in me, step on me, choke me.

And eventually I was so broken from it that I told him to fuck off and I started going into PHP programs and IAP programs and I was in PHP and I went to the psych ward for the first time. I had to move out of my parents house because I was so afraid of men I couldn’t be around my dad. I was terrified of him. I felt like– I was a little deluded and I thought that he was preying upon me. I couldn’t sit on a bed with my brother. I was in treatment struggling beyond what I could wrap up in those 15 minutes. And I ended up going to treatment for three rounds at TK – Timberline Knolls – and first time we went there, I was just a broken puppy, crying about trauma and I had a boyfriend at the time, so I wasn’t really dealing with it, I was just numbing out through him. And then the second time I went, I had a thing with a girl there and that kind of fucked up my whole treatment. And then the third time I went, I had to address my addiction issues and I had the support of a program and that actually really helped me make use of my time there. But I broke down. I went crazy in treatment. I didn’t think, “Oh, I’m going to rehab, I’m going to fix it.” No. I let shit hit the fan. And apparently that’s what you’re supposed to do when you go to treatment.

Have you learned positive coping mechanisms?

Yeah. I talk to people. I get out of my head. Because when I’m left alone with myself, I will torture myself and it’s not even me doing it on purpose. My coping skills are self-care like getting myself to the gym, doing esteemable actions to make myself feel like I have some self-esteem. I do distraction, but I don’t do that as much as I do doing the next right thing.

What do you feel like your narrative is like now? What is the narrative that you’ve written for yourself?

It only goes up from here. Still, like in the back of my mind, I feel like sometimes I should just kill myself, because it’s so bad, it can’t possibly get better. My narrative, under being all that my mind tells me, is I’m a badass warrior princess that has had her castle and comforts stripped away from her forcing her to face down the deep evil. I have gathered a cast of characters as companions on my travels to this great battle and each one has altered my heart to rejuvenate softness, humor, simplicity and strength back into it. What is my new purpose? To regain my peace to a deeper extent and free the land of an evil like the one I know.




Date of Interview: January 9th, 2018

Name: Beef

Age: 30

Pronouns: She/Her


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

Oh, God. I’d be the kraken [laughter]. Yeah, I’d be a famous squid octopus thing. Famous as shit. It’s the bigness, just the bigness. The big mythical-ness of that motherfucker [laughter].

How often do you bathe or shower?

Well, in the cold season it’s every other day but in the summer it’s twice a day because I bike and I’m fucking gross. I know. Because I have two pairs of pants so I’m wearing those a week at a time. You have to bathe a lot when you’re biking. It’s amazing I have a girlfriend.

What are you passionate about?

Nothing since the depression. Jesus Christ. Seriously, it’s a struggle. Going to work. I’m passionate about going to work and keeping my job [laughter], making money, yeah. But I mean, honestly, one of the things that– one of the only things that I give a shit about when I’m super depressed like this is using what little people skills I have to make a bunch of money and put it in some sort of cause. I bought one of my ex’s social worker Christmas list for the kids in her families and stuff and bought them presents, and I donated a bunch to Puerto Rico and stuff. Blah blah blah so.

What makes you want to give back?

I think just because I feel so shitty, and I’ve been in so many different positions in my life that I’ve had it really fucking terribly and I know that people can always and do always have it way, way, way, way, way worse. So not only does it put things into perspective but it gives me something to focus on and it’s doing better for folks that– their good day is my worst day, you know what I mean?

What do you struggle with?

The depression and anxiety. It’s crippling. I was just at a doctor’s appointment this morning for it. Got my meds. It’s been a thing my entire life but I’ve also had a whole bunch of really crazy shit happen. My half-brother’s mother was murdered when I was in the fourth grade. My brother drowned in a golf cart. I know that sounds crazy, I know it’s probably weird that I’m laughing but this is insane. My great-grandmother was 100 years old, in better health than I am, and then she fell down the stairs. My dad died in Costa Rica, just crazy shit nonstop so it’s just something I’m going to have probably forever and ever and ever.

What do you think is a good coping skill that you use?

I notice I pick up a lot of shifts when I’m really depressed because I just want to work. And, again, I’m a bartender by day so I get to focus on other people and their bullshit, and if I’m really feeling low I’ll collect their tip money because I work in a park and everyone’s wealthy, and I can give it to people that need it way more so that’s dope.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

God, I don’t know. I really like conning– not conning necessarily, but convincing people to give up their money, and fortunately I use my powers for good, donating these charities, but I own a traveling art gallery, too. I don’t do anything with it hardly anymore but I used to sell the dumbest shit. So, yeah, I realized how good I was at that. I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to get money for people that are in shittier situations than me,” and, yeah, I feel accomplished with that.

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

Oh, God. They’re so complicated [laughter]. Jesus. I mean, I don’t know. My concept of relationships is so weird because most of my family is dead, I don’t have at all strong or even remotely conventional relationships with the ones that are alive, so that affects every part of my life. I’ll find myself searching for the wrong things in romantic relationships. It’s really weird. And I’ve also found that I like doing things like living alone and stuff like that because of it because I never had much family whatever life, home life. So I don’t know. I mean, they’re good. I’m not going to say they’re necessary because I’ve lived pretty isolated before. I mean, aside from social media, I would go months and months at a time without being on that at all, just traveling the country in my pick up truck, not living anywhere, not having a job, living off mountains and stuff, eating road kill, no joke, no joke. I’m sure you’ve seen the pelts and bones everywhere. That’s legit, that’s not some shit I got on Etsy [laughter]. Yeah. What was the question? Sorry. I haven’t had my coffee yet today.

Thoughts on relationships?

Oh, God, yeah. Yeah, like I said, they’re complex just like my train of thought. I don’t know, they’re great when used well. They can be really harmful. Keeping ahold of some of my familial relationships was a huge detriment to my life and so it was good to drop them but having friends and stuff has helped me but I’ve also had friends that have made themselves seem there and ended up being absolutely terrible for me so it can go either way. It’s just all how you handle it and it’s about being able to cut people off, too. As long as you have the power to do that, relationships aren’t so bad.

What is something that you are looking forward to this year?

I’m just like, “The sweet release of death [laughter].” Sorry. I do low key work in the funeral home industry on and off and stuff like that, I’ve done autopsies and shit in coroners offices and shit so I’m dark and depressed. I don’t know. Surviving into the year.

%d bloggers like this: