Date of Interview: May 20, 2018
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.”