exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Tag: Underwater Creatures

Olivia Lilley


Date of Interview: September 6th, 2017

Name: Olivia Lilley

Age: 28

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Location: Chicago, IL


How often do you bathe or shower?

Every day. I have a pool in my building, an indoor pool so I tend to get back from rehearsal and I will go and dream down there and play some dumb pop music and then shower. And that’s pretty much my showering for the day. I go down to the pool. I swim and then I immediately go upstairs and shower. It’s the routine since I moved into that place. Before I lived in a garden unit in Logan Square and we had a bathtub. It was kind of gross and one day the ceiling caved in so that was a hard week for showering. We thought we heard an avalanche and it was just like yeah. It was the ceiling into the bathtub. The scary thing was I was about to take a shower and I got distracted [laughter]. This could be a much sadder story.

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

I would probably be a starfish. I like the way they move. It’s pretty beautiful. They don’t really move a lot but they seem pretty content where they are and they look good where they’re sitting [laughter] in the coral reef or whatever.

Do you appreciate when people only move with meaning?

Yeah. I do. I live in Chicago, not New York. Like, in New York everyone’s just moving because they think–They’re moving, moving all the time, because they think that means they’re getting something done. But I think that’s kind of a myth and often if I’m moving way too much I’m just a total mess and I don’t know where I am. I like when I have a little room for being pensive in my life in order for my work to happen. Standing still in order to move.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about giving voice to other people but in a way that doesn’t shut out my own. I’m a theater director and maker and so often times as director, these weird negotiation happen and I often devise so I’m either writing literal characters with the actors. Asking them well, what do you think? What do you think they do here? Or and through their imaginings, it’s really great to be able to write something because it feels like a symbiotic relationship. But I have to be careful not to fully take away their voice and misunderstand their voice and when they say I’m wrong and I’m going in the wrong direction, I have to listen. I have to be humble like that otherwise they won’t be true. It’s a constant balance. It’s a constant trying to carefully understand the people I’m working with. I try to really hear them. I don’t want to misunderstand and then not have an opportunity to know I’m wrong.

How did you fall into that line of thinking?

Well, I think before I was the director. I was a composer. I wrote musicals in high school. And I went to music school for music composition. And I went to this kind of awesome boarding school arts academy environment. And I had my music composition teacher– I was coming from small town Illinois. And it was a miracle if there was one person in my class that was in the arts anyway. And now suddenly, I was surrounded by all these amazing people from all these amazing backgrounds. But the worst of it was my composition professor because I’d walk into his office. I always remember he had this picture, this picture of him and one of his former students, his former student that won a young arts or presidential scholar of the arts and for writing the most atonal bullshitty music and who had gone to Julliard. And it was some white man. It was his crowning joy and we were all supposed to live up to that. So I’d walk in. Because when I was a senior, I was working on this vast opera about the Bolshevik revolution. So I was constantly working out material. I wasn’t often going, “Here’s a string quartet. Here look at this.” I was working out themes and variations and harmonies. And so I would give him my notes and he would just refuse to look at them and not teach me anything and basically just be acting like what I was presenting him with was the worst thing in the world. And I think that comes from that very macho mentality of break them down so that you can build them back up. And really, that just made me not want to write music ever again. So when I went to drama school, something that I realized is that the arts don’t have to always be horrible and vindictive all the time. And there was one time– but I mean, that still existed, that breakdown mentality, that kind of stereotype with the Russian male director who’s just like, “You’re shit!” So there was one time in director’s colloquium where a girl was talking about a quote that Stanislavsky, he’s an acting forefather of the modern– Yeah, you get it. But he used to yell at his actors from the back of the theater, “I don’t believe you.” So I got this tattoo. I’ll show you. And it says [foreign] in Russian. And it means, “I believe you.” So to me, that means “encourage people and the way to get people to get better is not to tell them that they’re shit. It’s to let them know that there is something great within them and to break that open and try to get rid of all that bullshit that standing in their way. That’s my story [laughter]. While I’m simultaneously trying to help, I’m also trying to not let my voice disappear and trying to get all the stuff that’s in my way out of the way too.

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

I really like them. I am in a long-term relationship with a partner who I first met in 2011. And when I first met them, I knew they were the one and they didn’t. And it ended pretty badly. We were friends and I was like, “I think I really like you,” and he was  it’s like, “I’m confused. I’m still angry about some girl over there.” And then in the year 2015, we found each other across the country in a long-distance form. And then I moved out to Connecticut with him for like three months. And then I got him to move to Chicago. And that’s who I live with in a building with a pool. And so I always felt like Jake, my partner, we were supposed to be together. And there were definitely times in my life, after I met him, that I was like, “Okay, no. I’m just being crazy.” And I was wondering if the person I thought he was, was the person he really was. And so I kind of found out– all right. I’ll tell you a story [laughter]. In 2013, two weeks into us dating, he invited me to this mansion in the woods of upstate New York. So all of his friends from college have this thing called a shore party that they do every so often. They rent a giant mansion. They do a bunch of drugs. And they wear a lot of costumes and do lectures, and stuff. So Jake was like, “I’m going to buy us acid [laughter].” So he bought us acid. And we were sitting in a basement and we’re about to do it. And I was like, “Jake, we need to do this together.” Because he was like– because when we got to the party he started being a douche bag. He started being like, “Look, we don’t have to be together this whole trip. I can go this way–” And it’s like, “Asshole. You invited me to a party where I know no one. And you know everyone. That’s absolutely not fair at all [laughter].” So I got him to be like, “Okay. We’re going to do this acid trip together.” So we took the acid and it kicked in. And we went on this crazy journey where we worked through all of our subconscious bullshit. And he realized he was in love with me. And I also realized he was the person I thought he was. And then we kind of never looked back. Back to the monogamist and relationships. I feel like that’s been my experience. But I don’t think that’s like everyone is going to find that experience. I also feel like polyamory is completely possible and great. And if I ever found myself in that position then I would say yes to it. Yeah. I just think it’s all personal. But I think humans are not meant to do one or the other thing. It’s a completely unique journey. And I love working with people who, in creating theatre or whatever, or any sort of art, people who have a completely different experience. And then the challenge of how to work with them to render that experience on stage. And especially experiences that aren’t often depicted. And how to try to not make assumptions. And when I do make assumptions listen when they are correcting me [laughter].

What are your thoughts on familial and platonic relationships?

I would say I have a lot of friends. But sometimes I’m closer to some at certain points. And then some go away and then others come back. And then some people, it’s like you’re friends with them and it’s great. And then you realize there’s something fundamental that’s not going to be reconciled here so then you stop being friends. And I value those people as much as I value the people I talk to every day. Because even though maybe we crossed and didn’t– I don’t think that person is bad for not being able to be a good friend to me or me not being able to– it’s just that we don’t click. That’s something I guess I’ve learned since school: That most people are not really manipulative or bad. Everyone’s just got goals and sometimes they don’t align. And sometimes people go about things in totally different ways than you and that’s okay [laughter]

Robyn B.


Date of Interview: 9/1/2017

Name: Robyn B.

Age: 33

Pronouns: She/Hers

Location: Chicago, IL


How often do you bathe or shower?

Twice a day, typically; I’m very very clean. I shower. Baths are more of a special occasion type thing for me.

If you’re an underwater creature, which one would you be?

A dolphin for sure. Dolphins are playful and they’re happy; also, they’re not afraid to fuck up a shark when the time requires it. And I don’t know, they seem like very genuine creatures to me; I try to live my life with kindness, respect, and a little bit of playfulness and that just seems very dolphin-like to me.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about learning first and foremost. I love learning new things. I love having new experiences because I feel like that’s ultimately the point of life- to learn as much as you can and experience as much of the World as you can before it’s time to go. So, that’s one thing I’m passionate about. Do you want a list? [laughter] Because there’s lots of other things. Well, weed is pretty cool!! [laughter] Chemistry is also awesome-  I think the whole of existence is essentially a continuous chemical reaction that is constantly producing new products and that is pretty cool. What’s the most recent thing you’ve learned or experienced that has had weight to it? That people can be different than the way they present themselves. Even if it’s been somebody you’ve known a month or ten years of your life some people can really really surprise you. And it sucks when that happens but it’s a learning experience, and learning is the point of life.

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

I think they can be a great thing. I think they can also be a very dangerous thing. Relationships are great in the sense that they can make us feel great and they can make us feel wanted, happy, and they can make us feel whole. One thing that makes them dangerous however is that they can make us feel too secure; relationships can hurt us in ways that we weren’t anticipating and yeah, you’re also very very vulnerable in a relationship and that vulnerability can lead to some pretty extreme cases of pain. Familial relationships are kind of a challenge because my family has never been the stereotypical connected family; we experienced a series of deaths and other tragedies in our immediate family unit when I was little and it just kind of broke things. I believe in the concept of blood family, I do, but I think ultimately family is more of like something you create for yourself than something you’re born into. Platonic relationships- we need them!!! [laughter] Just… We need them. They’re the spice of life. They’re also totally essential in terms of navigating the human experience; we all get by with a little help from our friends! Now, as far as sexual relationships are concerned, of course, those are important too. I would say just almost as important as the platonic relationships because sexuality is one of the purest forms of self-expression; during sex, you’re giving yourself fully to another person and it is a demonstration of your kindness, generosity, and it also demonstrates a little bit of strength because there’s strength in being able to make yourself so vulnerable to someone.  But again, if you wind up in that position with the wrong person, it can also be detrimental. It can lead down the road of pain and suffering if you’re not careful, which is what I recently went through.  I was married and had been with my partner for about 10 years. We have a child together. So, three and a half(ish) years prior to today I came out to [redacted] as trans and started the process of transition and initially, she was extremely supportive of me. Over the course of time, the changes started to become a lot more visible and that was when we started to have some problems as a couple; truthfully, the problems were always there but my gender transition forced us to face some tough realities that neither of us were expecting.  

When [redacted] and I first started dating, I was quite a bit heavier and that was one of the thing that she found really attractive; [redacted] likes large, hairy men and that was definitely me for a long time!  My gender transition started with a massive weight loss; I’m not where I want to be yet in terms of like overall body composition but I feel like I’m so much closer than I’d ever lost before because I lost like a very significant amount of weight. And with that kind of weight loss comes– you can’t lose that amount of weight and not experience some sort of psychological shift in the way you view the relationship you have with food, fitness, and your body.  You just can’t. It was essentially like I lost an entire severely depressed person that was living inside me and all this deeply repressed negative energy kind of started to work itself to the surface. While I was discovering what kind of person I was and finding out all these awesome new things about myself, [redacted] was mostly just hanging out on the sidelines watching; she had a hard time seeing me grow from being this surly overweight dude who smoked pot and played video games all day and didn’t really care about anything (almost to the point of nihilism) to this budding young woman who cared about things. Like how people were treating one another. Like how queer people were being treated in our community. I don’t know, I started caring about things and that became like a problem– I don’t know. It’s apparently cool to not care [laughter]. It’s cool to just be like– like a stereotypical Brando-esque greaser with the devil-may-care “I can do whatever I want to” attitude.  

The one awesome part about this point in time was that after coming out, our sexual relationship became incredibly active. We conceived a child together and all seemed to be going well over the course of the 9 months the baby was growing fingers and toes.  C was born in December and due to the complications during childbirth, C was transferred out to a different hospital; for the first seven days of his life C and [redacted] were in different facilities and for those seven days I really didn’t sleep.  I just drove back and forth between these two hospitals and made sure that my family was okay. Eventually, we were discharged from the hospital and sent home and upon arriving it was like immediately something was different between [redacted] and myself. She did not want to hug or hold hands, was super mean to me, and just generally kind of started treating me as though I was an unwelcome guest in her home. And it was just so bizarre to me because she started off as one of my staunchest supporters. Our relationship began a steady decline and eventually it got to the point where every interaction was a fight. We weren’t interacting kindly with each other anymore, it was just constantly this negative bitter energy; in November of last year the need for me to transition became overwhelming and I began to express a firm desire to begin hormone therapy. And so she sat me down– actually, it wasn’t even a sit-down kind of thing because the conversation happened while we were arguing!! So mid argument she was like, “If you do hormones. That’s it. That’s it.”  It felt very surreal; I made the difficult choice to move forward with my transition and then in January that was when it was just—done. She was like, “I’m not divorcing you because I’m very loyal.” And I was like, ” All right well what kind of a marriage do you want to exist or do you want to have?” And she was like, “None of that stuff is important to me.” None of the bonding emotionally or the experiencing life together mattered at all to her; we had nearly ten years of shared experiences and she told me that none of it mattered at all to her and she thought that we were best off as friends and nothing more.

After that, we continued living together and were trying to do the cohabitation thing for the sake of C, which really didn’t work for us. I moved into the spare bedroom and for a minute it got better, but then it was just like the arguments more-or-less took a turn for the worse. Especially once I started expressing a little bit of independence; it got to be June and it was during Pridefest that I had the epiphany that this situation needs to come to an end. Chicago just has this magic about it; being down here for the whole weekend I was like, “This is the place I need to be right now. This is like really where I need to be.” Because I was at the point where I just didn’t ever want to return to [redacted]. I was just so unhappy. I just felt unwelcome and I was tired of feeling that way.  I started saving up a little bit of money and I started my search for roommates and places and moved to the city at the end of July.

What does home mean to you?

Home means security. It means safety. It means a place to rest and really let your guard down. A place to be yourself with no shame and no pretense. Just 100% you working it, all-natural. And I think that’s what home should mean to everybody because what could home mean otherwise? I mean because I’ve experienced various forms of “home.” I have the abusive home growing up as a child. I don’t even know– the negative home that’d I just come out of. And now it’s like this place is– I finally feel okay. I feel like I can be myself, whatever that may mean. I can be Robyn and not have to offer a disclaimer or apology or anything, so I guess home to me would be a place where you can just be you in your most raw form.  

A Klass


Date of Interview: August 8th, 2017

Name: A Klass

Age: 28

Pronouns: They/Them

Location: Chicago, IL


How often do you bathe or shower?

I try to shower at least every day, but that doesn’t always happen thanks to– I feel like my mental health effects that a lot so sometimes it’s longer, sometimes it’s shorter. It just depends on how it’s going, but my goal is to every day.

If you were a underwater creature, mythical, real, whatever, what would you be?

Probably an angler fish, because I really like how they look. And I love that they have– I don’t know. I just love that their molecules can emit light, that’s wild to me. I also love the fact that their teeth are so big that they can’t close their mouth and that’s also wild to me. So yeah, I like them.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about art. I’m passionate about creativity. I’m passionate about people. I’m passionate about people knowing that they’re seen and loved because I feel like that’s a really important thing and something that not everyone feels, something not everyone has felt a lot, including myself. So something that I try to do in my work and in my creativity is have representation for people. Being represented lets people know that they are seen. That’s important to me. And something I still need to work much harder on.

How does that manifest for you?

I think it manifests itself in my work. In my photography, I try– I feel like I photograph almost exclusively people who identify in the LGBTQ+ family now. I mean, growing up, I had no idea that being nonbinary was a thing and I was so lost and so– I don’t know. There was no representation for it and so I had no idea what I was. So I feel like it’s important to represent all these people that I feel like growing up I saw little or no representation for. And I want to change that for future generations.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

I think I feel accomplished with my ability to care for others and to love. I have a lot of platonic intimacy with people and I feel like that’s really important. And I feel like that’s something that is difficult for a lot of people. It’s something that not a lot of people do or a lot of people I’ve noticed don’t understand. And so, I think I feel accomplished in that because I feel very comfortable in that. And I feel confident in my ability to do that and with those who are comfortable with receiving it, sharing it with them.

What are your thought on relationships, platonic, sexual, and otherwise?

Relationships are very interesting. I love the complexity of them. I mean, my relationships in all those categories are the things that have kept me alive I feel. So I have a lot of deep admiration for those relationships even though a lot of them are difficult and have caused me a lot of heartache and pain in the past and present and future. But I don’t know. There’s a lot of beauty in that. Because I understand very well the temperance of things and I don’t really have an issue with things being temporary. It makes sense to me for things to be temporary. And I think its beautiful because I feel like it makes me appreciate those moments that I do have. And it’s kind of funny because, actually, today one of the people that I’m sweet on told me that they decided today to be monogamous with their primary and so we had to stop our, I guess, romantic side. And so it’s interesting because after that happened and after I’d sort of processed and accepted that, I then thought about this interview coming up, and I was like, “That’s a perfect day for that to happen.” But yeah, I don’t have any– I don’t know. I guess I’m just not mad or sad about things being temporary. Relationships are very interesting and complex things. And I do love the fact that they can exist in so many different forms and a mix of all three of those. Each one separately. I don’t know. That’s very interesting. I have a lot of feelings about relationships.

What do you think about your relationship with yourself?

Oh [laughter]. Yeah. We have a long history. I mean, it’s definitely my most difficult relationship. I can say that. Yeah. That’s one where every day it’s different. Yeah. I don’t know. It’s difficult. I see a lot of good things about myself, but it’s difficult for me to fully accept those. It’s hard for me to, I think, appreciate myself in a lot of ways. A lot of times, I wish I didn’t have to spend so much time with myself. A lot of times, I– I don’t know. A lot of times, I wish I could separate and not necessarily be someone else, but just somehow be alone with someone else in that way.

What is something you still struggle with?

Unfurl scroll [laughter]. I still struggle with anxiety. I still struggle with depression. And I still struggle with wanting to live. I struggle with loving myself, as seeing myself as worthy of love, of seeing myself as worthy of generally anything good. Yeah. Well, it’s interesting because I don’t know if I would necessarily describe it as coping mechanisms. But one thing that has helped me immensely that I have both realized recently and discussed recently is my relationships. And these people, they allow me to see myself as they see me and that’s really hard for me to do. And yeah, I mean, like I said, those relationships are the things that have saved my life countless times. Yeah. So I feel like that’s definitely what’s helped me the most. And even though I still struggle with it every day, the people in my life help me to survive that.

%d bloggers like this: