How to Do the Dishes: A 12 Step Program


At first glance, doing the dishes and being a professional model don’t look like they have anything in common. One of them is a fun, fulfilling creative career. The other is endless, thankless drudgery.

I’ve also been a model for far longer than I’ve had a clean kitchen. I’m not proud of that fact, enough so that I kind of shamed myself into said endless drudgery. But after I did it, I noticed that the process of building a modeling career and getting myself to regularly tackle my personal definition of hell was actually the same. Reaching a big goal like modeling is less about hitting milestones and more about learning good habits. It’s a process, not a to do list. And at least for me, it turns out adding a new habit follows a similar pattern—call it a 12 step program—every time.

Step 1: Be really bad about ever doing the dishes. Like, college student bad. Have you ever found maggots in your sink because you left food-encrusted plates? That level of bad. (Okay, that wasn’t me. That was a friend. But I’ve been pretty damn close).

Not working on your dishes? Do you want to be a writer but never actually write anything? Or have you been saying you’ll start modeling for years?

Step 2: Get good advice. Spend way too much time researching your topic on the internet, or reading experts in the field.

Me? I go out to coffee with my crush. He tells me that his work is often long-term projects that can take upwards of a year to finish, and that sometimes they’re just the glue in the background holding things together. So he always tries to do something short term and immediate every day to improve his surroundings—even if it’s just washing the dishes or pulling weeds in the garden. Specifically, he recommends working on short (day), medium (weeks to months), and long-term goals consecutively.

Wise, right? You can see why I like him.

Step 3: Ignore said advice, and spend the next few years pursuing and growing a relationship with your crush instead. Be vaguely jealous of his adult-like, functioning kitchen with visible countertops.

Hypothetically, of course. Maybe your style is just to be distracted by other shiny goals and projects, or just by life being busy in general.

Step 4: Rationalize. Tell yourself you only have so much time, and you have to prioritize. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. And you’re doing big things. You’re a model; you’re writing hours a day. Or you’re just successfully keeping a roof over your head. Whatever—it’s impressive. You can’t be arsed to do the dishes too.

You take comfort in the fact that your bandmate and best friend—one of the most creative and successful people you know—has dirty dishes piling up in his kitchen for exactly the same reasons. You two commiserate about how limited your resources are, and how you’re both making the best choice in using them on other things.

Step 5: The turn. You realize that you’re not getting any younger. Or you realize that if you’re going to do the thing you want, you’re going to actually have to do the thing. Whether that’s sitting down and writing the book, starting the career change, or actually cleaning your goddamn kitchen like the adult you supposedly are. Slacker.

Step 6: Start doing the thing, and get positive feedback. In this case, it meant my nesting partner was thrilled that he could actually cook regularly. And I learned that I am psychologically more comfortable and work better in a clean environment.

Step 7: Get pretty good at the thing. Put in your hours. Have spotless countertops, all the time. Revel in your awesomeness and success. Realize that you actually enjoy the process.

Step 8: Notice that you haven’t had a dirty dish disgrace your sink in weeks, or that the novel is getting written, or that your modeling career is taking off. Also notice that the rest of your life is suffering, because you made this goal your top priority to the detriment of everything else.

Step 9: Actually, if you’re being honest with yourself, you’re using the dishes (or whatever you’re working on) as a way to procrastinate. How’s the writing going, you ask? Well, your kitchen is spotless. Oops, a pot got left on the stove? Guess you can’t respond to that modeling email right now. And really, is a kitchen truly clean if the spice rack isn’t alphabetized?

Step 10: Start trying to balance things. Yes, do the dishes, but also go back to doing everything else. Sometimes leave the dishes when something else important has to be done. Acknowledge that you can only do so much, and that your spice rack will never be alphabetized. Stop being such a perfectionist, and once again start working on short, medium, and long-term goals.

You can’t always learn from other people’s wisdom—or their mistakes.

Step 11: Realize the advice from your now-boyfriend that you ignored was right all along. Sulk about it. But you also realize that you can’t always learn from other people’s wisdom—or their mistakes. You can only do the research, and maybe catch yourself earlier when you recognize you’re falling into the same pattern.

Step 12: Be proud of yourself for incorporating another habit into your life. Tell yourself you absolutely won’t make the same mistakes as you eye the next big thing…

Censoring Nudity

Katja Covered_LR.jpg

I recently reposted a photographer’s image of me to my Instagram. You can see the image here. Nothing out of the ordinary—or so I thought, even though it’s a favorite of mine. But I had a bunch of people message me about it. Not because the image was particularly moving or extraordinary to them. But because my nipples were missing.

The image is very much nude. In it, I’m leaning back into a chair, one foot hooked on a rung, the other dramatically extended. My face is in profile—I’m looking off to the side, at something off camera. And my tits are. Right. There.

To “comply with Instagram’s community guidelines,” the photographer edited out my nipples. Where they should have been, there was just an expanse of skin and a slight blur. It made my breasts look kind of like fleshy, globular balloons, but so what? Censorship always makes the figure look a bit wrong, one way or another. I didn’t think anything of it when I reposted the image.

It apparently weirded people out. Friends, followers, old gaming buddies, and even one of my boyfriends commented on the obvious lack. At first I was inclined to shrug it off. But then I realized that it said something about censorship of nude images, which is a topic I’ve always had a complicated relationship to as a model.

All of this started when I was new to modeling. I was posing primarily for art nudes, and I wanted to share these images that I was so proud of on my burgeoning Facebook fanpage. But I couldn’t because most of them showed my nipples or pubic hair.

I suppose I could have just edited them, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. They weren’t just my images; they were the photographer’s too, and I didn’t feel like I had the right to deface our mutual art. Instead, I posted the best of those photos to my online portfolio—behind a login and an 18+ filter—or on my personal website, and hoped somebody would enjoy the art that I had made. But a lot of images never saw the light of day.

I followed that self-imposed rule of social media until I started taking my own self-portraits. Now there wasn’t a photographer, a fellow artist to take into account. If I wanted to deface my own images, I was perfectly free to do so. And I really, really wanted to share my images with other people. So…I did it.

To my own great surprise, I did not immediately burst into flames, nor was I transported to a special circle of hell. People saw the image, liked it—or not—and moved on. The world kept turning. I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit disappointed.

That’s when I realized that I absolutely despised censorship of images, but that I hadn’t consciously acknowledged it because I felt powerless to do anything about it. What was I going to do, petition Instagram to change their rules? Social media companies weren’t going to listen to little ol’ me. And society at large? I’m convinced that every piece of nude artwork we share helps to destigmatize and desexualize the human body. But talk about a slow process.

Nothing says ‘this is wrong’ like a big black bar or a pixelated or blurred part of an image.

So why the censorship hate? Because nothing says “this is wrong” like a big black bar or a pixelated or blurred part of an image. It turns whatever is behind it into something taboo, unseeable. But it’s not like we don’t know what’s supposed to be there—the overwhelming response to my missing nipples shows that. All it does is raise a big, red flag in our minds: “This thing I’m thinking of is wrong.” And it ruins a perfectly good composition.

If you’ve read much of my previous work, you probably know my stance on nudity. I am a strong believer in the idea that there is nothing wrong with it, and that a nude body is not inherently sexual. (And the idea that sexuality is somehow wrong is a little ridiculous too, but that’s a topic for another post). It’s one of the many reasons that I choose to pose nude for my art. I don’t pose nude because I want it to be shocking. I pose nude because I believe that it shouldn’t be shocking in the first place.

Which is, ultimately, why I’m still posting my self-portraits, censors and all. (I’ve even posted one or two censored images from other photographers, but I’ll admit that I still feel like I’m overstepping my bounds to do so). I’m not thrilled about it; I cringe a little bit every time.

But have you ever heard the phrase, “perfect is the enemy of good?” I’d rather see those images out in the world, even blurred out, barred, or pixelated, because I do truly believe that the more we share nudity, the more we normalize it. Even within ridiculous societal constraints.

But you bet that I’m more than a little pleased that my nipple-less breasts made a bit of a stir. Because it was weird—just like every other type of censorship we slap over nude art. And I think it’s good that we’re occasionally reminded of that.