Meet Our Readers

Put on your two-piece and come join the ladies below for July’s edition of Miss Spoken, where we talk bikinis, maillots, and everything that goes in them. Wednesday 7/29, Gallery Cabaret, 7pm.

Megan Kirby

Photo on 5-22-15 at 12.31 PM #2Megan Kirby has written for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Bitch, Paste and xoJane. She has also self-published a few zines. One is about The NeverEnding Story.




Eileen Tull

Eileen Tull HeadshotEileen Tull is a storyteller, performance artist, poet, comedian, and one-woman-show person. Her work investigates feminism, body image, addiction (to technology, to substances, and to ourselves), and, above all, seeking joy. She has performed throughout the country, from San Francisco to New York City, in fringe festivals, theaters, and found spaces. In Chicago, her work has been seen with Beast Women, The Moth, Loose Chicks, Is This A Thing?, 20% Theatre, The Enthusiasts, Knife and Fork, The Nerdologues, The Stoop, That’s All She Wrote, and the Chicago Fringe Festival. Eileen co-curates Sappho’s Salon at Women and Children and First bookstore, a monthly performance series for female-identifying artists exploring gender, sexuality, and feminism.

Hope Rehak

hoperehakHope Rehak is a native of Chicago and a proud graduate of its public schools, as well as Oberlin College. Her work has been performed at The Garage at Steppenwolf, The Citizen’s Theatre Company in Glasgow, Scotland, and the student stages of Second City, iO, and Oberlin. In 2012, her comedy won the Newcomer of the Year Award in Copenhagen. She studied poetry under Billy Collins and at the Paris Writers Workshop. Though she has recently lived and worked in Los Angeles, Ohio, and Denmark, she is always happiest when performing in her hometown. Please give Lorne Michaels her number.

Miden Wood

1239483_10201799220693365_6524132634498212733_nMiden Wood is a writer and performer from Virginia-outside-DC. She has contributed to webzine Gapers Block, and has performed with The Home for Wayward Artists, live lit show Two Cookie Minimum and is excited to count herself among The Kates at the Book Cellar on August 29. She and her dog are both, generally speaking, happier than this photo suggests.


[GUEST POST] Swimsuit Season

Swimsuit season.

Or as I like to call it, nipple-slip camel-toe permanent wedgie season.

My large-bottomed sister and I joke that our asses like to eat, because no matter the swimsuit style, after three steps toward the beach all we have left is a Sisqo fold and an overdressed butthole.

I’ve never found a bikini top with triangles that didn’t shift around like Scrabble pieces. The knot at the top pushes so hard into the nape of my neck that it aches for a day afterwards. Because of this, I’ve resorted to buying bra-style suits that manage my boobs like a cartoon grasping at a slippery bar of soap.

Maybe I should go back to the tankini. I was so relieved the first time I found a full-length top to cover what my brother lovingly used to refer to as “the black hole.” (My bellybutton).

At age 11 I found a purple printed swimsuit at Old Navy, a sort of half-tank with a flattering cinch to highlight my brand-new breast buds. I showed my mom and said, “I like it, but I’m just self conscious about my stomach.” She replied, “Why don’t you go lay outside for a little bit so you don’t feel like a beached whale?”

Her intention: A tan may make you feel slimmer.

My teen understanding: I’m a beached whale.

At 13 I wore my first bikini, one of many hand-me-down swimsuits from my flat-abbed older sister. The swimsuit was orange, with a hazy painted sunset. The bottoms never quite fit right and would at times slip side-to-side, providing a locker-room visual if I didn’t quickly readjust. It had pilling all over the butt from sticking to the side of the pool, but I loved it.

The first time I put it on, I weighed 74 pounds. Orthopedic surgery to correct my uneven legs kept me out of the eighth grade and on heavy narcotics (an excellent weight loss plan). I remember limping into the bathroom to look at myself before going out into the yard, and sucking in my stomach. I could see every single rib, and quickly let out my breath to hide them again.

By 16, I had put on enough weight to go through puberty a second time. I went on a trip to Israel with a hundred other horny Jewish teenagers, and nearly sharted in astonishment when I heard that boys liked me. Up until that point, boys had primarily treated me as the unavoidable tumor on a group of pretty girls, providing me with creative elementary nicknames such as “pot-belly-socks” and “peg-leg.”

Suddenly, these hot underage Jews wanted to rest their heads on my stomach, and invite me for back stairwell “PCs” (private conversations). My weight was almost healthy, nearing the triple digits, but I was still reeling from the sudden weight gain. The constant attention made me feel safe enough to wear a bikini, whereas my best friend on the trip ate one-third of every shwarma and wore Soffe shorts three sizes too big. We were two peas in a pod.

At 19, twenty pounds and s-e-x brought on a horror of self-awareness I had never experienced before, even in a bikini. Fucking was like reading a graphic novel featuring a fatter, clumsier version of myself. Captions read SMACK, CLAP, and SQUISH, and every issue ended with the heroine crying in the shower.

Looking back, my entire life revolved around looking in the mirror and seeing my body for the first time, every time. My life was like a really shitty dubstep version of “Mirror Mirror On The Wall”. I lost all ability to see myself clearly, and began depending on compliments- my clues to what I really looked like.

I wish I could say it was the strength of girl-power that changed my feelings towards myself, but the truth is that it took falling in love to disrupt my body dysmorphia. My post-college boyfriend honored my body with zeal that bordered on worship, and over time I began to see parts of my body the way he saw them. He didn’t call my legs “long” or my body “thin”, but he treated my ass like the third member of our relationship. I trusted his opinion of my body when I couldn’t form my own.

Now single and in my mid-twenties, the funhouse mirror has mostly straightened out. I have a general understanding of what I look like, but sometimes I still study pictures of my body hungrily, searching for new clues. In those moments, I try to recall the confidence I felt with a man who praised my cellulite, and helped me stop fucking in the dark.

When it comes to swimsuit season – accepting my body and all that – I may not have the confidence to buy a thong bikini, but my hungry ass will always be looking for a snack.

Lena Kazer is a Chicago writer best known for her platform shoes and affinity for swearing. An avid over-sharer, you wouldn’t call her an open book so much as a never ending gag reel. Her composition is 75% whiskey and 25% gummy vitamins.

Check out her personal blog at

Nanny Diary

I have been a nanny (part-tme, full-time and live-in) for what will be six years next month.

I never planned on this happening.

After my contract was not renewed for a 9-5 office job back in 2009, I found myself on unemployment.

A friend needed help with her twin boys once a week and the rest was history.

I found jobs on various care taking websites. As a provider, the service is free. You can enhance it by paying for background checks, which I did when I had the extra money. I slowly built up references and was able to land jobs when others were ending.

The best part about nannying is hanging out with a baby all day. Not all babies, mind you. Some you just don’t connect with like others. Still, they have their moments and it’s rewarding and fun to be there for those.

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to become friends with the parents, or the very least, keep in touch once the job is done.

There are a lot of downsides to it too. The worst being the absolute instability of it all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told my services won’t be needed for days or even weeks because of vacations or grandparents in town.

Every day I don’t work, I don’t get paid. And while I understand the cost savings this has for the family, it hurts mine.

Not to mention, there is no guarantee I won’t be let go for any reason on any day, without notice. There is also a set amount of time you can work with one family full-time since eventually those babies turn into toddlers old enough for preschool.

There are no sick days and no paid benefits.

I’ve seen ads that ask for additional housekeeping and cooking all for the low, low wage of often times less than $10 an hour. I can’t help but think these people are hoping to come across undocumented workers or college students who don’t know any better (something tells me they do.)

I get that it’s cash under the table, but that works both ways. If you employ someone and do it above board, you’re responsible for their social security and medicare taxes.

I know that some people probably think I’m just an old babysitter. I suppose that’s sort of true. There is a lot of downtime, especially when you have a baby that sleeps a lot. For the families that aren’t looking for additional help around the house, I’ll often find myself behind my laptop or watching t.v. Yes, I get paid to do that. But that’s part of the job. My wages are based on my time and ability to keep a child alive and content, and ultimately, for someone else to go and make a living.

I’ve struggled with finding my worth. I go back and forth about wanting to make this some kind of career where I manage a household, run errands and act as some sort of Mary Poppins Executive Assistant. At least then I could charge $20 an hour and feel OK about it.

In some ways, I feel stuck. I’ve been doing this for so long now and the jobs keep coming even when I think I’m going to be out of work for longer than I want. I don’t gain any applicable skills as the years pass and my resume looks terrible.

Stranger still is leaving my own baby at home to look after another.

I’m not sure how much longer I can do this, but it’s also the only thing I’ve known for the last six years.


No Second City

But really, I miss you.

(Especially the food.)

  • Gin gimlet at The Matchbox
  • Sunrise omelet at Over Easy Cafe
  • Lox and bagel plate at Tweet
  • Karaoke at Alice’s
  • Back patio at The Longroom
  • Mussels and frites from Hopleaf
  • Cheap items from the Urban Outfitters outlet
  • Everything at Sunshine Cafe
  • People sitting by themselves with headphones and laptops at local coffee shops
  • Cemitas
  • Wholesale shopping at Wilson and Clark
  • Filipino breakfast at Uncle Mike’s
  • The Clown Combo from Pick Me Up Cafe
  • Margie’s sundaes
  • Dim sum
  • Korean barbecue
  • Watching Chicago sports at a bar, after work or during the day on the weekend
  • The Lake
  • The Paper Machete
  • $10 manicures
  • Sonia’s eyebrow threading
  • $16 haircut from Aveda Institute
  • The movie selection at The Landmark
  • Musubi and bbq beef from Aloha Eats
  • Chicken schwarma plate from Sultan’s Market
  • Pie from First Slice
  • The Italian from Bari
  • The special slice from Dante’s
  • The pretzel at Bangers & Lace
  • Biscuits and gravy from Taste of Heaven
  • #88 (with egg rolls) and #V154 from Tank Noodle
  • Simon’s Tavern
  • A good find from Crossroads
  • Cheap Thai food from Luc Thang (dining in because they always had a table)
  • The rooftop bar at The Fountainhead
  • Tacos with onion and cilantro
  • Chicken wing specials
  • Ridiculously cheap drinks/beer at GO Tavern
  • But having one fancy cocktail at Scofflaw first
  • Inerja
  • Indian buffet
  • Waffle fries at The Beetle
  • Pistachio Meyer Lemon donut from Do-Rite
  • Figuring out what was still open after 2 a.m.
  • BYOB

And last but not least, all of the friends who I would enjoy these things with.


The Reverse Commute

Seven years ago when I found myself unexpectedly camping out at my parents house, sleeping on a twin mattress in my brother’s old room, I made every effort to get into the city.

Nothing could stop me. Not a storm. Or a Cubs game. Or some other event that would surely back up the expressway. (Though back then I didn’t have GPS saying “No, seriously dude, it’s going to take an hour and fifty two minutes to get to your destination and you’ll be averaging nine miles an hour.)

I had a free place to stay in one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. I left my car parked there while I hopped on busses, trains or in cabs to get from bar to party to bar.

I was fresh out of a longterm relationship (re: dumped), lost a perfectly good job at Northwestern University and no longer had a home (one that I had spent the past three years building).

In other words, I was looking for a release and Chicago had everything I needed.

This is no longer the case. No, the distance from my parents’ house into the city hasn’t increased. I actually have my own car now, which I didn’t seven years ago. I still have close friends, some of whom I used to see on a weekly basis.

But I have a kid. This kid likes to sleep. Sometimes. This kid is getting his teeth. This kid needs to be entertained. He needs to eat. He needs a diaper. He needs.

I also pump all of his milk, which means I either have to get home to do this, or bring everything with me and do this at a certain time, either in my car or the nearest electric outlet. I also can’t spend money without thinking of that kid.

Forty five miles does not sound long. But with only one direct route into city limits, one in which rush hour traffic or a minor accident will cause travel times to double, it feels a lot further away.

Last week, after finally catching up with one of my nearest and dearest friends, I made the mistake of not keeping track of the time. Stuck on 90 in bumper to bumper traffic with a hysterical baby, two hours overdue on pumping (read: very painful boobs), I swore I wouldn’t do this again any time soon, at least not without considering these factors more carefully.

Yeah, it’s my fault for not planning better. I could have left earlier. I could have brought my pump with me. I could have drugged my baby for the ride home (JUST KIDDING, GEEZ). I could have not have taken him with me at all! (This is also a good time to mention that yes, I have free childcare from my parents, but I do my best not to take advantage of their time and energy.)

This is just one example of why my interest in venturing into the place I formally called home and loved with most of my heart is waning.

Yes, I had a great time a couple of weeks ago when I hung out with my former roommate and friend, eating the impossible to find in the suburbs Thai food, dancing with people who were born the year I started high school and ending the night at my favorite karaoke bar.

But my near empty wallet reminded me of how much I used to spend without thinking on meals out, Uber rides and rounds of shots.

The exhaustion (OK, hangover) from the night took two days to get over. And maybe that wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t need to clean, do laundry and keep this baby alive.

And no, those things in it of themselves are not difficult, especially when I have help and two of the three are things every person needs to take care of. But the last is an extra added thing that makes the difference.

I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. Yes, i ask a lot of my friends when I invite them out here. I’m not oblivious to the royal pain the ass it is to come into the suburbs. I know it’s not fun to have to account for three hours of total travel time (sometimes more!) To be totally honest, if you’ve made the trek out here one time, that is enough for me. I hope you know how much it means to me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to be there for your shows, your birthdays, your get togethers. I do. I really do.

Just not enough to put myself through the stress of what seems to be a simple thing, but is actually a very layered event in which the timing has to be perfected and is wholly unpredictable.

I hope you understand. I hope you know that my not being able to make it is not a reflection of how I feel about you.



Here’s a recording of our May 2015 (FIRST ANNIVERSARY) show. The theme was Mothers. Readers included Samantha Abernethy, Sonia Denis, Natasha Tsoutsouris, and Shanna Shrum.*

*Not all readers featured in the podcast.