The first time I swam underwater all by myself, I was at the end of a pier on seventh street beach in Crystal Lake in Frankfort, Michigan. I was swimming with a slightly older blonde-haired boy. I have no idea who he was. I think I was five-years-old. I told him I could swim underwater. He told me I couldn't. I said, "yes, I can." I didn't really know I could but my dad had been trying to teach me to swim since I was born so I thought I probably could if I tried hard enough. He said he dared me to do it. So I did. I just went under the water and I held my breath and I kept my eyes wide open and I loved that feeling. I loved that feeling more than any feeling since (before today).
A few years ago, while we were out at a restaurant for my birthday, I caught my daughter Lucy shutting her eyes really tight and holding her breath and I said, "Lu, what on earth are you doing?" and she said, "I'm trying to become a Mermaid." We had just been talking about Mermaids and whether they are real or not. I have a poet's sense of what's "real" and what's "not real" so, though I'm sure many parents would disagree with this tactic, I don't really tell my kids that anything isn't real. If she wants to believe Mermaids are real, I'm going to let her because her understanding of the words "real" and "reality" will change multiple times as she matures and within certain definitions of those words (yes, perhaps the more metaphorical), Mermaids are real.
That same night that Lucy tried to turn herself into a Mermaid, I began researching mermaid tails. We had seen a girl on Frankfort Beach just the summer before in one so we knew someone, somewhere was making them and selling them and that you could actually swim in them. This research lead us to finfunmermaid.com which we are ridiculously huge fans of now. Lucy got her first mermaid tail last February, for her sixth birthday. I got mine for my Rebirth, at 40.
Is it absurd for a 40-year-old woman to dress and swim as a Mermaid? -- ooooh, you betcha! Ridiculous as all get out! Silly! Crazy! Frivolous! Maybe even a fair amount of Stupid. Now, ask me if I care... please... please, ask me.
Several years ago, a former student of mine posted something on Facebook about having sex with a Mermaid. He was expressing annoyance at how difficult it would be to have sex with a Mermaid. I was viscerally disturbed, even outraged, by this comment. He didn't mean it to be upsetting and I knew it at the time. I knew my reaction was weird
and difficult to explain and coming from some extremely personal place. I knew then, very suddenly, that my strong affinity for Mermaids had to do with how protected and strong and impossible to penetrate they seem. I knew that I loved Mermaids, in part, because they offered me a model of survival. Mermaids are not victims. They are fearless and fierce and cunning and wise and completely capable. They also have no idea what the word shame means.
When a little girl or a grown woman or any woman-child in between those two stages is victimized, the main lesson they are taught is shame. Be ashamed of your body. Be ashamed of your desire. Be ashamed of who you are. Be ashamed of what you are. Be ashamed of what you think. Be ashamed of what you know. And when you are taught that much shame, it is impossible to love or trust yourself and if you can't love or trust yourself, you can't love or trust anyone else. And that, my friends, is hell on earth. No love and no trust. Hell. On. Earth.
Oh, how I wish I could jump back in time and give that little five-year-old me a big hug and tell her that someday, everything would really -- REALLY -- be okay -- and that, mostly it would be okay because I would come to a place where okay didn't have to be happening outside of me for okay to be happening inside of me. I just had an abdominal hysterectomy, people! And during my recovery (but unrelated to it), things got fairly rough on the home front. Things have not been "okay" on the outside of me but, on the inside, it turns out, I'm just dandy... because... I am a REAL Mermaid.
Continue, dear dear friends and readers, to cook and eat and swim and salute the sun and rebirth yourselves shamelessly and with love, please...