Disney’s The Little Mermaid came out shortly after my fourth birthday. I absolutely loved it - the Mermaid concept, not necessarily the story line. It was right about this time that my future step-mother entered our lives.
When she began dating my father, she did that odd thing that so many women do: They bring furnishing items over to “domesticate” the man’s home or stake out their territory, or whatever it is that they’re doing. One of the first items that began to creep into our apartment was a set of plush, emerald green towels. Our own bath sets seemed to run the line of threadbare beach towels, so when I entered the bathroom for a bath and saw the gorgeous fluffy towels, my four-year-old mind grew inspired. I dashed back to my bedroom for my swim suit and clambered into the bathtub with one of the plush green towels wrapped around my legs. I moved my legs around in my new “fins,” completely lost in that powerful world of imagination that so begins to elude us as we grow up. (Or is it stomped out of us by intolerant adults?) The woman heard the splashing and came in to check on me. She saw her soaked towel and began screaming and hollering – startling me mightily. I had never had an adult rage at me before, much less a stranger. It was actually the first time she put her hands on me, grabbing me roughly around the forearm and jerking me out of the bathtub, screaming about her wet towel. My dad came in to see what the ruckus was and I don’t really remember what happened after that. This became a reoccurring theme after she married my father. That was my first Mermaid play. As an adult I have revisited that imaginative play and I’m happy to say, it’s a much better experience! It’s healing, both mentally and physically.
As of today, I’ve logged ten hours in the tail. It’s incredible exercise – I’m seeing muscle definition on both my belly and my arms and I FEEL good. When you swim like a mermaid, you lead with your shoulders and your body undulates on a series of arcs. I have a lot of body imbalances from spending so much time under horses working on their hooves, and these imbalances show up in the saddle. I find myself riding crooked. After about seven hours in the tail I rode my horse and noticed a huge difference! Even my chiropractor noticed, and I cheerfully admitted my new sport was supporting positive changes. When you are Mermaiding you are forced to use both sides of your body equally. If you don’t, you start fishtailing – no pun intended! It’s a lot of work, but so far I can swim on my side the length of the pool, swim across the pool floor on one breath in thirty seconds, spin, do somersaults and do a handstand in the five-foot deep with my tail out of the water. Right after my tenth hour in the tail, the Aquatics Director at the pool offered me a job in the future, if I pursue the schooling. To become an internationally certified mermaid instructor, I have to complete levels 1, 2 and 3 of the International Mermaid Swimming Instructors Association (IMSIA). I also have to become at least a level one certified Free Diver and get my CPR and First Aid certification. Since I’ve cut down on the number of horses I trim (because it’s damaging my body) and increasing the number of hours I spend in the tail (because it’s healing my body), this might be a viable work option for me in the future, should I choose to pursue it. Imagine that! I am.
The memory of the towel fins hit me today, and it occurred to me how the act of Mermaiding is also mentally liberating from the punishment for imagination that I grew up with. Just like writing the book series (much of which is about Mermaids) it’s both a physical and mental exercise – and a celebration.