Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sticks And Stones: Growing Up A Mermaid

Children are so often capable of a certain type of cruelty. It's a viciousness tinged with that innocence. Like lion cubs teething, they begin the gnawing. The awkward swats at each other's noses with over-sized paws they have yet to grow into.
As humans, we act out in a similar nature to organize a strange kind of pecking order.
Needless to say, I was picked on when I had so carelessly mentioned...that I was a mermaid.

It was 1987 and I was in 5th grade.
I was about 10 years old, when I'd let this morsel of thought slip out loud.
Already deemed an "odd kid" buy a few narrow-minded adults, I had a sharp philosophical streak and a tendency to wax poetic about life as I saw it, and how I felt as a person on the inside.
Other kids my age just didn't 'get it' and thought I was just weird.
Yet I'd get into deep discussions with teachers on life and the universe, my theories on how humans came to be on earth and the possibility of life in other galaxies. Like I said; I was an odd kid with a very scientific yet spiritual point of view. I was never, nor have I ever been of the crystal shard-wearing, tree-hugging hippie type, but man I could get pretty deep at times. Most of the time adults would just chalk that up to the lack of mental filter kids tend to exhibit. As you know, they just say whatever is on their mind.

Walking through the wooded area of the school playground with friends one afternoon, the discussion turned toward fantasy creatures and what our favorites were. What did we wish we could actually turn into if we had the power?
"a unicorn!" Melanie exclaimed.
"Well, I'd be a unicorn Pegasus", Kate countered.
"Mermaid", I said quietly over their innocent bickering over which was better. They stopped with their mouths still open.
"Yeah, I *am* a mermaid, actually." I said with more confidence as I chuckled to myself. It was that cheeky yet knowing self awareness of what my spirit totem was in life (for lack of a better term). These girls wouldn't  have grasped this concept until adulthood. At least I can hope they might have at some point in life.

So they guffawed at me, poked and prodded me with questions and comments. Then the insults and name-calling began. I tried to tell them my admitting to 'being a mermaid' wasn't meant as something literal. In my mind, there was deeper spiritual meaning of calling myself a mermaid, yet I had the bad habit of thinking out loud.
I swam all the time then, was nearly born at sea when my mom's water broke on our sailboat.
I felt the pull of the ocean in my bones when I'd get too far from it (still do). Being out of the water for more than 48 hours without a swim somewhere, felt unnatural to me.
The other kids my age thought I was a freak for calling myself a mermaid so confidently. But the worst part was when they began to use it as an insult. As if it were a filthy word.
"Mermaid!" they'd snarl at me during recess, in the lunch line, on the bus and in class. It had become their alternate word for 'Liar'.
It was too much for me to bear, and the taunting followed me all the way through middle school.

Either due to the regular harassment, teachers or counselors trying to tell me to "take is as a compliment", or changing tastes as I became a teen, my love of all things mermaid had begun to wain a bit.
Yet my love of the ocean did not, and a few years ago I discovered something that made it all come back.
There, via the internet, an entire community of people living their lives as mermaids and merman. These 'Mers' operate at varying levels, of course. There are the hobbyists and the entertainers, some of which delve into oceanic conservation and have made major names for themselves as the face of the modern mermaid community. I've seen ages range from 15 to those in their 60s, so far.

So I begin my journey back to the mermaid I've hidden away, and this picture is my way of giving the middle finger to all those who ever told me I couldn't, that I was a freak, that I was a liar.
Well guess what? My Mahina Merfin just arrived, do I look like I'm doubting myself?
I didn't think so.

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