At first, I thought I'd simply plummet to the bottom of the pool will all that weight on me, like the unlucky on "The Sopranos." And it's more than a bit daunting - at my age - to play a mermaid, especially on TV.
But fairly quickly, and in the interest of self-preservation, I started flapping, and then gliding across the water. Somehow, although I was surely floundering, I felt graceful, and peaceful.
I have to admit when I first got the assignment to cover young girls in mermaid tails in Vancouver, I rolled my eyes. It just seemed weird. But quickly I saw their enthusiasm and I got caught up in the fun of it.
Monika Naumann, a warm and clearly creative mom, created the mermaid fins for her daughters, hard-core mermaid fans. They had tried to make their own out of pantyhose and flippers, and she decided to intervene.
The girls use them all summer in local pools, and even take them on vacations. They love the special feeling it gives them, and it was adorable to see how mesmerizing they were to the little kids in the pool that day.
As Monika's daughters said, there's something magical about donning that tail and actually propelling yourself around.
And it has to be quite good exercise. The tail is heavy. Two scuba fins are screwed onto a hefty piece of plastic glass. After swimming two or three lengths across the pool, I had to stop and rest.
My 7-year-old daughter, Della, however, splashed and undulated away for a full hour. And, although a hard-core tomboy, she adored the tail. She asked whether the tails come in black. (The answer is yes.)
Monika jokes that her daughters have a duty to be "good, friendly mermaids" for the little folk who gather around them. She is doing a brisk business now; hard to believe she sells the tails all around the world. And full-blown adults love them. Lori Pappajohn, a reporter in Vancouver who is an avid swimmer, says she takes her tail everyplace. In Hawaii recently, she and a friend got a kick out of terrifying a few scuba divers.
I haven't read the fairy tale in a long time, but didn't Hans Christian Andersen give his Little Mermaid some very dark choices? I seem to remember that following her heart and losing her tail meant a life of feeling glass under her feet with every step. These tails offer transformation without the pain. Think of it this way. It's a costume, and so much more.
How many costumes, after all, offer a chance to really walk the walk, or swim the swim, even temporarily?
I could see Della wanting a mermaid tail to hit the pools with. Will she become a full-fledged mermaider? I'm not sure.
I don't think I'll order one for myself anytime soon, but it was a genuine treat to feel, for a few minutes, once I got over the embarrassment factor, like one of those mystical creatures of the deep.
- Arts & Entertainment