With 1,350 miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that the…
By Sarah Miller (guest contributor)
Many of us grew up with Disney’s The Little Mermaid lyrics bubbling around in our heads and yearning of being part of Ariel’s world when we grew up.
But now, over thirty years after The Little Mermaid was in theaters, mermaid culture has infiltrated everyday life. From shy admissions in our teens and twenties about how we still want to be mermaids when we grow up, to decorating our bathrooms or even whole houses in mermaid decor, mermaids have grown more and more in popularity with every year. And now, who knew back then that in 2017, growing up to become a mermaid is a real option?
I remember visiting Florida’s own Weeki Wachee Springs in Weeki Wachee, Florida with my family when I was about six years old and gazing with enchantment and admiration at the mermaid performers as they practically danced underwater as though it were second nature. I was enraptured when I met a Weeki Wachee mermaid in real life. From her flowing hair to her sparkly teal tail, I was in awe, and of course, I wanted even more to grow up to be a mermaid.
Weeki Wachee Springs, which was opened in 1947 by a former U.S. Navy Frogmen trainer (the predecessor to what is now known as Navy SEALS), turned a natural underwater springs into a popular attraction throughout the decades. A theater was built into the springs and beautiful girls performed underwater shows while breathing through air tubes.
In addition to Weeki Wachee Springs, movies like Miranda and its sequel Mad About Men in the 1940s, as well as Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid which was filmed at Weeki Wachee Springs in the 1950s, captured the allure of mermaids in people’s hearts.
But, when Disney’s The Little Mermaid – an adaption of Hans Christian Anderson’s story by the same title – was released in 1986, mermaid culture infiltrated a new generation in a whole new way. There were Ariel dolls that sang, bobbing Ariel toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals, and a Tiger handheld electronic The Little Mermaid game (you know you had or wanted it). Our generation crooned “I wanna be where the people are” to a worn out cassette tape of the The Little Mermaid soundtrack. We doodled mermaids over and over again every chance we got, practicing to get the curves in their tails just right. We clutched our mermaid dolls tightly dreaming about one day being part of their world.
As a six year old I even taught myself to swim with my legs together, the dolphin kick as it’s technically known, but I really just wanted to swim like Ariel. I watched Splash over and over again, totally envious of Darryl Hannah’s long wavy hair but mainly her gorgeous coral colored mermaid tail.
As our generation became older, our mermaid obsession became quietly suppressed behind layers of pretense of fitting in with the cool kids in middle and high school.
Then one day I was chatting with a new friend on her beautiful lanai overlooking a gorgeous beach on Oahu, Hawaii, where my husband was stationed. I glanced over while chatting with her and happened to notice a mermaid tail slung casually over a porch chair. (As casual as a sequined mermaid tail can possibly look anyway.)
I became giddy. “Is that a mermaid tail?” I asked quickly, my eyes lighting up with excitement. “Yep! That’s my tail,” Kari replied. Kari, who I would later come to know as Mermaid Kariel, was just beginning her professional career as a mermaid. Seriously!
Through Mermaid Kariel I learned so much about being yourself, and not being afraid to be who you are. Kari always dreamed of becoming a mermaid when she grew up and didn’t try to hide away those fears of embarrassment. She believed she could, so she did. Kari, aka Mermaid Kariel, in more recent years has amassed a huge online following, her Facebook page alone garnishing over 310,000 followers. Mermaid Kariel has also gone into her own tail-making business after having perfected hand making her couture silicone and sequin tails over years of practice, as well as written and illustrated her own children’s book about believing in your dreams and talents, entitled The Brave Mermaid.
Professional mermaids like Mermaid Kariel and Florida’s own Weeki Wachee Mermaids have broken through the current to allow everyday individuals their chances to realize their mermaid dreams too.
Nowadays you can have mermaid hair with a spectrum of vivid colors while drinking your Mermaid Frappucino and lounging on a giant blow up clam shell in a scalloped tile pool with a mermaid tail of your very own! There are swimmable mermaid tails for little girls available that start around $45 and professional couture, custom made mermaid tails by artists like Mermaid Kariel which start around $4,000.
But there’s so much more to being a mermaid than just mermaid hair and a tail, according to Florida’s own professional mermaid Beth Sullivan, aka Mermaid Coral Beth.
Beth, who is based out of Jacksonville but travels around the world on Mermaid Kariel’s team says, “Being a mermaid is more than just dreamy and magical… it’s about a unique passion and personal creative freedom. I love and appreciative the unique designs and colors of every mermaid’s tail; as well as the exquisite details of couture art put into every inch of the designs. But, it’s even more than the beautiful fashion of each tail, and even more than the mystery of underwater mythical elegance mermaids seem to bring; it’s a true heart-beating passion for the sea’s life, and bringing that love and the ocean’s message to the surface for everyone to enjoy, to understand, & to share.”
There is even a huge convention of mermaids that takes place each year in North Carolina called Mer-Mania. At Mer-Mania, mermaids from all over the world gather to show off their tails and talk about what being a mermaid really means to them. Some are professional mermaids and some just always dreamed of feeling free to explore their childhood dreams.
One thing that really seems to be a common tie with professional mermaids is that they all dreamed of being mermaids since they were children. And they were brave or fought hard enough to pursue upon those dreams.
I may not have my own professional mermaid tail (does a mermaid tail blanket count?) but I do think there’s a powerful message here that mermaids can teach us about ourselves on National Mermaid Day. And that’s this: Don’t be afraid to believe in your childhood dreams because they might actually come true. Basically, always be yourself (and be true to yourself), unless you can be a mermaid. Then always be a mermaid. Especially if that’s what you really dream of being.
About our guest contributor:
Sarah is a nerdy bibliophile who loves anything and everything in the color mint, and still dreams of having her own mint and turquoise mermaid tail one day. Until then she shamelessly decorates herself and her home in mint, mermaids, flamingos, and pineapples, and documents it all via her Instagram account, @livelovecolorfully.
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