Obviously people want to be mermaids, even if the government says they don't exist. They look like people but have glittery tails. Some of them were called Sirens and had the power to control men with their sexiness. They can breathe underwater. And they are probably related to/actually are manatees, the best animal on earth.
Despite the fact that it should be very clear to everyone that people want to be mermaids, the latest look at these people in the New York Times Magazine this weekend is a lovely reminder for those who have forgotten. Virginia Sole-Smith travels to Weeki Wachee, Florida, "the world’s only city of live mermaids," founded in 1947, where ladies (and a few men) dress up as mermaids and perform underwater. It's where Esther Williams filmed Neptune's Daughter, but as Sole-Smith explores, Weeki Wachee Springs is currently a Florida State Park, a weird fit for what's essentially a water park.
Image via Flickr/1950sUnlimited
Weeki Wachee has long been a subject of fascination, and despite being approached many times to do a reality show, the women who perform there say they've turned them all down, though they're considering an offer right now. In a way that everyone who likes something an awful lot can sound a little nutty, Barbara Wynns (described as the "park’s main volunteer and unofficial ambassador") talks about how protective the employees are of their community:
“Look, any time you have a group of young women all together, people are going to call them sluts, I don’t care whether you are mermaids or nurses. But these girls are in relationships, they have families — they just revere the fact that they get to be in a tail. I haven’t met a girl yet who is trying to use this as a sexual identity.”
To these women, holding onto their mer-ness seems to give them a combined sense of being powerful, sexy, and free. In a video interview, Wynns also talks about how many different types of women the Weeki Wachee Springs shows feature – "every shape and size, every reason to be a mermaid" – noting that what they all have in common is their love of the water. She says:
"When you go underwater, if you're a water person, then you're at home."
The Darling Mermaid Darlings would definitely agree.
The Last Mermaid Show [NYT]
Image via Flickr/Russ Glasson