"What is it about Mermaids?" Paul’s new girlfriend Nancy asked me last week. "Why do you call yourselves that?" She had heard Paul and I both refer to our group of girlfriends — soul sisters, really — as "the mermaids." I think I mumbled something about us identifying with the Mermaid archetype because we all live near the water and have a devotion to the Goddess as the Ocean Mother. (Some of us have even be known to jump into the frigid northwest waters!) I may have also said something about how mermaids are sensual, and in touch with their deepest feelings and dreams, and how they like to dive to the depths and bring treasure back up to the surface. How we don’t identify with the patriarchal-demonizing parts of some mermaid myths where they’re always luring sailors to their deaths. But we’re reclaiming the earlier myths, where the mermaid is at home both on land and in the sea, and changes shape when she needs to. As a siren, sometimes she flies too. I may have mentioned that I taught a "Mermaid Magic Retreat" on a neighboring island some years ago, and how we all went deep into mermaid lore — Julianne even wrote a song! — and ever since we have called ourselves the mermaids. Splash!
But yesterday I realized I had missed the main thing about mermaids. I was reading Sue Monk Kidd’s new novel, The Mermaid Chair (which is quite wonderful, by the way), and in it our heroine tells her husband: "Mermaids belong to themselves."
That’s what I should have said to Nancy. Mermaids belong to themselves.