Hey there, Bubblers.
As you all know, for some of us, the calling is deeply spiritual. (Stay tuned for Fun Fin Fact Friday this week.) Whether it’s Posiedon, Triton, Mami Wata, or Yemanja, there is something greater than ourselves that we connect to when we tap into our spiritual side. For Merman Jack, the calling is just that.
“Mers have always been incredibly important to me not just physically, but also mentally and spiritually. The Mer represent so many things, bridges between human and animal, conscious and unconscious, magick and science. The Goddess Yemaya/La Sirene/Mami Wata, is also a central part of my inspiration & spirituality.”
Born and raised in California, the land of perpetual golden sunshine, Jack of Dark Tide Productions has always been swimming. A young athlete as a human, if he was not at swim practice, he was swimming in his family’s pool. His connection with the water goes beyond your basic spiritual inklings, however, and becomes a metaphor for the dual natures and how to live one’s life.
“I love the duality the ocean represents. I love that it can be loving or cruel, warm or cold, clear or dark. I think many people don’t live truly balanced lives, doing themselves a disservice by not embracing all sides of themselves, “good” and “bad”. The ocean has no ego about those things and is always authentic.”
However, life was not always the bubbles for this man-fish. As a reflection of his own experiences, his message to others is very touching.
“I know it’s been said so many times by so many different people, but you really do have to be yourself and live your most authentic life. As someone who has dealt with bullying for being gay during my pre-college schooling, I know how challenging and even heart-wrenching this can be. Living your life honestly and proudly in all aspects isn’t easy, but nothing worth it ever is. Nothing is more rewarding than being happy and comfortable in your own skin.”
Truer words have never been said. It is very important to be happy in your skin, be it human, fish, or a hybrid of the two. Keep an eye out for this one. I’m certain he’ll be swimming for a long while to come.
“There is nothing a parent won’t do for a child.”
This saying holds true for the Merworld as well as the human world. Despite all our cultural differences, there are a few things that remain the same, among them being this: the bond of father and daughter should be strong and supportive. As a father, it is your job to instill in your daughter a sense of imagination and wonder, self-worth and confidence, happiness and health. Merman Christomer Starfish understands this to be true, so when his daughter began expressing interest in mermaids, he took the next logical step.
“When I saw her getting into mermaids and princesses, I decided to renew my SCUBA certification, and get back into freediving. I ordered a tail for her, and one for myself.” He presented it to her on her 7th birthday.
Christomer, currently the reigning Mer-King (crowned at MerPalooza in 2013), was only 19 years old, in human years, when he began his exploration into the freediving world. He said he didn’t use it. He remember that his favorite place was underwater, but specifically the when you dive in and look up. “When you look up, it’s that thin layer of calm right under the very surface. That’s my happy place in life.”
When he picked up SCUBA again earlier this year, he noticed the monofins. “It was only a short time before I found the tails. I figured it was my job to make her dreams come true.” Of course, Christomer joined his daughter in a Blue, Gold and White tail, putting his own special spin on it. Now, at 7 years old, Mermaid Casidy is doing parties and gigs with her father.
Christomer’s FinFolk tail color comes from the intersection between ocean and land, where the white foam atop the blue waves licks the golden sands, and makes the tranquil rushing sound featured on many “white noise” machines.
Christomer is a great father, but he is also a great community member. In September, after returning from Merpalooza, he decided that there needed to be another great gathering (conference, really) of the Mers. Unlike other Merfolk Conferences, this one really focuses on the aspects of building a career as a professional Mer.
“We have Raina the Halifax Mermaid coming to talk about how get started in the business, and John Jay to teach us how to increase our breath-hold time. On the last day, we all do a kids party. So we’re giving you all the building blocks for how to build your career.”
*I would also like to note: This is not a advertisement. It’s just a really good opportunity. If you plan on being a professional Mer, you simply must go to this convention. The information they are dispensing will be invaluable in figuring out a career.*
Designing, running, and essentially paying for a Merfolk Convention isn’t easy, nor is it cheap. But Christomer says that he doesn’t mind it. “I’m doing this for fun, but I’m really doing it to give everyone a chance to succeed. And to prove that there is room for everyone and no need to be competitive. At the end of the say, a mermaid can only do 3 parties on a Saturday. We’re better together as a family than we are separate.”
Christomer left me with a final message to all of his friends and fans. He tells them, as well as other Mers, to be original and tap into their creativity.
“Don’t let anyone tell you No. Be true to yourself. If you want to be a mermaid, be a mermaid. If you want to be a smurf, be a smurf. Be unique and be yourself.”
I’m sorry y’all for not having a transcript of our conversation, this was a phone interview. Tune in for a new interview next wednesday at 12 noon.
One of the joyous things about Mer society and Mermaid Lore, is that there are so many variations of tails. Tails are one of the most customizable pieces of our appearances. Throughout history, many mermaids and their tails have been painted, drawn, etched, sculpted, and otherwise artistically represented. Tails can be broken down into multiple categories, which I will attempt to do now.
The first distinction to be made: Fish, Aquatic Animal or Mammal. Fish-like tails are the most common ones represented, but mammals and aquatic animals are rare, but still featured in popular culture. Everyone’s famous drag-queen-esque villain Ursula the Sea Witch and her whiney, less competent sister with a huge complex Morgana (from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and The Little Mermaid 2: Return To The Sea) are prime examples of Aquatic Animal mermaids (Octo-mers, perhaps?)
As far as Mammalian mermaids, we have very few examples to go off of. We do however have Sea Princess Azuri, a short lived comic by Erica Leigh Currey, (nee Reis) about a betrothed Orcan (human/orca hybrid) Princess that falls in love with her childhood friend and bodyguard. We also have Sora, from Kingdom Hearts, who when in Atlantica (from The Little Mermaid) has a dolphin tail.
Then after you get through that decision, you have to decide: “Hybrid/Anthro or Classic”. The classic design is the most used; it is the design where there is a clear separation between the fish part and the human half. Usually the devision is a few inches below the waist (like Ariel from The Little Mermaid). Sea Princess Azuri, for example, is a fabulous example of an Anthro hybrid mermaid. Hybrid mermaids have no division between the fish and the human. They are blended all over. This is usually a more “monstrous” design. Put simply, if you want a pretty sunbathing siren, go with the Classic design, but if you want to create a monster mermaid, go with the Anthro design.
Next decision: internal workings. Do the bones inside resemble that of a snake, an extension of the spine which would allow them to bend and coil however they please at any of the vertebrae? Or Do they resemble our legs, with a knee bone and 2 thigh bones? Most classic paintings all over the world employ the snake-like design.
One of the noted exceptions is the Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen, which celebrated it’s 100 year anniversary this year in August. It is quite clear that this little mermaid is bending at the knee-bone area. However, her tail brings us to the next distinction between tails and tail types.
Proportions. These are super-important to me, as a performing Mer. A lot of art depicts mermaids with elongated tails with small flukes, or exorbitantly large fins. The children’s show H2O: Just Add Water (and it’s spinoff series Mako Mermaids) are a fine example of tails that aren’t entirely proportionate to the the human form. While it works for art and drawings, this type of thing can make swimming difficult. Which leads to the final, most vast difference with tail types.
Fluke style and shape. With Fish-like tails, we have millions of designs to chose from. Every fish in the ocean can serve as inspiration for fins and finshape. Most fit into one or more of 7 categories: Rounded, Pointed, Square/Truncated, Lunate, Forked, Indented, or Bi-fin.
Using the chart above, Zack’s tail is a mix between Lunate and Truncated/Square, with a hint of indented. Disney mermaids are Forked Bi-fins (possibly Pointed Bi-fins, this is definitely up for discussion)
Overall, Mermaids have been portrayed a thousand different ways over the course of these hundreds of years. Chances are, out there, there’s a design that fits you the best.
I was lucky enough to score an interview with this pretty handsome merman. Aren’t I just the luckiest fish in the sea?
His name is Merman Christian, he’s 290 years old, in Mer-years. He hails from somewhere just off the coast of Maryland, making him a part of the Chesapeake pod. I happen to know, though, that he is also an honorary member of the New England Pod (my home pod!) as well.
Like many Mers born around the same time, he has loved mermaids from an early age, since seeing The Little Mermaid, which came out in November 1989. He learned the dolphin kick, the most important swimming technique all merfolk need to know, in his grandparents pool. Flashing forward to nowadays, his human self works at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. He makes his own tails, which feature very gorgeous, very large flukes. When I asked him what inspired him to don a tail for the first time, he said:
“Well it started a few years ago when I happened to be on YouTube one day and I just randomly typed in the word ‘mermaid’, and many choices came up, but it was one specific video that caught my eye and it was one of Mermaid Melissa’s, swimming in the clear ocean in her new silicone tail. I immediately started searching online for other professional mermaids and tail-makers and that’s when I discovered that the whole mer-community existed.”
I also asked him about his tail collection. He currently has only one tail, but is working on adding more, including one that is top-secret. He cites SPLASH (1984 movie starring Darryl Hannah and Tom Hanks) and The Thirteenth Year (Disney, 1999) as an inspiration for his tails. He is working on one based on the Thirteenth Year at the moment.
His message to the world comes in three parts. To the Land People, he tells them to follow their dreams. “You are never too old to discover or re-discover your love for something. I had some very hard times in the past two years and I can honestly say that this passion that I’ve had since childhood got me through it.” He also reminds them to care for the ocean. “You may never think that by not recycling a simple plastic bag it would never reach the sea: but it DOES.”
For the Merfolk, he had this to say: “Always stay true to YOU. Don’t copy another Mers’ achievements. We all inspire each other, but make your character totally your own, something that you can look back and shout ‘SEE! I DID THAT! THAT WAS ALL ME!’ Be unique and don’t’ be afraid to push yourself to go further.”
This very unique Merman will be very busy this upcoming year. It is only November now, but he already has quite a few gigs planned.
“In December I will be in a Christmas parade with other Mers and scuba divers, January brings NCMerfest which I’m starting to be more heavily involved in, February I have a 3-day international event where I will be performing in a tank with my mermaid friend Lanai-the New York Mermaid, and then I jet off to L.A. for what maybe TWO photo shoots, one with a very well-known artist in the Mer-world, plus I have a new website, videos, and two new tails coming out and much more!” What a busy fish he is.
For his fans, he has ever more inspiring words:
“What I would love to say to my fans is that you guys are amazing and you all inspire ME, just as much as I hopefully inspire YOU! You all are my fishes and I hope that you’ll take what I do and teach and run with it to do amazing things in your lives. I never expected to receive such support and I hope you will continue to follow me onward as I help Protect the Ocean, and Protect the Future.”
That’s a great slogan. “Protect the Ocean, Protect the Future.” Reminds me like an aquatic version of, “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World.”
In any case, I know Merman Christian will be a crusader for the environment, and a true hero for the sea.
Until next time, Bubblers!~
XOXO, Mer-Prince JV