"I want to be Ariel when I grow up", - says every second girl after watching Disney's The Little Mermaid. But among us there are those who took this idea seriously, and combine the life of a sea maiden with quite ordinary earthly activities. We decided to figure out what mermading is, why adults buy iridescent tails for themselves, how modern mermaids relate to Ariel and what it's like to be a sea maiden in the 21st century.
From Fijian Maid to Disney
It's hard to track down exactly when the mermaid subculture was born, but in the past few years it has clearly been on the rise: visual social media like Instagram come in handy - the iridescent tail and pearl crown are clearly more spectacular than regular vacation photos. Although silicone tails and nautical photo shoots have recently become popular, mermaids have captured the public's imagination even before the Instagram era. In the middle of the 19th century, skeletons of Fijian maidens were a hit of traveling exhibitions: enterprising people like Phineas Barnum churned out outlandish creatures, sewing the torso and head of a monkey to a fish's tail. There have always been many mermaids in the art of mermaids: bursts of artistic interest in the mysterious ocean maidens were observed in the 17th century, when the baroque style with nautical motifs came into fashion, and then - images of mermaids became popular in the Art Nouveau era.
Nevertheless, mermaid as it is now appeared in the early 1990s: in 1984, the romantic-fantastic film Splash about the love of a man and a mermaid was released, and in 1989 - Disney's The Little Mermaid, which fascinated girls all over the world. … “When I was four, my mother showed me an old cartoon“Princess of the Underwater Kingdom,”says designer Ekaterina Belyaeva from St. Petersburg. - I was very impressed by the heroine … Then, like many others, Andersen's fairy tale and Disney's The Little Mermaid cartoon influenced me. I could not forget the song of Ariel and combed her hair with a fork, as she did. " Apparently, the girls who grew up on this cartoon in the 1990s represent the backbone of the mermaid community: it was in the 2000s that a huge number of blogs and photographs in the mermaid theme appeared, and in the 2010s a real mermaid boom began.
The mermaid community partially overlaps with cosplayers, but generally stands apart: "real mermaids" (as they call themselves) delve into the marine theme, study mythology and create their own "mersona" - a character with whom they are associated, transforming into a fantastic creature. The fascination with mermaids often begins with pop culture: in addition to the Disney cartoon and Splash, mermaids are inspired by the films Ondine, My Mom is a Mermaid and other marine classics, and some fondly recall the Australian teenage series H2O: Just Add Water … The largest mermaid community is English: the Mernetwork forum, despite its conservative design and competition with social networks, is updated daily, and there are a lot of blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels about the life of mermaids. Mermading differs from other communities of fantasy lovers in its gender connotation: although more and more mermen and mermaids appear on Instagram and at thematic events, the overwhelming majority of mermaids are still women.
Tails and crowns
“I graduated from college as an artist-restorer, and I work as a tanner - I deal with bags, belts, harnesses. As a side job for the mermaid theme, I make tails, gills, membranes,”says Diana, known in the Russian-speaking community under the pseudonym Callisto or Kai. Diana makes custom-made tails made of silicone, which look very realistic: Kai herself made a tail "like a pike", as she feels an internal and external relationship with this predatory fish.Tails can be made of different materials, from thin fabric to dense silicone, and you can sew a sports monofin inside - you can swim faster in it and use oxygen more economically, which means you can stay under water longer. “Freedivers' suits are boring, of the same type, but I always wanted to do something unusual, and I started to think of a monofin for a mermaid's tail. I would like to come up with something else with scuba diving, so that the cylinder does not hang on the back, but is hidden somewhere, "says Kai. She handcrafts each scale to make the tail look natural.
Much like cosplay, mermading is largely DIY: many mermaids make their own jewelry, pearl crowns or seashell bras. The main attribute for most mermaids is the tail: very cheap models can be found on Aliexpress, but real mermaids choose silicone, neoprene or fabric products from private craftsmen or well-known brands. Fin Fun, Magic Tail, MerTailor and others are known on the western market, but Russia also has its own mermaid brands: for example, Happy Ocean, a company of Belgorod businessman Dmitry Kovalenko, which offers mermaid costumes (mainly for children). Fabric ponytails can be purchased for several thousand rubles, but more realistic and complex silicone tails can cost several thousand dollars. In any case, you need to learn how to handle the tail: for this you can go to regular courses in swimming with a monofin or to special schools for mermaids - there are such in Moscow and Yaroslavl.
Although the Disney mermaid is the most popular reference for beginners, Ariel is far from the standard of beauty among mermaids. “I was fond of mythology, especially elves, there were also lamias, and then I spread to mermaids. The final chord was the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The images of mermaids from there seem to me the most interesting and believable, and I hate Ariel. It seems to me that this story was distorted for children: if you delve into mythology, such a plot is impossible,”says Kai.
Work for a mermaid
The first professional mermaid was Australian swimmer, actress, writer and natural-born rebel Annette Kellerman: as a child, her parents signed her into the pool to heal her legs, and by 17 Kellerman had already won swimming competitions and surprised the audience by diving with the fish in the Melbourne Aquarium. She refused to wear pantaloons, in which women were then supposed to swim, and was once arrested for visiting the beach in an "indecent" one-piece swimsuit, and also became one of the first actresses in history to appear naked in the frame. Around that time, the term mermading appeared - then the so-called "water ballet", more reminiscent of synchronized swimming.
After the "water ballet" Kellerman began to conquer Hollywood - in the 1910-1920s she starred in several high-profile Hollywood films about mermaids, undines and sea princesses. The Australian star launched a swimwear brand, designed her own performance costumes and, of course, performed all the dives herself on set, including splashing around in a pool teeming with crocodiles. The golden tail that Kellerman swam in in the 1911 film The Mermaid can be considered the progenitor of modern mermaid costume. They even made a biopic about Kellerman: in 1952, another famous swimmer and aquamusical actress Esther Williams played her in the film “A Million Dollars for a Mermaid”. In Williams' career, there were many injuries: from torn eardrums due to pressure drops to a broken neck during the filming of the film.
Today, there are also professional mermaids: usually athletes and certified freedivers who have been swimming for many years.In Russia, mermaid shows are not as popular as in the USA and Asia, but there are, for example, mermaid performances with or without divers in the Moskvarium at VDNKh. Russian mermaids often work under contract in aquariums in China or Korea: girls show complex choreographic performances underwater or simply swim beautifully in an aquarium with fish, wagging their tails - in any case, mermaids need to be able to hold their breath for a long time and have good physical fitness. In general, even becoming a mermaid in a water park is not so easy: a beginner sea maiden should at least invest in a good suit, learn how to move beautifully in the water and how to pump up her core muscles - as the experienced American mermaid Aisun says, even sit on a stone and slap her tail in the water for beginners heavy. A great competitive advantage will be a well-developed merson, that is, a mermaid personality, for example, Aisun appears to be "a mermaid from the depths of the Black Sea who speaks with a Russian accent and eats children."
Among those who are fond of mermading, there are often professions related to water, for example, a lifeguard in a pool or an animator at children's parties in a water park, but most mermaids have quite mundane jobs that allow them to earn an expensive hobby.
Lifestyle and girlfriends
Many do not have the opportunity to cut the ocean surf with their tail every day, but this does not prevent them from feeling like mermaids in everyday life. “I like to somehow reflect the mermaid in my style, but without fanaticism, for example, I am happy to wear marine jewelry. I also grow my hair, try not to cut it straight and maintain a "natural look", because mermaids do not cut their hair. In everyday life, I do not emphasize this, but on the beach I have a full blast,”says Kai. “I almost always dress in water colors, adore turquoise and blue, according to my mood I decorate myself with beautiful earrings, rings made of pearls, shells, listen to music with sounds of nature and water, read literature about mermaids, watch films with mermaids, paint pictures with them and I lead my group, which I created more than ten years ago,”says Dasha Baryshnikova, the creator of the“Mermaids and everything connected with them”group. Her room is also themed - it is decorated in a nautical style.
Among Western mermaids, the merpunk style is popular - "fairy punk", which is associated with candy-colored hair, items of clothing that imitate scales, and marine-themed jewelry. Mermaid paraphernalia is literally everywhere today - whether it be funny makeup brushes or a plaid in the form of a tail, in which you can feel like a sea princess without getting up from the couch. Although the connection with the water element and nature in general is important for mermaids (there are many eco-activists among them), the main thing, as the creators of the Mermaid Box subscription say, is to be a mermaid at heart.
“I think that the transformation into a little mermaid is very useful. It expands consciousness, trains the body, calms the nerves, and gives peace of mind. If you are stuck in a routine, then you should definitely try scuba diving, not even necessarily in the form of a little mermaid,”advises the mermaid Alice. She started swimming with a mermaid tail after seeing an impressive photo of an Australian athlete swimming next to a whale. “And so I, a man who spent ten hours at work, and then at home with my family, decided that I wanted to grow scales,” laughs Alice. “Putting on a tail and just playing is an extraordinary transformative experience,” says mermaid activist Emily Wright. "In adulthood, we don't have many opportunities to just play or just be." In addition to the benefits of mermaid for the psyche, Wright notes the positive influence of the community: communication with like-minded tailed people helps to cope with anxiety and other psychological problems, and the body-positive spirit of the community makes it friendly for everyone - both for thin models and for those with "mermaid hips" …
Photos: Wikimedia Commons, VK