Last month, at low tide, a group of Mermaids visited me in my Somerville home. Now many people believe that Mermaids get around by swimming from ocean to ocean.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. They take the Massachusetts Turnpike just like everyone else.
Well I invited them in, and they sat around my living room table, bathing in my tamed lamp light. I was so happy that they had come. I kept looking at them and thinking, "What a beautiful sight." But I was also feeling a little bit guilty because I think I was a Mermaid once. Well, maybe.
Now many people believe that Mermaids have softly shimmering blue green tails. Wrong again. I saw no tails on these Sea Women, but nevertheless, they were all strong swimmers who had been pulled down to the bottom, and who had made it back up to the surface.
As I brewed them their tea, they began to comb through their long, tangled anger, trying to smooth it back to the roots where the truth lay. Their eyes sparkled darkly as they told me what the world kept trying to turn Mermaids into.
"But we won't!" they said. "We don't want to be mere maids. We want to be MERMAIDS!"
"Why, you are," I said, surprised by their attitudes. "You guys are totally Mermaids. Unlike myself, the backslider."
Now it was their turn to be surprised. "What do you mean, Raelinda," said one. "If anyone here can call herself a Mermaid, it's you. Because it certainly isn't me."
And then another one added, "Or me."
And then, one by one, each remaining visitor confessed her fear that she, and she alone, did not have the strength to remain a Mermaid.
Well, we all looked at each other. A circle of women. A circle of every kind of respect, except self respect.
Why is it so easy to believe in our friends, and yet so hard to believe in ourselves?
In frustration, I jumped up and almost shouted, "If you amazing women could only see yourselves the way I do; it would be a waste of vision, because you probably wouldn't even recognize yourselves!"
Then I sat back down again, embarrassed. I was just as guilty as they were. Even when I was swimming, I could never quite get rid of the secret fear that I might be really drowning. So who was I to talk?
And then one of the Mermaids turned to me and said, "Waitaminute. If you really think that I'm so amazing, and I say that you are extraordinary...well, then it must be true because I said it and, as you just said, I'm amazing."
"Hold on there," I said. "In other words, if I were to point out that you were incredible...well, it must be a fact because I said it and I am, as you just now mentioned, extraordinary."
I jumped back up. "Break out the Ben & Jerry's ice cream!" I cried. "This is cause for celebration!"
And then, over huge bowls of Chunky Monkey, Fudge Swirl, and Heath Bar Crunch, we pooled our belief in each other's strength and turned ourselves back into Mermaids.
And then we went our separate ways, to the the 4 corners of the 7 worlds, via the Massachusetts Turnpike.
And to this day, we have remained Mermaids. That is to say, strong women who aren't afraid to swim against the heavy tides of our tribe. And who, once a month, have even been know to tug back at the moon.