Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Little Merman

Ever since Lulu and I saw the movie "Aquamarine''--in which two pubescent girls sublimated all their sexual feelings via an adopted mermaid, who dates the hunky lifeguard on whom they have a massive and humiliating crush--Lulu has been obssesed with mermaids.
And why shouldn't she be? Mermaids are the grooviest of all girl fantasy creatures, far more exciting and complex than fairies or princesses, and when I was little I was obssessed with them, too. I had an imaginary friend named Tina the Mermaid who took baths with me. She had long red hair and a golden tail.
Lulu's mermaids have blonde hair and blue tails. Over the winter, she kept drawing pictures of them, including "before'' pictures of girls with legs and "after'' pictures of girls with tails.
I wondered what it was about mermaids that made them such enduring mythological figures. And then it occurred to me that that this never happened with merMEN!
No one cared about them--not only because they never starred in any Hans Christen Anderson stories or Disney movies---but because, when you think about it, they're slightly creepy.
When I did an image search on mermen, I realized why. Having a tail made them look look hippy, like blowsy starlets. Even illustrators who tried to avoid this by narrowing their hips and bulking up their chests ended up with something that resembled Fabio with a tail.
The mermaid images, on the other hand, were sexy. Their tales made them seem womanly, even kinky. Up top they were naked, and below the waist was a big long vagina symbol, but there wasn't an actual vagina there. Just smooth and glittery fish scales. They could swim, but they couldn't run. They were at home in one element only, and otherwise, they were completely vulnerable. Even in the ocean, all you needed was a net to capture them.
In theory, mermen should be sexy, too. They're sensitive, in touch with nature, they have beautiful upper torsos. But for men, having a tale instead of legs---not to mention a penis--is not a good thing. They just look like shark bait.
I discussed this with Lulu as I showed her the merman images. She agreed that there was nothing very attractive about them.
"Why don't you draw a merman?'' I asked. "Maybe you could make one that looks good.''
"No,'' she said. "I want to draw mermaids.''
Even after I offered to pay her 50 cents to draw a merman, she refused and continued drawing mermaids with flowing wavy hair and seashells over their breasts, frolicking in the sea.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


The lady across the street died. Regina was a reclusive diabetic woman who'd been ill for awhile. But two years ago, she started dialysis and lost weight.
She got her dilapidated house fixed up and painted. She started walking around with a cane. She'd come over and give us tomatos and preserves and tell us how her dad worked for Thomas Edison when he was in his teens.
When Lulu started selling Girl Scout cookies two years ago, we went to her house, and she was so happy since no other Girl Scouts or Brownies had bothered to stop. She bought 35 boxes and claimed they were for other people.
Last year, she bought about 20 boxes. I guess since she was diabetic, we shouldn't have gone over there, since I think she ate most of the other cookies herself, but not going would have been seemed worse.
Anyway, her health declined (I like to think it wasn't because of the Girl Scout cookies). She got cataracts and couldn't drive to dialysis anymore and asked us if we could take her. We knew she must be bad off to call since she didn't like to seem dependent on people.
Regis drove her once. She died a week later of congestive heart failure.
After her death, there was this limbo period when Regina was gone, but her life looked like it was finishing up without her. Two days after she died, I saw full garbage cans waiting at the curb. Her friend John, who looked in on her every week, must have taken out her trash.
The next day, someone came to take away her cat, Abby. It was an Abyssinian and she would let it out sometimes on a leash so it didn't get too far. When I walked by with the kids, they liked to stop and ask her about it.
Before she died, Regina arranged for the woman who let her adopt the cat to keep it. After she pulled up to the house, John, came out with a cat carrier, the cat mewling forlornly inside. He called, "Take care of her. She meant a lot to Regina!'' And the woman answered, "Don't worry! I will!''
She put the cat in the backseat and you could still hear it crying as she drove away.
It reminded me of when Regis's Aunt Rue died. A few days after we found out, we got a Christmas card from her. She died in her sleep in a nursing home and I imagined the a pile of cards at the foot of her bed, blank and waiting to be filled out, or sealed in envelopes, waiting to be mailed.