Such behavior may not help the cause of marine conservation. I don’t think many people are going take faux mermaids seriously, but their heart is in the right place. Besides, they’re having fun. Fun is underrated as a worthy pursuit for human beings. Our corporate overlords have convinced us that work is our identity. Throw off the shackles! Find yourself in fun! Put on a fish tail and wriggle through Puget Sound!
Years ago, when I lived in Boston, I got to know a few people who fancied themselves vampires. They mostly worked in bars and rarely came out in the daytime. Some had their canine teeth filed to points. They were pale and listened to Goth. Rumors were they drank each other’s blood during sex.
I think about them sometimes, their affectations of depression and darkness. Kids trying to find their way, find somewhere to belong, some way to escape the banality of life.
When I was in college there was a popular game called Assassin. If you signed up to play you would be given a file on a stranger whom you had to hunt down and “kill.” Another stranger would likewise receive your dossier. It was all in good fun until some players sank too deep, victims of their own pain and loneliness. They terrified their game targets.
Obviously, given the above, fun isn’t the only reason people might slip into a new identity. I could relate to the people who sank too far into the fantasy. My early college days were difficult. I was crippled by self-consciousness, a country bumpkin thrust into a world of sophisticates. A working-class girl surrounded by people who grew up in Manhattan, secure in the belief that they would be doctors or lawyers or titans of industry like their parents. After a few humiliating attempts to fit in, I found my tribe. We smoked a lot of pot and played Risk (the board game of world domination) to the point of obsession. We discussed philosophy and rejected the world’s coating of bullshit. But I only got to enjoy my lovely misfits for one semester. One friend got hauled off in a straightjacket, his schizophrenia revealing itself at the age of nineteen. Another got booted from school for non-payment. Another flunked out. Yet another had to leave because he couldn’t cobble the money together for another year. The fabulous weirdos who saved me. I wonder if they knew.
Now in my 50s, I worry less about belonging, though I’ve retained my low tolerance for bullshit. Still, who doesn’t want to find their tribe? The Seattle mermaids got me thinking. What kind of society would I join or create? Modern day druids? A resurrection of the Knights Templar? (I dig their chain mail, not their faith.) A cult of people devoted to learning the secret language of trees?
Of course, it occurs to me I’ve already joined a type of cult. Pulp-fiction writers! I write to escape the banality of life, to dodge my responsibilities for a little while. I wish I’d come to it sooner. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time trying on all those other costumes.
How about you? What kind of strange community would you like to kick into existence?
May you find your tribe.