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Suburban Island

Mermaid Sightings
Friday, Apr. 23, 2004, 7:06 p.m.

QUESTION: Are you a mermaid?

WHAT I LEARNED: You never know for whom or what you might be mistaken.

Nobody has every confused me with a mermaid. However, I know someone who has been mistaken for one. I’m very jealous.

My sister-in-law is actually the lucky mermaid. She was on vacation in the Bahamas. It seems she was minding her own business, lounging in a chair at the edge of the ocean when the question came out of the blue.

Do you live here?

This question was the inquiry of a small boy dressed in water wings coming out of the surf as he clutched the hand of his mother and surveyed my sister-in-law with wide interested eyes.

She explained. – No, I’m here on vacation.

Not impressed with this answer he asked again – Is this where you live? He obviously thought she was scamming him.

She tried another response, giving details about her home state and city.

Still not the right answer it seemed because he asked again – But is this where you live?

The mom hopped in, providing more geographic analysis of the situation. Finally the water-winged inquirer laid it on the line – Are you a mermaid?

My sister-in-law had to admit she was not. It was the best and worse moment of her vacation, I am sure. And somewhere there may still be a little boy who will always believe he saw a magical mermaid at the beach pretending to be a civilian and catching some afternoon rays.

So how do you get confused with a mermaid? That’s my question. I’ve considered it and here is what I have ascertained after a phone debriefing with my not-really-a-mermaid sister-in-law:

  • Sit at the very edge of the water in a low chair,
  • Make sure your feet are regularly submerged by the incoming waves,
  • Have long mermaid hair and wear it down,
  • Look longingly into the ocean,
  • Be a minimalist – no bags, blankets, beach balls, or other non-mermaid paraphernalia,
  • It’s probably okay to read a book – it’s rather romantic - but be discreet with the use of more modern technology such as the Walkman and i-Pod,
  • Basking in the sunshine as if nothing else in the world matters is very mermaid-esque,
  • The right sunglasses could compliment the modern mermaid’s fashion look,
  • No floppy hats, terry beach coveralls, t-shirt that say I Ate at the Crab Shack, or shorts that have logos on the butt should be worn under any circumstances,
  • Sandcastles and artfully displayed seashells anywhere nearby will set a nice mood,
  • A graceful picnic lunch might fly but boardwalk food must be shunned at all costs,
  • Even a mermaid can appreciate the refreshing task of a cold can of diet coke – anyone can understand that – so don’t ditch your diet soda,
  • And remember to sing, sing, sing – humming softly or singing a haunting tune under your breath is something all mermaids enjoy (this really packs a punch when you combine it with combing your hair as you gaze out at the sparkling blue waves).


And for the guys – I am sure you have realized by now that the advice above does not apply to you. Instead, simply enjoy the scenery and remember: you never know when you may stumble upon a mermaid in plain site masquerading as an average beachgoer. Look for seashells and sandcastles and bring some Diet Coke – it’s hot sitting on the beach when you’re used to swimming around in the ocean.

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