The realization that a mermaid swim class may not be all fun and games arrived a full day beforehand when I received a reminder note from the sponsors that included instructions to bring a swim cap, goggles and a nose plug to the pool. I owned none of these fine items and ran off reluctantly to buy them, knowing that they would likely be employed for a single use then rot in a drawer for years to come. I am not a strong swimmer and I have a natural aversion to being wet and cold. Signing up for a swim lesson in a cold pool with my legs lashed together may not have been parsed properly. This would be no party. This may well be … unpleasant.
My reticence increased slightly when I awoke to the following exchange from Long. Please note the time stamp at the start of the exchange:
On Jul 19, 2015, at 3:21 AM Long wrote:
Just getting home now from a party. I am going to drown tomorrow. You don’t have to try to save me. I am way too irresponsible. Oh god. Bad. Bad. Bad.
On Jul 19, 2015, at 9:32 AM, Short wrote:
I will save you. Unless letting you drown would be kinder
On Jul 19, 2015, at 9:40 AM Long wrote:
I’ll let you know
I made my way to Jimmie Simpson park, not entirely sure if I would see the end of the day. Long is significantly taller than me and as I am not a capable lifeguard I didn’t know if I would be able to rise to the task of minding her. When I caught sight of Long I just laughed. “Shut up. I am still drunk. Or hungover. Something. I am sweating. It’s bad” was her response.
(What does one call that feeling, perched precariously on the cusp of intoxicated and cooked like bad bacon? Hunk? Drung Over? There should be a word.)
I am ashamed to admit that I was slightly buoyed by Long’s weakened state. I wouldn’t be the worst in the class, and she is very funny when she is miserable. We suited up and showered and made our way to our fate. I left my shame-kit of bathing cap etc at the edge of the pool when I realized that only the little kids were wearing them. It also became evident that our lesson was being recorded by a Brazilian film crew and there was no way in hell I would stand for the unsupervised documentation of said attire. I was resenting the unnecessary purchase then realized that when worn in combination it provided the perfect look for what must be my new dating profile picture, so clearly worth the expense.
On the pool deck we were introduced to Alex, a nice MAN (which I confess I was not expecting) with a wicked Snidely Whiplash moustache.
We were told to form a circle and do swim motions with our arms while we stated our real names, then our “Mermaid” names. Long and I stood with arms resolutely crossed, last in the line up as a series of enthusiastic ladies chirped out monikers like “Ariel”, “Aurora” and “Nemo”. When it was my turn I proclaimed myself “Barracuda” and sang the appropriate guitar riff. No takers. Long dubbed herself “Jaws” and with that the two oldest, most cynical and predatory members of the group were revealed.
We were assigned tails in an assortment of bright colours.
I picked a blue one. Long, because of her height had a different selection and wound up with a shimmery green one. I had a smattering of tail envy.
The tails themselves are made of a stretchy poly fibre with a stiff fin mounted on the same kind of binding one finds in swim fins. We started by rolling the fabric down to the fin part (as illustrated above), then rolling it up around our legs with our feet in the air, giving a little hop up to scoot the fabric under our bums. In case you are curious, not the least bit sexy to watch or do. Once firmly enveloped we eased in to the pool. The water was thankfully not too cold. We were immediately split in to groups, which Long and I promptly ignored so we could stay together in part so I could monitor her lest she begin to founder and also so we could mock each other without mercy. We had to swim widths of the pool and were then taught techniques for movement – basically a whole body undulation, including your head, like you were doing “The Worm” only in the water. We learned how to do a mermaid dive, which is just a fancy name for swan dive and got a chance to paddle supervised around the pool. Happily the tail was not constricting at all and helped propel you around the pool. The lesson passed astonishingly quickly, everyone was having a great time and Long seemed curiously resuscitated by the experience.
I was disappointed when the instructors let us know we would only have 10 minutes to free swim in our adopted tails. I think they should have extended the class to at least and hour and fifteen minutes. If we had the extra time I think more people might have gotten hooked (pun only slightly intended) and signed up for more.
As we made our way out we noticed that the Brazilian TV host had slipped in to a tail of her own to show us what a mermaid really should look like:
Showered, slightly spent but feeling all the better for the experience we hied off to one of our favourite spots to indulge in a lobster roll, in keeping with the aquatic theme of the day.
Barracuda and Jaws, placated by food, living to tell the tale for another day.