The origin of the word “mermaid” is from the French mer – for sea, and maid – for girl or woman. Mermaids were first noted around 1,000 BC in Assyrian writings. Some mythology suggests that there were only female mermaids, and that their male counterparts did not exist. Obviously, political correctness was not an issue in mythology. Today, there are far more mermaids than mermen.
And yes, it’s true! Right here in New York City. There ARE mermaids; the mythical creatures that have the head, torso, and arms of a woman, and the tail of a fish. When gathered together with their male counterparts, mermen, they are affectionately called merfolk. As proof of their existence, I present Ms. Angela Schommer, a mermaid with whom I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking; face to face and in the flesh!
Angela is a twenty-something registered nurse living in New York’s upper west side. She is originally from Florida where she first became aware of, and interested in, mermaids. Angela credits the movie Splash! with inspiring her to learn more about these siren like creatures. Apparently, other mermaids of her generation speak of the same, Splashy, inspiration. In addition to Splash!, Angela’s parents took her and her brother to see the live mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. It was then that Angela knew her true calling was to be a siren of the seas.
The mermaids at Weeki Wachee perform choreographed underwater ballets to the delight of the crowds. The performers use no diving masks and neither SCUBA gear nor snorkels. Instead they rely on underwater air hoses that snake up from the floor of their aquatic stage. They must hold their breath for long periods during the routine, and only pause long enough to take an occasional gulp of air from a breathing tube. In order to qualify as a mermaid, Angela had to undergo SCUBA training and certification. She has two, custom made, tails which travel with her wherever she goes (imagine explaining that to a TSA agent). One, made of fabric and the other, swimming tail, made from neoprene rubber, like a divers wet suit. Wearing a tail with no feet can cause some mobility problems so there are always handlers and trainers nearby to lend the necessary assistance.
After she accepted the position at Weeki Wachee , Angela become a full time mermaid while she attended nursing school. She also worked at a talk radio station, ScubaRadio, discussing dive related adventures. Through the radio show she was able to dive in some exotic places such as Fiji, Dominica, Hawaii, Andros, Saba and Grenada just to name a few. She has also modeled as a mermaid, appears in tropical travel magazine ads and promotions, and was featured in an issue of Mermaids & Mythology Magazine. Mermaids make people happy and that makes Angela happy!
Worldwide, mermaids are a loosely knit social network. They stick together and flock, or school, to local events wherever they happen. In fact, The Mermaid Parade at Coney Island is one of the largest gatherings in the United States. Want to learn more about mermaids? Don’t believe they exist in New York? Check out the parade at the Coney Island Boardwalk, on June 23, at 2:00 pm! Angela said she will be there! http://www.coneyisland.com/mermaid.shtml