Meet the Migrator: How To Be a Mermaid, For Real

It’s not every day you get to have a cup of tea with a real live mermaid, but then again, Gratitude Migration is not every day, and Melissa Wadolowski is not just any mermaid. Mel sat with us to answer every seven (and twenty-seven) year-old girl’s questions about mermaids (and how to become one!), and what to expect on Saturday afternoon at Gratitude Migration 2016 when it will be Mermaid Tea Party time!

GM: Can you tell us a little bit about how you became a mermaid?

Mel the Mermaid: I have been fascinated with mermaids ever since I was little girl and I saw the Little Mermaid.  Since then, I consumed any mermaid films, books, and stories I could find.  I would wrap fabric around my legs to make a tail, or cross my ankles in the pool or on the swings, and have incredibly vivid dreams about breathing underwater.  I’ve always felt drawn to and at home near or in water, whether it was being on the swim team, or going to be beach or waterfront as much as I could.  Upon discovering that being a professional mermaid was something people could actually do, that I started thinking about it more and more.  And while I was pursuing my career as a Registered Dietitian, I often lamented how amazing it would be to be able to be a mermaid in that capacity.  It wasn’t until recently, with encouragement from my boyfriend, that I realized this might be something I would be able to incorporate into my life more.  Aside from having fun with nautical costumes the last few years at various events, I recently purchased by first swimmable mermaid tail. 

GM: What’s your favorite thing about being a mermaid?

Mel The Mermaid: My favorite thing about being a mermaid is incorporating a little bit of the mythical or magical into people’s lives and experiences.  Not only do I enjoy toying with people’s ideas of reality or what can be possible and encouraging them to embrace the ridiculous, but this is also something that makes me feel very confident and happy in my own skin.  It’s been a funny experience, because reactions from my friends have ranged from no surprise at all, to statements like “look, it’s Mel in her natural form”. 

GM: So… are there a lot of mermaids out there these days? Where do they all live?

Mel The Mermaid: The mermaid movement is picking up, and from what I understand there are about a thousand mermaids in the US.  The history of the movement is somewhat disorganized.  Many of the first mermaids were well known swimmers or aquatic athletes, and started dressing as mermaids for theatre or classic film.  The spread of mermaid films, particularly Splash in the 1980s, helped get more people interested, and popularity has grown ever since, especially in beach cities and communities.  Now, there are many ways to get involved.  There is a mermaid convention in North Carolina each winter (I hope to go to my first one this coming year), as well as various mermaid schools, or places known for their performers such as Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida. 

GM: How will you Mermaid at Gratitude Migration? Can I come if I have legs?

I will be hosting a fancy mermaid tea party at Gratitude Migration.  This is an event that I piloted at Freeform music and arts festival this summer, and am excited to grow.  I have also recently started collaborating with other performers I know through the East Coast burner scene, and am excited to see what we come up with.  I encourage participants to come as nautical as they like or are able, and to be creative, but being a mermaid is not necessary for participation.  You can be a pirate, a sea witch, whatever you like.  I will also have a couple spare homemade mermaid tails for people to play with. 

GM: Is there anything the mermaids are trying to tell the people about the water you live in?

Mel the Mermaid: Many mermaids do so to promote awareness for various reasons, whether it is prevention of overfishing, safety of our marine wildlife, or policies affecting ocean health.  

For me, there are many appealing aspects I like to discuss.  Water is so healing in many capacities.  From a nutritional aspect, hydration is so important for proper body function.  Also, being a mermaid requires strength and agility, and I like that there are some professional mermaids who incorporate proper nutrition into their messages to demonstrate how it helps them keep their bodies ready for this kind of exertion.  Seafood is also the primary food source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been studied extensively lately and have been proven to be hugely beneficial for brain health, lung health, and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Making sure seafood is fished sustainably to preserve necessary ecosystems is an important consideration.  As is mercury contamination of seafood, which is one of the reasons the recommended amount is two servings of fish per week.  Ocean levels, water quality, and contamination levels are something I’ve been giving more thought to lately thanks to my boyfriend who is studying environmental engineering, and also my experience working in a sustainably-minded organic market a few years back.  

Lastly, water can offer tremendous other health benefits.  Just being near water has been shown to lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels.  Swimming can be incredibly beneficial as a form of physical therapy for individuals with joint problems or disabilities, or just about anyone for exercise.   Aquatic therapy is also being studied extensively for various benefits, including deep water submersion for regaining some function in people with paraplegia. 

GM: When can we join you and try becoming a mermaid ourselves at Gratitude Migration, and is there anything we need to do to prepare?

At Gratitude Migration, my event will be Saturday afternoon, but I am as of yet unsure about timing and placement.  Please come dressed to celebrate if you desire.  You don't have to bring anything, but bringing your own cup is always a good idea.  I will have a few extra for use, but not enough for everyone.  Expect to be silly and have a great time :)

For people who want to be a mermaid, my advice is dive in!  

2016Rishe Groner