Freaky Perfect Mermaids

scooby doo daphne

Daphne from Scooby Doo

There’s been  lots of chatter in the past week in my circle of bloggy people about a certain super cool mom. She goes by the moniker “Nerdy Apple Bottom,” so I totally dig her, though I’ve never met her. She wrote an amazing post about her son’s Halloween costume.

He went as Daphne from Scooby Doo. Astoundingly, on a day dedicated to *pretending* a group of people got their panties in a wad about it. Actually, it’s not astounding at all, given how absurd people are.

But here’s the point, it is none of your damn business.

If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off.

If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one.

There are so many issues tangled up here: homophobia, gender roles, double standards, mommy judgment. All because a 5-year-old boy played dress up, and it made adults uncomfortable.

My opinion, clearly labeled: I think what this is all about is we don’t like it when people don’t fit into neat boxes. People especially don’t like anything outside the lines that might have something to do with sexual orientation. Some nearly lose their business when that might be construed to mean a gay son. I do not condone these attitudes; these are just my personal observations.  I’m sure a psychologist or anthropologist could explain why people get particularly sticky about this stuff.

Biological classification


I understand the love of order. It’s natural to like a label. Every biology class taught us to put everything into a category: family, genus, species. We like boys who wear superhero outfits and girls who like princess dresses. We like all children to sit quietly, look at the chalkboard and learn everything they will need to know to become rocket scientists. Wouldn’t that be terrific?!

Here on planet Earth, people are messy. Lines get crossed. Boundaries are pushed. Even on issues unrelated to sexuality, there’s no such thing as “normal.” One friend got so tired of hearing the phrase “new normal” from therapists, she declared her family to be “freaky perfect.” Because they are just that awesome.

A few nights ago while I was going to sleep and my brain was doing its wind down, I was thinking about all this. A piece from All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten floated through my mind. Maybe what we all need is a lesson from a Mermaid:


(an excerpt)
Robert Fulghum

Giants, wizards and dwarfs was the game to play.

Being left in charge of about eighty children seven to ten years old, while their parents were off doing parenty things, I mustered my troops in the church social hall and explained the game.  It’s a large-scale version of Rock, Paper, and Scissors, and involves some intellectual decision making.  But the real purpose of the game is to make a lot of noise and run around chasing people until nobody knows which side you are on or who won.

Organizing a roomful of wired-up gradeschoolers into two teams, explaining the rudiments of the game, achieving consensus on group identity–all this is no mean accomplishment, but we did it with a right good will and were ready to go.

The excitement of the chase had reached a critical mass.  I yelled out:  “You have to decide now which you are–a GIANT, a WIZARD, or a DWARF!”

While the groups huddled in frenzied, whispered consultation, a tug came at my pants leg.  A small child stands there looking up, and asks in a small, concerned voice, “Where do the Mermaids stand?”

Where do the Mermaids stand?

A long pause.  A very long pause.  “Where do the Mermaids stand?” says I.

“Yes.  You see, I am a Mermaid.”

“There are no such thing as Mermaids.”

“Oh, yes, I am one!”

She did not relate to being a Giant, a Wizard, or a Dwarf.  She knew her category.  Mermaid.  And was not about to leave the game and go over and stand against the wall where a loser would stand.  She intended to participate, wherever Mermaids fit into the scheme of things.  Without giving up dignity or identity.  She took it for granted that there was a place for Mermaids and that I would know just where.

Well, where DO the Mermaids stand?  All the “Mermaids”–all those who are different, who do not fit the norm and who do not accept the available boxes and pigeonholes?

Answer that question and you can build a school, a nation, or a world on it.

What was my answer at the moment?  Every once in a while I say the right thing.  “The Mermaid stands right here by the King of the Sea!” says I.  (Yes, right here by the King’s Fool, I thought to myself.)

So we stood there hand in hand, reviewing the troops of Wizards and Giants and Dwarfs as they roiled by in wild disarray.

It is not true, by the way, that Mermaids do not exist.  I know at least one personally.  I have held her hand.



Filed under The view from here

4 responses to “Freaky Perfect Mermaids

  1. You are on fire with the awesome posts lately!! I hadn’t read the Mermaid piece before but I love it. I want to be a mermaid.

  2. Me and my boys are far from “normal”. In fact, the teen is more than a little eccentric. It’s been a hard road for him and for me as he continues to snub societal expectations; so, I cheered in teary silence when I first read “Nerdy Apple Bottom’s” post earlier this week and again when I read Amy’s ‘Freaky Perfect’ post. I love how you have combined all these things into one poignant post… and I haven’t read that mermaid story in YEARS. Thank you.

  3. Team Mermaid, all the way.

  4. Tina

    From one Mermaid to another . . . thanks for the wonderful blog.