One of Narcissa’s favourite songs began playing in the bar ‘You Don’t Own Me.’ She started moving to the rhythm. One side of her hair was ocean blue at the tips and the other side was seaweed green. She’d separated her hair into pigtails and they bounced as she strut a long to the mellow tune. She’s still leraning about make-up, hairstyle and fashion but is already pretty experienced in beauty techniques, that was all she could do as a mermaid after all; sit on rocks and comb her long blonde hair. She’d heard this song quite a few times since she’s been on land and It’s really grown on her. Land music is a lot more impressive than any music that was attempted underwater. Music in the ocean was wither wales screaming or gathering above the waves to the rocks to sing sea shanties or serenade sailors. Narcissa just prefers the music up here.
She’s heard this song quite a bit now. It took her a while to piece together the lyrics over time as English isn’t her first language but eventually Narcissa worked out the lyrics. She finds It strange how much she can relate to this song. It’s like she’s saying her father and the sea doesn’t own her, she’s her own mermaid and can do whatever she wants. She certainly can play with all the boys she wants up here. Narcissa gathered her stride together as she collected the left over cocktail but just as she was about to head back to the bar she saw a plate of unfnished nachos. She sighs like a half-hearted teenager and heads towards It until she’s stopped in her tracks. Patricia: “ NARCISSA! WOULD YOU GET OVER HERE!!? ” Narcissa’s boss Patrica was in a bad mood. Her voice boomed across the bar as she shouted her employee like a slave. Narcissa nearly spilt the cocktail on her legs but managed to grasp the glass extra tight just in time! That could’ve been a fishy disaster.
Hendersonville, NC > Greenville, SC > Charleston > Atlanta, GA > Las Vegas, NV > Yosemite, CA > Sacramento > San Francisco > San Jose > Santa Cruz > Big Sur > Pismo Beach > Santa Barbara > Los Angeles > Dallas, TX > New York, NY > London, UK > Glasgow.
That was my August of 2016. I miss every second of it.
The tired drives, the long greyhound buses, loosing half my belongings because of baggage allowances, putting tents up in the dark, having to phone our campsite to see if we had a place to stay due to huge fires, a kind soul paying for gas because the station wouldn’t accept our debit cards, the hostels not having enough beds for us, mermaids swimming in bars, zebras at the side of the road, having no plans between our flights to and from the west coast, almost not getting our rental car due to more debit card problems, living on ramen noodles and microwave mac ‘n’ cheese, arguing over who’s turn it was to charge their phone, having to limit the stops for photos, sharing full life stories in the car, the silence in awe of what was in front of us when we got there, the bar crawls, the walking tours, trekking through cities to our hostel with all our camping gear, sneaking friends into hostel rooms, bumping into friends you didn’t know would be in that city, having that one meal out at a restaurant in every city, watching yourself and your friends grow with the life experiences you were all gaining along the road. I really don’t care how cliche this sounds but my time working in America and travelling for a month afterwards has both scratched my travel itch and made it a million times worse. I can’t wait to be back at camp, meeting more amazing people and catching up with everyone from around the world again. I don’t know if I’m going to travel America again, god knows what state the country will be in this time next year, but I’m so glad this past summer happened and I can’t wait to explore more of the world we live in 🌎
How did you get into the mermaid business? Was it easy ? (Cuz that seems like the most amazing job ever)
First I got a tail and a shell bra - pretty basic mermaid starting kit stuff. I then needed to get a license (because you can’t just go out and do mermaid birthday parties, that’s illegal in the U.S.A.) In my state, New York, you can either get a performer’s license or a DBA (doing business as) - I have a DBA. Not every state in the U.S.A. has a DBA. (You need to look at your states government website.) Then you need an insurance because if a client doesn’t have a pool at their home and needs to book a place, the place doesn’t want to be responsible if something bad happens to you or children - you need liability insurance (LIFE INSURANCE DOES NOT COUNT). I think getting the DBA was the easiest part.
Being professional can be very, very difficult. Once you get a tail and get a website and you make business/post cards that doesn’t mean everyone is knocking on your door booking you for parties. You’re going to put in A LOT more money going into this than you will be making out of it in the first few years. I know mermaids with full silicone tails, going in the ocean and taking stunning underwater pictures, doing photoshoots with other mermaids and have never been hired for any type of event where they are getting paid. I feel very lucky because in my state, there’s another professional mermaid but she is very far from me so we aren’t competition to each other and some clients that want to book her are a lot more closer to me than they are to her so she sends them over to me and that’s how I’ve gotten some of my gigs. I also have a background in child education which is very good to have (people in high school - if your school does a BOCES program with child education or a child education program in high school and are strongly considering becoming a professional mermaid - TAKE THIS CLASS!), I got to learn what goes into educating a child and I actually got to work with children and I actually had to do “classes” and teach them. I wasn’t really the best with children and taking this class was very helpful for me. You’ll also be in a tail for an hour, maybe more, so make sure you’re fit, my tail weighs about 20lbs in the water, I do float up but I’m constantly moving around so I want to be able to swim around for a few hours without my legs hurting and me feeling exhausted. There’s also potiental “mermaid rides” where kids hold onto your shoulders and you swim on the surface and swim from one side of the pool to the other. Mermaid rides can be very tiring, I think I did 50 in a row with no break to 20 kids - I was so exhausted. There’s also tail maintence, just because you buy a tail doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect forever. I’m very rough in my tail and I shouldn’t be, but the heels on my tail and the backside the paint has come off, I got advice from another mermaid to buy silicone and eyeshadow the color of my tail and mix it together and paint it on the spots the paint is gone - very helpful. You also have to wash your tail, it can smell very bad sometimes after using it - I use vinegar to wash my tail, and you should hang your tail upside down (fluke up) so the water drips out of the tail and dries it, or you can use a blow dryer (use cold air), I’ve seen mermaids use pull up bars you can in your house to hold their tail upside down or putting up coat hooks.
Promotion - Business cards and post cards are very good to hand out, I definitely spent over $100 on cards. I put my cards all over the place, mostly food stores like Stop & Shop, A&P, Hannafords (i think those are all mostly New England food stores). I did a free meet & greet in Newburgh, New York for the Art About Water event, I handed out booklets about pollution in the water and how to prevent pollution, along with the booklets I also had my post cards in the booklets and I handed everyone a shell. My Uncle also owns a company so he gives my cards to his clients. I’ve also met the Mayor of Bedford Hills (I think it was the mayor or someone who worked with him) at a restaurant because I have family in Bedford Hills so I talked to him about my mermaid job, gave him my card, and we talked about local parks and celebrations there and I said I’d be open to doing a meet & greet or something there. There’s also mermaid meet up, most of the meet ups are in Coney Island so I go there a lot and hand out cards and take pictures with people. There’s also tumblr, facebook, instagram, youtube, those are very good sites for social media to get your name out.
There’s also things you need to consider. Do you have a mertender/merwrangler? That is someone who is with you at events, they are there to help you. You want to keep the magic alive so you can’t show up at a party or event and put your tail on infront of your little clients so you put your tail on somewhere hidden and you have your mertender/merwrangler pick you up and carry you (I’ve recently aqcuired a wheelchair so no one has to carry me anymore). It’s best to have someone you know with you because you can trust them, having a stranger off Craigslist you never know what you’re going to get. You don’t need to have the same mertender/merwrangler at every event, I don’t. You can ask your client that you may need additional help because you don’t have a mertender/merwrangler, I, personally, don’t feel like that’s professional, that’s just me, I know other mermaids have done it and that’s their business so I don’t get to have an opinion on them. Do you have transportation? People that live in cities, for example, New York City or Brooklyn, mermaids are able to take trains and subways or taxis to get around. I live in the suburbs so I have my own car. Just make sure you have a way of getting to your event. Do you know what to do? Do you know what to bring when doing an event? Do you kinda have ideas what to do at an event? I suggest watching videos of professional mermaids on youtube and see what they do. Mernetwork is also a forum site for mermaids with tons of answers to any question you may have. Do you have tattoos or piercings? Some clients may not want their mermaid to have tattoos or piercings. I have 5 tattoos, one is on my leg so my tail covers it, I have one my waist and luckily my tail covers it, I have 2 behind my ear my hair covers it but one time while I was in water giving mermaid rides a child called me out on it and I giggled and talked about something else, I have a tattoo on my wrist, I have a big shell bracelet to cover it up, I do have back up stories if someone does ask about how mermaids have tattoos. I also have a hell of a lot of piercings, mostly on my face. I have a dermal anchor implant for an anti-eyebrow, I cannot take that out unless it’s surgically removed, my implant is a clear gem so it looks like I stuck a gem under my eye so I’m good there, I have a lip piercing and 2 nose studs on my left nostril - I do take those out at parties, I also have clear jewelry that I may or may not put in depending on how I feel. You may have a client who doesn’t want a mermaid with tattoos or piercings (I don’t know what people’s problems are with it, I can see how it doesn’t look very magical but I mostly take out my nose studs and cover my wrist tattoo but I have done gigs where I didn’t take anything out or cover anything and have never gotten a complaint.) I know a lot of people with tattoos and piercings that keep everything in and don’t cover any and they still get TONS of gigs. So you can do whatever you feel most comfortable with.
If you want to go for aquarium jobs (which I’ve never done but have put in research into it because I want to do aquariums in the future when I feel ready), the best things to put on your resume is that you have done dance lessons (preferably ballet), CPR classes (which is good to have anyways whether you’re an aquarium mermaid or a birthday party mermaid), scuba diving lessons, a good breath hold, and knowing how to swim in a tail already (having your own tail can be a plus - you don’t have to have your own tail, some places will give you tails that they already have but if they don’t have your size they may not consider you because they either don’t want to spend the money or a tail can take 2 - 3 months to create just for you and they want someone now). I know someone who got interviewed for an aquarium job, she had a tattoo on her upper body, very visible, she did not get the job. Unfortunately, that’s a reality at some places. Disney won’t hire people with visible tattoos and some aquariums won’t hire you with visible tattoos. It really sucks but it happens. There is very strong waterproof makeup and tattoo cover up, I’ve never used it but when I do plan to try out for an aquarium job I plan to cover myself during my interview and during my performances.
Professional mermaiding is hard work, it isn’t “I got a tail now I’m going to go play mermaid”. You need to be professional with your persona, with your clients, at your events. You need to be fit for your tail, you’re tail is going to weigh a lot in water and it’s bound on your legs for a few hours - you’re going to need to be able to hold that tail up, constantly swimming, with a smile on your face and not a yawn from being tired or a tear from your legs hurting. You may not be getting gigs your first year of being licensed or not even your second year, getting gigs will be a lot of work, you may even need to do free gigs to get a clientelle worked up. You may be putting in a lot more money going into it than you will be getting your money back from it. You may struggle a lot and feel “I can’t do this” but I’ll let you know now, once you get your first gig, you will feel so great about yourself, you did it, you got your first gig, you did it.
It’s been a difficult journey, all my hard work, it’s been worth it.
Between deciding to actually do this piece last minute, being sick, and being away for the weekend I some how managed to scrape together a piece for my Ol’ college roommate, Tom’s Zine– STUPID MERMAIDS– which is going to be lovely. The artists are great and and going to have much more beautiful and tasteful illustrations than mine I promise.