1.14.2011

Why is a widow like a mermaid?



I always say that widows are like mermaids.

After my loss, I lived half in each of two worlds: that of the living, and that of the dead.

Learning to live with loss was like learning to swim. In some ways, I could use that big tail to go further. Eventually, it felt like dancing in water: I liked the new environment with its eternal closeness, the bright colors, the dark, the intensity. Above all, its freedom.

There was something very ramped up and sexy, and yet very asexual about being a widow for a while. I had the hormonal effects but still felt tethered, though my mate was absent.

She's half natural, part wild. The mermaid never "gets." Mermaids do spend all their time longing, don't they? Especially the Little one.

I suspected that if I seduced a man (in my case, it would never be by singing), he might be dashed on the rocks and we'd both go without.

Eventually I felt more comfortable in the water than on land. Like Andersen's water maiden, I might never feel at home among again. A fish out of water. 

In Andersen’s telling, the mermaid gets her wish, losing the tail and finding legs for land, but when she presses her sought-after shoes to the blessed street, the pain is excruciating. Her two feet become just stumps of the tail God gave her. (I’m skipping over so many delicious analogies and interpretations to make my point.). In the end, Andersen's girl becomes a creature of neither land nor sea, but air. (I don't think anyone is satisfied by this ending, neither fairytale nor Hollywood. Hell, Disney even lets her dance, smiling at her happy ending.)

Something about this state of unbelonging, of airborneness, stayed even after I got my legs — after I walked on land again. And though my legs were wobbly for a bit, I wouldn't say it was true pain.

I'm not sure if I'll ever fit in again, whether I'll be transformed permanently, complacently like the Disney girl, but I'm pretty sure I won't suffer endlessly for my love (I guess this would be my second husband, if I follow my own metaphor) and the change I so wanted.


Do you want to return to the land of the living? Is swimming in grief comfortable, even luscious?

7 comments:

Boo said...

How weird. Or perhaps not. Read this! It was written 3 months after Cliff died ... love to you, Supa! x

http://boomayhew.blogspot.com/2009/05/little-mermaid.html

annie said...

My goodness, Hans Christian Anderson? Definitely a believer in the "love is pain" group. I can't think of a single tale the man wrote that wasn't based on the wretched idea that we must sacrifice ourselves for love or that love is more noble when one is tormented.

Complacent transformation is for Stepford wives and change is work more than actual suffering which might be why people would rather suffer - there's no effort involved in the latter.

carolyn said...

Oh, so cool, Supa - just yesterday I had this image? vision? idea? of a mermaid, with her hands held in front of her, holding out a heart as an offering. It came out of nowhere, and I was trying to figure out where and why it appeared.

Suddenwidow said...

Great analogy Supa!

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Boo, I DO remember that post and made a note, I'm sure, to comment on it and looks like I never did!!!

Annie, of course you're right, but how many women do you know who believe/accept this model, or hold it against us? Or worse, the Disney one, where NOTHING hurts? (Although actually I'm ok with lots of Disney stuff...)

C, D, Thanks for being kindred souls, and thanks, also, for accepting change when it's offered (or required).

annie said...

Supa, of course you are correct. The majority of women accept and hold it against us.

G.C. McKinney said...

Loved this post.
G

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