The siren is seductive and deadly. She owns her power and utilizes it mercilessly - reeling in men, chewing them up, and spitting them out - leaving them surely to die. She thinks only of herself and feels no emotion or empathy towards the hearts she breaks and the lives she ruins. As I said - seductive and deadly.
The mermaid is another story entirely... She falls in love easily and passionately. She gives her life over to the person she loves - is willing to sacrifice her humanity, if that is what it takes. She is tragedy at its purest: beautiful and lovely, but with misdirected strength and destructive amounts of selflessness. She is ultimately destined towards a heartbreak that will consume her and wither her to nothing more than foam atop the waves of the sea.
So much of mythology and folklore echo my words, even in today's world. Sirens here, mermaids there. Even the newest Pirates movie visited the topic - combining the idea of both mermaids and sirens into one complicated and beautiful creature of the sea. That [and Johnny Depp of course] kept me captivated throughout the movie. I know people know me as the girl who likes fairies - but really, I just like stories about magical, mythological women and/or romance. And I don't mind when tragedy is intertwined in the storylines. Don't get me wrong, the younger version of myself was beside herself with sadness when a Hans Christen Anderson book dispelled the Disney ending to the poor story of the Little Mermaid - of COURSE. But as an adult - I'm actually drawn to tragedy. It leaves so many emotions in its wake, that my thoughts take over in a way that no "happily ever after" truly could. [Obvious exceptions include "A Princess Bride" - but even that tale has its fair share of darkness and tragedy laced in.]
Most of my life I have felt like a mermaid. Every man I fall in love with seems to yield a situation that ends in heartbreak for me - in paralyzing sadness that shakes me to the core. I lose myself in love - I don't come up for air - I forget who I am - sometimes maybe I never knew? - and plunge my crazy amounts of passion and determination into places where it wasn't asked for and can't survive. I know I have magic - I know I have the power of a siren - but to date, I've abused this raw, unrefined power - misdirected it and have hurt myself to excessive degrees.
As women, the mystery, to me, lies in the question: how do some of us learn to be mermaids and how do some of us learn to be sirens? These sirens - these gorgeous women that can chew up a man and spit him out without batting an eyelash - who have a beauty so powerful it goes beyond appearance... how did they become who they are? And how did I not? And - is it possible to be both? Can a woman learn enough about both sides of herself and be able to control when they surface? What I wouldn't give to have THAT power in my life...
Because superficially - what I want more than anything is to be a siren. To inflict heartbreak rather than wallow in it. I would love to never again feel the sting of unrequited love, rejection, of feeling "not enough." I'd love to feel a beauty in myself and around myself that is SO powerful that it is almost evil. But maybe it's there more than I realize. I feel like the martyr, the tragic heroine that fate and love both have cast aside... but then again, am I innocent of heartbreak? I can think of an ex or two that would probably say I shipwrecked them... and if they did, could I deny it?
I wonder then, if it's all in perspective. Do we all have narrow views of ourselves - destined never to have the ability to see the bigger picture? Do all sirens feel like mermaids, and are there mermaids that will never see the siren within? And maybe there ARE legitimate sirens out there, but in a way are lonely mermaids because they lash out and kill any chance at real, intimate love?
Upon this further examination and soul searching - I don't want to be one or the other. I want to be both; a hybrid of beauty, strength, compassion, and determination. But if I can't, I guess I'll stick with this mer-world I live in. Because species can evolve. Sirens aren't the only one with a magical, beautiful voice - and if I can make sure never to compromise, if I can draw the line that love doesn't have to mean giving up my life - then maybe, just maybe - I can meet a merman. Maybe the problem is that I keep falling for human princes - and as pretty or as appealing as they may be, they would drown if they visited my world. One of my favorite books on love [the title won't surprise you] is called Enchanted Love: The Mystical Power of Intimate Relationships. In it, author Marianne Williamson periodically has small sections of writing that are separate from her main text and are very story-like in their feel (- she actually talks about mermaids, too - so if you're feeling this, you might as well read her book, too).
One such piece within this book gave me the first glimpse I've ever seen of a mermaid possessing self respect and strength - and hope:
I don't know if we could hold onto this, you said.
Why couldn't we? I asked. I could see you slipping back, and it scared me.
We can't be this way, and pay the bills. We can't be this way, and stay responsible. We can't be this way, and... I don't know. I just don't think we can be this way.
Then you can't. But I can.
And then I swam away.
Swimming away is not giving up; it can be the best and only way to show love to oneself. Not everyone out there will be right for me - will be the "happily ever after" for me. In fact, it wouldn't be as special a search if there were many "right" people all over the place. But I think I'm on a more direct trail to finding a worthy lover than I ever have been previously in my life - I'm at least getting closer. I know it.
Good luck to all my fellow weary travelers... Whether you're the mermaid, the siren, or a poor sailor being thrown to the rocks - this secret is true for us all: shipwrecks can be survived.