The Triumph of the Mermaids

Sometimes I look at my life, and it feels like I haven’t accomplished very much. I mean, what am I actually contributing to society? I think most of us feel that way at some point.

Or many points.

Or all the points.

Hell, I’m pretty sure not feeling that way is actually cause for celebration!

Meryl is so proud of you!

In that spirit, I’m going to brag about the greatest accomplishment in my life to date. Sure, I got an education, had some impressive titles, and created another human being in my torso, but there’s one thing, one award, that rises high above the rest. One that is so respectable, others cannot help but stand in awe before it.

I won the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.

Please, please, please don’t sue me, Disney.

To clarify, the mermaid competition is hella fierce, so we went as aquatic creatures, and won first place in the “Best Sea Creature” category, but I still feel like this is a major achievement.

Trust me, you do NOT want to get caught up in a mermaid brawl

Now, first you need to understand something about Coney Island. It’s kind of vaguely haunted, but it’s still also totally a legit place to go to the beach and ride a roller coaster, sooo…. it’s kind of the best of both worlds? They host the world’s biggest hot dog eating competition, there’s a heartwarming minor league baseball team named after the terrifying wooden roller coaster, and there used to be a giant elephant hotel.

You heard me right. Giant. Elephant. Hotel. As in, there were rooms within an enormous elephant.

Victorians were so much cooler than us.


Anyhoo, eventually some immigrants moved to the area, and they happened to be massively cool Haitians, so they were confused when they discovered there weren’t regular Parades For The Sake Of Joy And Dancing.

So they made up their own parade! And it was happening at Coney Island, so the theme was either going to be “hot dogs,” “bearded ladies,” or “mermaids.” Since hot dogs aren’t very colorful, and a bunch of women with beards would be cool but a little one-note, they opted for an under the sea extravaganza, and BAM! The Coney Island Mermaid Parade was born.

I’m genuinely not sure if I could possibly use words to describe the glory of this annual bacchanalia, so I’m going to let pictures do the talking for me:

Basically, it’s an epic mess of body glitter, public nudity, and happiness.

Now, the friend I was living with at the time just so happened to be an artist, costume designer, and all-around frustratingly amazing human being. So you know where this is going, right?


I know, this looks like a super amazing costume to me too!

We had lamé short shorts, beaded fringe belts, and cheap bras we decorated with all manner of beads and glitter. There was no shortage of over-the-top makeup in a wide array of shrimpy colors, and, most importantly, we had enormous foam hats shaped like the tails of shrimp, which sounds really silly, but it was actually a pretty rad look!

Again, I lived with a costume designer.

Basically, we were completely over-the-top shrimp, and then we handed out gin to all the judges, because if we were going to be shrimp cocktails, then dammit, we were going to have cocktails! Yes, you’re right. That is blatant bribery, and probably unethical. It turns out anything goes under the sea.

Tragically, we didn’t know this existed at the time. On a related note, if anyone wants to send me presents I, too, am open to bribery.

And so we laughed, danced, and paraded down the boardwalk, which was recently refurbished and is actually made of quite lovely timber, around Nathan’s Hot Dogs, and past the hoards of applauding spectators. At the end of the day we took the subway home, happily exhausted, smiling at the people at the Atlantic Avenue stop who were wondering what kind of pink-and-sparkly lunatics they were sitting next to. Luckily, this was Brooklyn, so they were all more or less used to this kind of thing.

A typical Tuesday in NYC.

That night, our shower ran fluorescent into the drain, and we still went to bed with glitter in our hair. Eventually, life returned to normal, but a few weeks later we discovered we had been awarded First Place Sea Creatures!

There may have been spontaneous dance parties.

Now, I’m not going to say that I bragged to every single person I know. Or that I still have the enormous pink feather boa, for memory’s sake. Or that I’m pretty sure that was the moment I peaked as a human being.

I’m just saying that, apparently, I make a fucking fantastic shrimp.

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