Every little American girl has a favorite Disney film. For me it was The Little Mermaid. At the time, I believed my affinity towards Ariel was based on a common enemy: the snake. She battled Ursala, a monster with a head of snakes, while I contended with a 4-inch garden snake in my front yard.
At the end of the film Ariel succeeded; Ursala failed; and the little mermaid that could became a part of the land-walking masses… all in the name of love. Now at age six I was unimpressed by this sacrifice. She exchanges a life of underworld exploration for a young man who promises a happily ever after ending.
However, how can it be happily ever after when Ariel must bid adieu to her friends and family beneath the ocean floor? There is no compromising in her romance; just one man dictating the terms of his commitment.
The question, then, becomes why I still adore this film despite its overt patriarchal tendencies. And today, on my way back from Starbucks, I suddenly realized: I have a major thing for mermaids. Of all the coffee establishments in all of New York, I had to choose the one represented by a mermaid.
There is something inexplicably magical about the mermaid– half human, half fish, she struggles to balance two extraordinarily different realities. On the brink of commencement, I have been reflecting upon my Wellesley college essay, and similar to a mermaid, I wrote about my daily dichotomy: my Orthodox Jewish ghetto juxtaposed with my secular intellectual bubble.
Yes, I identify with the mermaid– metaphorically speaking. My daily dose of caffeine reinforces this identification, and perhaps, in the many strolls back to campus I take, gives me time to reflect on the implications of this comparison.
Ariel, however, has to make a choice. She cannot balance both worlds forever, and as one Wellesley friend phrased it, “Eventually you’ll have to decide– to expose your elbows or to keep them concealed.” Before I make that decision, though, I think I’ll invest in a mermaid-shaped dress for Senior Gala. That will certainly make a splash!
And in case you were wondering what my graduation cake is going to look like, feast your eyes on this: