Let Mermaids Wear Their Tails At The YMCA

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Shello! I'm Mermaid Thalasophila. I live in East Tennessee, close to Chattanooga, and I am training to become a professional performing mermaid. I've been swimming for most of my life, and becoming a mermaid is a natural next step (or splash). I can swim the dolphin kick, do backflips, swim on both sides, do a tailstand and fluke splash, and blow bubble kisses, hearts, and rings. I own a fabric tail already, and I am working on commissioning a professional silicone tail so I can begin performing in earnest.

I am one of thousands of people in the United States who has taken on the hobby and swimming sport of mermaiding. When done properly, mermaiding is a safe and enjoyable way to exercise and to perform for the delight of onlookers. There is an emphasis on safety and responsibility in the mermaiding community, and all the mermaids I've interacted with have been respectful towards both the area where they swim and their stamina for mermaid swimming.

However, the available locations for mermaiding are just about as scarce as unicorns. Since monofins and mermaid tails are banned at most pools, many mermaiders have to resort to swimming at dangerous natural locations. These natural swimming holes have multiple disadvantages, including currents, undertows, wildlife ranging from curious fish to snapping turtles and venomous snakes, mud that easily stains mermaid tails, sharp rocks, dirt and bacteria in the water, and in the worst of places, even broken bottles, shards of sharp metal cans, and other unpleasant litter. These natural swimming holes usually have no lifeguards in case something goes wrong. And these natural swimming holes can only be accessed in the warmer months of the year, and when the weather cooperates, when a professional mermaid will need to practice year round.

The pool at my local YMCA would seem to be a perfect solution. It's indoors, well maintained, hygienic, safe, and deep (up to nine feet). The pool often has at least one swimming lane free, and often more than one. There are also lifeguards on duty all the time. Not to mention it has nice windows so the sunlight can get in and make the water sparkle beautifully.

However, the YMCA has banned mermaid tails entirely. I cannot get a clear answer for the instigating incident that caused this ban, but I imagine it was because one too many kids who were poor swimmers had to be plucked up from the bottom of the pool by a lifeguard. I am not making light of this situation. I understand that mermaid tails are a risk and a liability. However, I firmly believe that an outright ban IS NOT the answer. There are thousands upon thousands of mature swimmers who would be proficient and safe with a monofin/mermaid tail who would never be a safety or liability risk to the YMCA.

My proposal for a more reasonable alternative is to establish a mermaid swim test. It would consist of proving that you can do the dolphin kick, tread water for an entire minute without using your legs individually, hold your breath underwater for an adequate amount of time, and whatever else the YMCA deems necessary. Once an individual passes the mermaid swim test, they then have the right to wear a monofin/mermaid tail in the YMCA pool. In this manner, only the swimmers that are strong enough and skilled enough to safely use the monofin/mermaid tail are allowed to use one, and the rest will have to take mermaiding seriously and train harder if they wish to do the same. 

This mermaid swim test is based off the similar swim test that the YMCA already performs to allow children under a certain age to enter the deep end of the pool, and the swim test that is performed as part of training/certifying lifeguards. Therefore, I believe it would only require a minimal adjustment to the training of the lifeguards to enable them to administer the mermaid swim test.

If the creation of a mermaid swim test is not enough for the YMCA to be satisfied, I would be happy to have the option to sign a waiver absolving the YMCA of any liability should I get hurt while wearing a monofin/mermaid tail in their pool, just so long as I get to wear the tail in the pool and have a safe place to practice. This waiver is a last resort, however. I would prefer to put the mermaid swim test into place.

Benefits of allowing mermaiding for the YMCA include:

- increased membership, because mermaids will come flooding in to use an indoor pool that is available year-round.

- increased visitors who come to see the mermaids, and who will stay to get memberships and swim with the mermaids.

- allowing local mermaids to come will give a bit of colour to the pool (quite literally, have you seen the rainbow of colours that are mermaid tails?) and will make it a more lively, inviting place.

- an increase in capable, mature swimmers taking advantage of the pool and possibly becoming interested in other programs as well.

- giving fledgling mermaiders the jump start (or swan dive) they need for their professional careers as performing mermaids, and why wouldn't the YMCA want to say that they were the home pool of a famous mermaid? That's quite a bit of good publicity.

If you would like to email the YMCA directly, you can do so at fulfilment@ymca.net.

If you are a fellow mermaider or mermaid lover, please sign and share this petition, and help me persuade the YMCA to establish a mermaid swim test!