Whenever I mention mermaids, I notice the emergence of Duchenne smiles on the faces of all the men in my circle.
What is a Duchenne smile?
Very simply, it is a smile that is characterized by the raising of the lip corners which in turn raise the cheeks and form crow’s feet around the eyes. French physician Guillaume Duchenne first recognized this smile while conducting research on the physiology of facial expressions in the mid 19th century. According to Duchenne, that distinctive smile is associated with a strong positive emotion.
My conclusion—21st century men are still intrigued by those Sirens of Greek mythology, preferring to focus on their physical beauty and enchanting songs. I imagine that male minds can easily conjure up images of wavy auburn tresses, mesmerizing green eyes and a curvaceous body. Very few men recall the less-than-enchanting stories about mermaids distracting people from their work and causing them to walk off decks or run their ships aground. Or even worse, squeezing the life out of men and drowning them out of spite.
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus went to great lengths to avoid being seduced by the hypnotic music of the Sirens. He ordered his men to stuff balls of wax into their ears while approaching the Sirens’ island off the coast of Greece. And he tied himself to the ship’s mast so he would not be able to jump off, swim to shore or do anything that would endanger his own life or that of the crewmen. According to Greek legend, Odysseus is the only man in the world who actually heard the Sirens sing and lived to tell about it.
It is not surprising that women considered Sirens (mermaids) serious rivals for the affections of their partners and feared they would transform their men into mermen. But rejecting or injuring a mermaid could bring misfortune to the man and possibly the entire coastline.
The Sirens featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, however, bear no resemblance to their predecessors. In fact, many mermaid enthusiasts were shocked by these scaly and hideous creatures, considering this break in the traditional beauty of the Sirens almost blasphemous.
I was amused by the “mermaid” sighting in George Clooney’s 2001 film, Oh Brother Where Art Thou. A loose take on Homer’s Odyssey, Clooney plays Everitt Ulysses McGill, one of three inmates on a prison chain gang who escape in search of a $1.2 million treasure. While on their quest, they encounter three quasi-mermaids doing their wash while singing with a delightful country and western vibe.
In Between Land and Sea, I introduce a different kind of mermaid, one not so young and not so beautiful. But one that will appeal to a broad demographic of women, offering hope and inspiration to anyone who has been dumped, deceived or demoted.
My advice to the men with Duchenne smiles…
Why not pick up a copy of Between Land and Sea for the woman in your life and sneak a peek?
After giving up her tail for an international banker, Isabella of the Mediterranean kingdom is aged beyond recognition. The horrified banker abandons her on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England, leaving her to face a difficult human journey as a plain and practically destitute fifty-three-year-old woman.
With the help of a magic tablet and online mermaid support, Isabella evolves into the persona of Barbara Davies. Along the way, she encounters a cast of unforgettable characters, among them former mermaids, supportive and not-so-supportive women, deserving and undeserving men, and several New Agers.
My debut novel, Between Land and Sea, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged mermaid, has just been released by Soul Mate Publishing.
I live and write in Guelph, Ontario.
Where to find Joanne…