Friday, August 5, 2011


Shark Week and Friendly Family Rivalry

Discovery Channel’s Shark Week brings up a lot of feelings for me: Fear. Awe. Happiness. Sadness. Regret. Hunger. Nausea. Then a little more hunger again.

Shark Week also makes me think fondly about my family, because I was raised by one hammerhead shark and one great white. Just kidding, it’s because I have a cousin who swims with sharks from time to time. She is the coolest, and her name is Mehgan Heaney-Grier.

We’re related, so we both have “Heaney” as all or part of our last name. The similarities pretty much end there.

1. Mehgan swims with sharks. Here she is, just hanging onto a shark (above). Like, “OK, let’s go, little guy.”

When I went to Hawaii with my family when I was 18, I refused to take a surfing lesson because I thought a shark might eat me. “Sharks really do not come around this area,” the instructors said. “Oh, you mean in the ocean??” I said.

2. When she was 18, Mehgan set the U.S. record for men and women in free-diving. She dove 155 feet in a single breath. (1. One.) A year later, she broke the record and dove 165 feet. To be fair, it can’t be that hard because, as Mehgan says here, “By the time you hit 110 feet, you’re rocketing.”

In swimming lessons in the first grade, we were supposed to jump off a diving board into a 24-foot pool. “Go up the ladder and jump in,” said my instructor. “No,” I said. “Please can we go home,” I cried to my mom.

3. Mehgan touches crocodiles on purpose.

A few times a year I have a dream where there are two crocodiles living in the pond next to the house where I grew up. Inevitably, my brothers decide to go swimming in there, despite what all the townsfolk have been saying about crocodiles in the vicinity. “Seriously, come swim. The water’s fine!” they say. They jump in, the crocs start chasing them, and I just watch. Do I try to help them or anything? No.

4. Mehgan’s hair does that swooshing commercial thing.

My hair does that thing where it’s like, seriously, I parted it basically this way just yesterday, what is the problem here. Like, go over there. What is this piece here? Why do I have this two-inch-long piece just hiding out in the middle of my head?

5. Mehgan is off the market — she just got married last year.

I’m not married. WTF! : ( My best friend is probably getting engaged this year, though. (“Are you going to wear a ring all the time now? Gross. I mean, awesome. I love you.”)

6. Mehgan went into a tank on David Letterman and held her breath for three minutes (her full dive, by the way, takes over four and a half.).

When I was a kid and before I really knew much about my cousin (she’s always lived in Florida), I would host breath-holding contests with myself in my bathtub. “And that’s a new record for Kaaatie Heaaaneyyy!! FOUR-teeeeen seconds.”

7. Mehgan looks like this.

Haha, ahhh. I don’t look like that.

I mean, sure, you could put me on a white towel in front of some suspicious-looking black plants and be like, “could you please just put your bikini strap over on the other side?” and I’d be like, “Um, both on one side? Like this?” And you’d be like, “Yeah, OK and also lean forward, but like, be hot.” And I’d be like, “This feels weird, like physics-wise I feel that my left boob could leave this swimming suit at any moment.” But it just wouldn’t be the same.

8. Mehgan looks awesome in hats.

I can’t wear hats. I don’t mean that hats don’t look good on me, I mean that they don’t FIT me. I have a secretly, amazingly giant head. It’s not obvious (right? I mean, right?? You’re looking at it weird now. I just have a large brain), but seriously not a single hat made for a lady has ever fit me.

9. Mehgan was Keira Knightley’s body double in Pirates of the Caribbean. You know when Elizabeth Swan is up on that ledge in the first movie and she faints because of the corset? And then she’s drowning and is saved (and touched) by Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow? That’s Mehgan. My cousin has seen Johnny Depp in person with her own eyeballs.

My best and only celebrity encounter was when I saw Lindsay Lohan in person about six years ago. She was in the Twin Cities filming “A Prairie Home Companion” (I’m sorry for that. It doesn’t make sense to non-Minnesotans, I know.) so my friends and I decided to go look for her. We literally strolled down to the Fitzgerald Theatre and right up to Lindsay’s trailer. She sat on a stoop, smoking with a friend. I saw her and started trembling. Like, uncontrollable shaking. I don’t even care that much about her, really? I don’t know. I was like, “Don’t look at her, you guys. OMG she’s so pretty. AHHH now I’m staring.”

10. Mehgan was on Baywatch, as herself.

I have never swum up to a hot blond lifeguard who was just hanging out under the sea and been all “Lars, I’ll handle this,” and then gone into this, like, uterus cave to save another hot blond lifeguard. Not even once.

Katie Heaney lives in Minneapolis and enters the lakes there very, very cautiously. Photos and videos courtesy her cool cousin Mehgan.

63 Comments / Post A Comment


Is she wearing panties on top of her bikini bottom in the picture for #7? Oh Maxim (I'm assuming Maxim!), you so crazy.


@antarcticastartshere The first thing that registered with me was the harassing a shark topless thing. Like "Not only do I shun shark-suits for my shark-wrangling needs, I wear only the bare minimum amount of clothing necessary to stay within local laws." I get the feeling that the shark was the one to come out of that going "oh god oh god oh god."

Katie Heaney

@wharrgarbl @wharrgarbl a) not topless, the light makes it hard to see! and b) she's a marine biologist/ecologist, not a harasser!


@Katie Heaney I'm vaguely disappointed by that. I was kind of entranced by the shunning of all artifice in the pursuit of shark-rides. Though having met many, many marine biologists (too many? can that happen?), I'd have to say that "marine biologist" is English for "marine animal harasser with a degree in marine animal harassment." They have the coolest jobs.


@Katie Heaney Oh maaan was it just me and my friends or did every little girl want to be a marine biologist? Awesome for her that she lived the dream!


@antarcticastartshere I was dead set on being a marine biologist until part way through high school my math skills slowed down greatly, my loathing for it increased dramatically, and I realized a life in science was not my thing. Now a graphic designer, so I guess I could... look at pictures of sharks and rays and seahorsies?


@madamvonsassypants Girrrrl you can MAKE pictures of seahorsies!


@antarcticastartshere Hell, I'm going to Photoshop me swimming with seahorsies, riding a shark and carrying a triton with a rockin' body in a bikini.

And then I'll turn away from the computer, shed a tear, maybe open the blinds and drink some Qream.


@antarcticastartshere Seriously, there is so much shit you can do with marine animals and graphic design it's not even funny.


@wharrgarbl dolphin-riding marine biologist by day, Lisa Frank by night. Or vice versa. That was my childhood goal.


@mustasheo Wait...those two roles aren't one and the same?


@wee_ramekin Guaranteed Lisa Frank rode dolphins by day, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

(my guess: amazing, extravagantly colored, animal friendly acid trips)


@madamvonsassypants I could watch the ray exhibit at the local aquarium for even more hours if they were all technicolor. When the rays start snorkeling up the glass instead of through the substrate? You can see their hearts beating through their skin. It is the best thing. Only it would be better if it were in something more than blue-wash tones. Possibly so good people would die from it? In which case I guess maybe I could live without it? Pun not really intended?

Hot mayonnaise

To make a final decision, I'm going to have to see how Meghan analyzes texts.

Hot mayonnaise

I bet Meghan killed the last ever leopard.

Katie Heaney

@Hot mayonnaise never! she cuddles wild and ferocious animals, she doesn't harm them!

Edith Zimmerman

@Katie Heaney But she seems fascinating??

Katie Heaney

@Edith Zimmerman Mehgan wouldn't kill the last leopard. She'd look at it intensely and it would bow.


Your cousin sounds awesome, although sharks are still terrifying. Sorry your cousin. Also, I am afraid to go IN the Minnesota lakes because I am vaguely convinced I will wake up Cthulhu from his dead slumber and no one wants that.


Just the thought of being this woman's cousin is giving me an inferiority complex.

kid madrigal

@likethestore All I'm thinking about now is how every hot/famous/ridiculously talented person is probably someone's cousin. I don't envy that someone.


@kid madrigal This is Gwenyth Paltrow's cousin.

So, I mean, I wouldn't go worrying about hot peoples' cousins all that much. Plus, have you seen Katie Heaney? She's gorgeous! :-)

[Why yes, I do look for a way to talk about Katherine Moennig in every post!]


@kid madrigal Or like how every celebrity has a sibling, and you can clearly tell who got all the hot genes.


The Hairpin should brand it's own giant head calipers.


i'd be more excited to see garrison keillor than johnny depp. call me crazy, i know.

(i've actually seen garrison twice and both times were amazing)

Katie Heaney

@honeybadger omg me too! saw him at the metrodome for a Twins game back in the day.


I have a giant head! A GIANT head. I never never fit into hats. The only person I've ever met that possesses a larger melon than me is my husband. It's fearsome. I am afraid of pushing out babies because of this.

Also, I like how your cousin spells her name. It's all like, "Meh[gan], creature-wrangling is regular for me."


@ennaenirehtac I have a tiny head. Like, when I went to buy a helmet, the saleslady brought out the extra-EXTRA small, and said sadly, "If this doesn't fit, we'll try the child-sized." I always say, it's not the size of the brain, it's....oh whatever. Freaks unite?


My little brother wore an adult-sized bike helmet when he was six months old!


@vodkasaurus Freaks unite! Custom headwear for all!

@MKE I DID NOT NEED TO HEAR THAT. My sympathy to your mother.


I remember seeing her on posters when I was taking scuba diving lessons in the Florida Keys! Do we all have a cousin that makes us feel inferior? I do! (though mine has only been in People).


@undercoverhippie Yes! My baby cousin is on iTunes, all by her super-talented folk-singer self.


@Ophelia I acutally don't (to my knowledge)! Wooo!

Tuna Surprise

My cousin had a very flattering profile in the Wall Street Journal. I was given the task of buying that days WSJ and scanning the article in for the relatives...sorta like a salt in wound kind of thing.

christina tesoro

well keira knightley is overrated anyway. i mean, have you seen how much she bares her teeth when she has angry-scenes?

(but johnny depp ohmygodohmygod. and my latent pre-pubescent fangirl is also like freaking out bc of the orlando-bloom vicinityness of your cousin.)

Anna Marquardt

Damn it, this ancient browser is causing all sorts of issues.
Here's a chart to see how big your head is. Mine's in the 97th percentile.

Katie Heaney

@Anna Marquardt I will be checking this as soon as I get home and will report back ASAP


@Anna Marquardt Awesome. I am literally an outlier. Yup. That lone dot out there where 60cm heads and 160 cm heights converge? That's me.


@blily Same 58cm/183cm. I still remember all the other kids pulling nice new football helmets out of the box and having them fit perfect and after trying on a few I was left with the bulbous old one that looked like it was made for a horse.


@Anna Marquardt I'm not doing this because it would just Remove All Doubt that I have a big head and I don't really want it confirmed. Only about 75% of ladies hats won't fit on my head, and I'm going to just be happy that I don't like hats.


@zidaane Now I am imagining a horse wearing a football helmet, so, thank you.

RK Fire

@Anna Marquardt: I too, am an outlier. 58.5 cm head, 157.5 cm height. I think I'm in the 99.9999999999 percentile.

My face is wide too. Don't even talk to me about eyeglass frames shopping... even when my similarly-wide faced sister is an optometrist with her own office.

RK Fire

@Anna Marquardt: I just measured my fiance! 192 cm/60 cm head. And then I realized that this study was based on white people in the UK and as neither of us are white, I'm going to say that the study is a bit off.

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

@theharpoon You don't have to imagine it, you can see it! Well, 50% of it anyway... Personally, I think the presence of Don Knotts more than makes up for the lack of a complete genome.

Tuna Surprise

If I looked like that in a bikini, I would also do what ever I could to make sure my career involved "wearing a bikini". So, good on her.


Not only does she does crocodiles on purpose, she does so IN BIKINIS.


Oh man. I am so not as awesome as Mehgan Heaney. Welp... ok then! (I got over it.)


This was like reading My Crazy Cousin Courtney.


@melis Oh my God! Those books made me want a bichon frise so badly. They also introduced me to the concept of veganism (I distinctly remember her disdaining an omnivorous diet for her dog because "meat and dairy are poison").


I want some shark bites fruit snacks.




@Elizabon "Just when you thought it was safe to eat fruit snacks" - !!!


I am so glad that my cousins are unaccomplished losers, like myself.

Harriet Welch M@facebook

@suddenvalley For serious! I will always look awesome because of college and not getting knocked up a THIRTEEN!
Really, that's all it took. Night classes and waiting until high school to lose my virginity.


Ummm @Katie Heaney VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION: When she was on David Letterman, in the tank, did they play a humorously appropriate song like, "Leave Me Breathless" or something like that? I remember having a sleepover whenever that was (like 9th grade? 1999?) and my friends and I were watching David Letterman and that came on, and I was amazed/horrified at the length of time she was under, but also kind of giggling because of the song choice.

Katie Heaney

@BoozinSusan yes! "Take my breath away" ! haha. IDK what happened to the videos!


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