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.

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