OH, TO BE YOUNG AND A MER­MAID

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - QUEENSLAND LIFE - MEL BUTTLE Mel Buttle is a Bris­bane co­me­dian

Re­cently I was in a ho­tel pool do­ing lap. That’s right, lap not laps; I’ve got the fitness of a pieeat­ing con­tes­tant.

Af­ter only last­ing one lap you need a rea­son to stop swim­ming so you don’t at­tract the at­ten­tion of other pool users who might cor­rectly as­sume you’re weak and shouldn’t be al­lowed to breed. So it’s im­por­tant to pre­tend there’s some­thing wrong with your gog­gles to main­tain dig­nity. As I edged my way to­wards the steps, two young girls turned to me and said: “You can’t come in here, it’s for mer­maids only”.

I as­sumed they were about 7. I’m not good at guess­ing kids’ ages but as they were still play­ing mer­maids and not a Kar­dashian-based game, I fig­ured they were un­der 9. In my day you looked like you were 8 un­til you were 16, at which point some­one handed you a dress from Coun­try Road and all of a sud­den you were al­lowed to sit at the big table at Christ­mas.

I’m not great at play­ing with kids, I’m an only child. I worked out quickly though that these girls had the same power struc­ture in their friend­ship group as most prison gangs. There was the one who was in charge, Olivia, and then the one who ac­tions every or­der she barks with­out ques­tion, Bella. Bella, pick­ing up on Olivia’s lead, stares me down, although I see slightly more fear in her eyes than Olivia, and she re­peats: “Only mer­maids are al­lowed”. I was gob­s­macked. I looked around for a par­ent and spied a dad nearby; he was obliv­i­ous to the hap­pen­ings, deep in his iPhone and Cae­sar salad.

I re­sponded as best I knew how. “I could be a real mer­maid, sent here from the ocean to make sure pool mer­maids are be­ing nice,” I said. I held Olivia’s icy cold stare, she raised one eye­brow at me and said: “You’re not a real mer­maid, mer­maids don’t need gog­gles”. I flicked my eyes over to Dad; his craft beer had just ar­rived, so I as­sumed he wasn’t go­ing to be in­ter­ven­ing any­time soon.

My only-child senses kicked in and I fled the scene. I couldn’t re­fute their ac­cu­sa­tions, so I used my fee­ble arms to pull my­self out of the pool and on to the safety of a banana lounge. Once safely back in adult world, I re­mem­bered I’m a fully grown woman with ac­cess to cur­rency, so I bought my­self a large gin-based cock­tail and sat by the pool un­til Bella and Olivia ex­ited the wa­ter upon their dad’s in­struc­tion. I didn’t think mer­maids took or­ders from 40some­thing men in Nike hood­ies, but I guess I’m not all that knowl­edge­able about mer­maids.

I re­alised as they tod­dled away, wrapped up in tow­els like hu­man bur­ri­tos, I en­vied them and how they man­aged their en­vi­ron­ment. They just wanted to play un­in­ter­rupted. They were try­ing to say: “Mind if we play here for the next few min­utes? Then it’s all yours”.

Later that week I was on a train, a woman had her phone on speaker and was talk­ing at the top of her lungs. Ev­ery­one in the car­riage made eye con­tact with each other to com­mu­ni­cate that we as a pack agreed this was anti-so­cial be­hav­iour. I im­plore you, dear reader, next time you see that hap­pen­ing, try say­ing: “Real mer­maids don’t put their phone on speaker”. And then let me know how you go.

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