OH, TO BE YOUNG AND A MERMAID
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.