Not a Fish Tale

Well before Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid thrilled little girls the world over, I wanted to be a mermaid. Some of my earliest memories involve my cousin, Jenny, and I tying our legs together and writhing around on my grandmother’s kitchen floor, otherwise known as “under the sea.” Later, my girlfriends and I spent our time in the pool hanging onto other friends or, occasionally, my dad, pretending that they were our dolphins, and we, of course, were lovely mermaids. One of the most disappointing moments of my childhood was when my father (or more likely, my mother) refused to purchase the seashell necklace for me that would surely give authenticity to my play. I can’t even enter that store without remembering the pendant and wondering if the $2 that it cost was really worth the grief that it instilled in 6 year old Susan.

Twenty-something years later, I’m still (in spite of a near-paralyzing fear of fish and all things aquatic) a big fan of mermaid tales, favoring Hans Christian Andersen’s lovely, tragic version above all others (Disney will do in a pinch). My favorite part of the story has always been the moment that the mermaid becomes fully human. I love the first seconds of realizing her heart’s desire, no matter what the outcome might be (good for Disney’s Ariel, bad for HCA’s unnamed heroine). In that moment, all the mermaid’s wishes have come true. I can only imagine the sense of fear and elation that she must feel. I want that feeling. I want to know what it feels like, taking a deep breath and diving headfirst into the life that I’ve dreamed of, hoping for a good outcome, but not afraid of a bad one. John Burroughs said “leap and the net will appear.” I hope he was right.

It may take some time, but changes are coming.

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