I’ve always had a fascination with marine life and all things aquatic. At one point in my brief stint as an ambitious child, I wanted to be a marine biologist until I realized that studying more biology than I was interested in would have to be involved. PASS! However, that doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy trips to the aquarium and watching ocean documentaries and Discovery Channel’s famed Shark Week (not to be confused with the other shark week that I speak of which causes my reproductive organs to feel as though they have erupted). I know the difference between a scorpion fish and a lion fish. I know that the Orca (commonly known as the killer whale) whale is closer to the dolphin family than the whale family. I know that whales used to live on land and that Narwhals are said to be the creatures that the legend of the unicorn originated from. I’ve touched sting rays and a horseshoe crabs as well as had a pet goldfish named Neptune that I would have full conversations with while alone in my dorm room (RIP, homie). All this being said, I’d like to share with all of you a story about my childhood because, well, its funny and its my blog.
The year is 1997. I’m rocking bubble barrettes in my twisted up hair, and jellies on my feet. Yes, jellies. You know the ones. I’m 7 years old and have spent 5 of those years obsessing over The Little Mermaid. One of my mom’s old beaus had gotten me the now Walt Disney animated classic on VHS as a birthday present for my 3rd birthday and I watched it every single day. I even did a dance number in my baby jazz dance class to “Under The Sea” where we were dressed in blue costumes to look like, well, little mermaids. It was all very cute and very fun.
At 7, my mother knew her child and I’d over hear her describe me as “moody” and “sensitive” quite often.
“Mommy, what’s ‘moody’ mean?”
“You change your moods very often. You’re a true Pisces.” she would say.
“What’s a Pisces?”
“Its a star sign. People who are born in certain months have different star signs. You’re born in March and you’re a Pisces, The Fish.”
I was a fish! Mermaids were fish too! I was a mermaid!!!! I’d always believed that mermaids were real. My grandma, like many other Haitian grandmothers do their grandchildren, had told me that her mother saw a mermaid combing her hair on a beach in Haiti a long time ago. Grandma wouldn’t have dared to lie to her only granddaughter so I knew that mermaids existed. Just like Santa and The Tooth Fairy. The signs of my being a mer-person were all there. I was a great swimmer (except that one time I almost drowned in Aruba on a family vacation), and I’d just learned how to open my eyes underwater for more that 5 seconds. All that was missing was a set of gills and a tail. For the rest of the summer, every time I went to the beach and the waves were too rough, I’d shout into the ocean for Ursula the sea witch to chill out. Being a mermaid-land child was fun. That is until my mother put me in a compromising situation.
One night at dinner, my mother put my plate in front of me. I looked at it and saw the white rice I loved, some boiled broccoli and fish sticks.
“I can’t eat this!”
“Whats wrong with it?”
“Its fish sticks!”
“You like fish sticks.”
“Not anymore. I can’t eat this, Mommy.”
“I can’t eat MY people!”
I mean, what did she expect? Did she think I was some sort of cannibal? If I’m a fish, I couldn’t eat other fish! It was inhumane! Sure, other fish in the ocean ate each other, but I was also part human and therefore had a conscience as well as other food options. I never saw Ariel eat another fish. I never saw Ariel eat anything. I wasn’t going to be some sort of animal (even though I was a fish).
And so it began. Anytime fish was being served or eaten around me, I’d judge those eating it harshly. I’d give “how could you???” gasps and speeches about how anyone that loved me wouldn’t eat the “people” I called my own. My mother got into the habit of telling people that her crazy, human born fish child did not and would not eat her own “people.” Trips to Red Lobster would consist of me trying to telepathically communicate with the lobsters in the tank and wondering which of Sebastian’s cousins my Dad was ravaging across the table from me while I filled up on cheddar bay biscuits. I didn’t eat seafood for about 5 years.
I’m not sure when I decided that snow crab legs and sushi were too good to continue to miss out on, but my belief that I was a mermaid in a past life still remains. Besides, I saw Splash and the mermaid in that tore up an entire lobster so I figure its alright to indulge a little. And while I still don’t eat shrimp (I can’t get jiggy with the texture), haven’t had a fish stick in years and I cried while watching the documentary Blackfish, I look back fondly on my first experience with standing up for something I believed in no matter how ridiculous it sounds now. I’m not sure how many fish lives I might have saved by refusing those breaded sticks of mystery meat (is it really fish anyway?) but 7 year old Noëlle knows she made a difference. I’m sure the people of Atlantica are grateful.