Be More Mermaid

By Laura Evans

A tale with an otherworldly twist: a collection of personal essays from a modern mermaid.

Mermaids Don’t Have Thigh Gaps

“That’s not a mermaid, that’s just a fat girl in a tail”

The innocent jibe from a young boy has stayed with me for many years now - it rolls around in my mind like a familiar pebble in my palm. Amongst cheers and joyful cries on the shore, it’s those words I remember cutting through the din as I swam up to the beach during one of my first mermaid appearances back in 2016.

It’s an anecdote I’ve recounted time and time again when people have asked how children react to me as a mermaid. They’re the words I think about every time I put on my tail, every time the soft folds of my belly are exposed to hundreds of people as I pose for photos and manoeuvre myself, often inelegantly, on land. They’re the words I’m convinced people must think when they see me. Who am I, with my cellulite, round cheeks and soft body, to call myself a mermaid? Surely children are going to be disappointed when they’re expecting the beautiful Ariel to wash up on the beach and instead they get Ursula?

It is telling of a far deeper problem in our society when such young children know that the word “fat” is there to be used as an insult. It is further telling of this problem when using the word fat as an adjective makes me nervous because it isn’t a neutral term like its counterparts such as tall, fluffy, bright or small.

The work of fat activists is doing so much to change our relationship with the word fat. I have friends who confidently use the word fat as a descriptor for their body type, empowering me and those in our social circle to use the word in a similar fashion. They’re taking away the power of fat as a weapon and redefining it. And yet, despite the positive steps we’re taking, we still live in a world that constantly wants to reaffirm the idea that fat bodies or bodies that sit outside the ideal promoted by the diet industry, are not worthy of love and joy, and that being fat means we are failures and should be ashamed of “choosing this lifestyle”. How do we tackle this? We tackle this by taking up space.


Year after year, mermaid appearance after mermaid appearance, I have put on my tail and put my body on show to the world. I have taken up space and through donning my tail I have actively tackled my inner critic even though, in spite of my increased confidence, I still do have ‘off-days. I’m no scientist but I don’t think we’re born with a relentless inner critic. Though we sure do feed it with subconscious and unconscious vigour when we’re barely old enough to walk.

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