Ariel had the misfortune of being named after a Disney princess. She didn’t have red hair. She couldn’t sing a lick and all of her friends were trying to set her up with boys named Eric. No matter the stereotypes, Ariel could actually swim, but not as well as someone from under the sea. Her swim team never won medals, but they couldn’t blame it on her lack of fins, because she was never last but never first either. She was genuinely average.

As a girl, Ariel would ask if she was from the sea.

“Ariel, I’ve told you a million times, we found you on the beach looking for seashells. You were a beautiful pearl and suddenly you hatched into the world’s most beautiful baby. Our baby.”

“So you’re not my real Mommy?”

“Oh…um…yes, of course, I am.”

“So I’m a mermaid? You’re a mermaid, Mommy?”

“No dear, we were both born with legs, but if you practice hard, you could swim just as well as any mermaid out in the ocean.”

Ariel practiced and practiced and practiced and finally at age 16, she gave up. No matter how hard she pushed herself, she knew that she would never be any better. She did everything possible, but she was always looked over for one of the other girls. She was nothing special despite what her mother always told her.

“Ariel, remember you’re special because you’re you.”

“Whatever, Mom.”

“I know you don’t believe me now, but at some point, I know you’ll find the thing that makes you YOU and you’ll know exactly what it is once you find it.”

Ariel rolled her eyes. Her mom was always telling her that she could do anything, but she didn’t feel special. She didn’t look special. She was just Ariel. Not a little mermaid. Just a girl. A totally average girl.

She started thinking about becoming Ariel the milkmaid or even just a house maid. Practical jobs that would keep her out of the water and hopefully far away from men named Eric.

So Ariel stopped swimming.

Her hair grew long despite the years of chlorine abuse. She took up knitting. She quit knitting. She was no good at video games. Then she taught herself the guitar. Her fingers felt at home on the strings. Her voice average at best could still belt out the lyrics to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Disarm.”

No longer part of the jock scene, she began to make new friends that taught her about zines, punk music and veganism.

She was no longer Ariel Not the Mermaid, she was Ariel the Guitarist and her mother smiled at her and said, “See, I told you so.”

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