My formative years were fraught with disappointment, stupidity, guilt, brutality and Sea Monkeys.
I'm not kidding. I can't even look at this ad without feeling like I'm dredging up a mucky mnemonic boot brimming with bitterness and remorse.
I put a lot of work into getting ripped off on the monkey scam. A lot of planets had to align just so to allow me to order the monkeys - as children we rarely stayed in one place for the requisite 6-8 weeks required for postal delivery; having a fixed mailing address meant that things at home were relatively stable- which was unusual, to say the least.
To my dad's credit, he was around during this episode.
He gave me a dollar and tried to warn me about the Sea Monkeys, but I wouldn't listen.
"Are you sure that this is what you want to buy? You only have one dollar to spend. That's a lot of money. "
He knew the Sea Monkeys were a scam. It was one of the very few things he and mom agreed on. She echoed dad's words.
"Are you sure? You'll have to take care of them.They might not be what you think."
"Of course I'm sure I want the Sea Monkeys! I'm five fucking years old! I'll believe anything if I think it'll provide even a passing diversion from the despair that your divorce is causing me."
Well, I didn't exactly say that. More likely I just pouted. But I did get permission to send away for the Monkeys.
I think most of us know the truth behind Sea Monkeys by now. They are Artemia Salina , i.e., brine shrimp. They don't look anything like the cavorting pink cuties in the advert.
This is what they look like. For scale, imagine the object below is roughly the same size as a deodorant stick:
If I had any common sense I'd have known that the fanciful critters in the comic ad were bullshit, but hey, I was five.
The Sea Monkeys were not as advertised, but they were worth the dollar for the lessons I learned from them:
1) Always read the fine print.
2) Be careful what you wish for.
3) A fool and his money are soon parted.
All standard rite of passage stuff, not exactly good times, but valuable life lessons nonetheless. Surely there can't be any long-term emotional damage resulting from the Sea Monkeys, could there? Everybody goes through a Sea Monkey moment- get over it, eh?
Ah, should that it be so easy. See, those little shrimp did hatch. Inside 24 hours I had a goldfish bowl brimming with tiny aquatic roaches. They weren't much to look at and they didn't do squat by way of tricks.
My mother's aquarium was much more fun to watch. There was a little pink castle in the aquarium , just like the one in the advertisement above. Coincidently, my mom loved angelfish, one of which also appears in the comic clipping.
My mom had already nixed my idea to raise my monkeys in her aquarium. She didn't tell me why- she just said "it wouldn't be good for them." I didn't know what she meant but I obeyed her. The monkeys stayed in the fishbowl. As pets go, they were a crashing bore.
It wasn't long before I had a plan. I thought my monkeys might benefit from some company. Perhaps a new playmate might inspire them to get bigger and more interesting...I stood on a chair and used mom's little green net to scoop an angelfish out of the aquarium and drop it --ploop!--into my tiny Sea Monkey world. Such friends they'd be!
I waited breathlessly for the monkeys to cheerfully greet their bowl-mate. They didn't do that.
I didn't expect what happened next, but it did cure my boredom.
If you drop an angelfish into a bowl of Sea Monkeys , the fish will eat until all the monkeys are gone or the fish dies, whichever occurs first. In this case, it was both. The poor angelfish, which was as bloated as it's puffer cousin, wasn't swimming correctly. It wasn't swimming at all.
Oh shit. I'd better put it back in the aquarium and hope mom doesn't notice.
"Did you put those little fuckers in my tank?", she asked.
"Then why is my fish leaking Sea Monkeys?"
I had become a killer.
NEXT: Yogurt and cultured genocide.