A mum claims she has been born in the wrong body and is actually a mermaid – but is disappointed she's banned from wearing her tail in public swimming pools.
Heidrun Barth, from Saxonia in Germany, spends her free time swimming in lakes and posing on beaches in her £1,400 custom-made Ariel tail as health and safety concerns mean she can't go for a dip in her local pool.
However, the 41-year-old, who works as a bookbinder, believes she should be allowed and has promised to "respect other people's spaces".
Heidrun, who was born deaf, said: "I'm not allowed to use public swimming pools with my tail; according to the lifeguards, it poses a risk to other people in the pool, even if I promise to be really careful. So that's a bit disappointing.
"Every now and then there are special events for mermaid fans where we're allowed to swim with our tails, but those are very rare.
"Why can't I use a swimming pool if I don't go at a busy time and make sure to respect everyone else's space? That would be nice."
Heidrun, who has three daughters – Milena, 11, Silena, nine, and Roselena, five – dreams of buying a house by the sea with a pool so that she can swim in her tail whenever she wants.
Her obsession began as a young girl when she fell in love with Ariel from The Little Mermaid and started thinking what it would be like to turn her legs into a tail.
But it wasn't until the summer of 2016 when she had enough money to buy her own tail that she began her double-life.
Recalling her childhood, she said: "On my door I had a big drawing of Ariel that I'd made, with her hair a more orange colour like mine, so I could pretend it was me. It was just a dream that little children have.
"Then I grew up and joined a theatre group, and in one play I starred as a mermaid meeting a sailor, with a dress to look like a tail, and a seashell bikini. It was just a nice coincidence, looking back.
"Time passed, I started a family, and my two daughters, who were two and four at the time, were completely obsessed with mermaids.
"I feel like I'm actually a mermaid who was born in the wrong body – the body of a human.
"Even the fact that I'm deaf means I'm suited for a life in the sea, because I don't have any problem communicating in sign language whenever I'm underwater.
"I have red hair like Ariel, and I think I even look a bit like her. I love being in the water, it just gives me so much joy. I can't imagine living any other way."
Heidrun, who thinks she looks like Ariel with her red hair, says being in the water gives her so much joy and she "can't imagine living any other way."
She has also signed up children on a special mermaid course which she took part in.
She said: "I would say it has changed my life for the better; I have to be really fit to swim with the tail and to hold my breath under water for as long as possible, which requires me to do sports regularly, eat well, get enough sleep, and generally live a healthy life.
"It just automatically makes me feel better and I've noticed that when I come back from a trip or an event where I spent time as a mermaid, I have more energy. I feel totally refreshed and I can give that back to my children and my family. It just makes me happy.
"My two younger daughters are as obsessed with mermaids as I was. They have books about mermaids, stuffed toys, Barbies, and they love that their mum is a mermaid as well."
Her family has been very supportive of her double-life and they always take pictures and shoot videos of her.
She now performs for audiences including children as a mermaid and last year she began selling custom-made sequined tails.
She added: "As it is, I have to wait for the summer months, when I can find a lake to swim with my tail. Ideally, I'd live in a house by the sea. That would be my dream. Living by the sea, and with a pool too.
"My family has been really supportive. My partner is always willing to take videos or pictures of me as a mermaid when I ask him to, and if he can't make it, my daughter will. Otherwise I'll take pictures myself.
"There's quite a bit of heavy lifting involved; hauling the bags with the tails and accessories to a lake, for example, isn't all that fun.
"I'm also running out of space for everything at home. My dream would be a dedicated room in the house for all my mermaid things.
"As it is, I cram all the tails into a space beneath my bed, but I have to say, the smell of the sea or a swimming pool lingers for a while and I think it actually helps me have nice dreams."
She continued: "If I get ready really fast, I can accomplish a basic mermaid look in fifteen minutes. Adding the proper top for the look takes maybe another half hour. For the perfect result, with make-up and everything, I'd say an hour would be best.
"Sign language is useful in so many contexts; you can communicate underwater if you're diving with someone else, you can converse through a glass pane or over a distance. There are so many uses for sign language.
"Most people might not even be aware of all the possibilities; some people even criticise signed languages as inferior.
"I just love the elegance and the beauty of swimming like a mermaid. But maybe I can do a lap for speed next time.
"Usually people compliment my looks and tell me they really like what I do. Sometimes people can't believe I'm deaf; they think being a mermaid and being deaf don't go together. Then I just tell them that no, I'm really deaf.
"Ultimately, I do have a role model – I can see her every day when I look in the mirror."
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