So You Want to Join a Jellyfish Gang?

I’ve noticed something this summer: There’s never just a single jellyfish on the beach. Either you see none, or you see a whole bunch. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is that jellyfish travel in gangs.

It makes sense, if you think about it. The ocean is a big place, and it would be easy to feel lost and lonely if you weren’t a part of something bigger than yourself. Regular fish can be a bit cliquish, what with their elitist “schools” and such. Maybe jellyfish just want to feel like they belong to something.

And maybe you do, too. But before you go and sign up to join a jellyfish gang, there are some things you should know.


At first glance, jellyfish really seem to have it all figured out.


You see all these jellies, lounging around on the beach like, We own this club, and you think, “You know, that *does* look like fun.”


On the plus side, gangs offer a sense of belonging. If you’ve ever felt insecure about what makes you different, joining a gang can make you feel included for the first time. That’s a nice feeling. This jelly, for example, is super-mangled on one side and also appears to have an oozing head sore, but he’s a part of the group just the same. That’s pretty cool, for him.


The hierarchy within gangs also lends itself to the development of an intricate chain of command. Maybe you’ve never been in charge of anything before, but now there’s potential for you to rise to the top and show yourself to be a mentor and a boss.


Gang members have their own language, including phrases and symbols that outsiders don’t understand. Using these forms of communication makes you feel like you’re part of a family.


Plus, all your fellow gangsters look like big gummi bears.


But there’s a dark side, too. For one thing, gangs are recruiting younger and younger members, robbing them of their youth and introducing them to questionable behavior at a very young age. That’s sad.


Also, gang life is full of risks. For example, disagreements within the gang often fester and are not always resolved peacefully. It is common for disgruntled gangsters to use nearby items as objects of force on others.


The outcomes can be tragic.


And while it is sometimes possible for an outsider — like this clear straw wrapper — to gain access to the inner circle if he or she is similar enough to the other members…


… jelly gangs are notoriously bigoted and are known to ostracize those they see as outsiders, often puffing up defensively at the sight of anyone who is not sufficiently translucent…


… such as this guy, who was lured away from his friends and then abandoned on the hot sand in a cruel initiation ritual. He thought he was joining the gang, but in reality, he never had a chance.


So if you’re tempted to join a jellyfish gang, just make sure you’re going into it with your eyes open. If you look close enough, you may see that gang life isn’t all cookouts and street dancing. There’s a dark side, too.

And that’s science.*

(* It is not science.)

* * *

A big high-five to WordPress for featuring this on their homepage — it is always fun to be Freshly Pressed, and I’m so grateful for the support — THANK YOU.

If this is your first visit here, you can click over there –> or up there ^ to subscribe and get more of this stuff, if you want. If you enjoyed this gang of anthropomorphized jellyfish, you might also enjoy The Random Penguins / Penguins with People Problems, which will soon be a book you can own and put on your coffee table. Or you might not. Who am I to say? 

If this strikes you as entirely silly, that’s probably a sign of your hale mental health, so good for you. You might prefer some of my more normal work, like the column I’m writing for The New York Times.

Either way, hello and thanks. -MLP  (online: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram)


  1. You are so, so weird. “Still plays with feather.” I don’t know where you came from, but I’m endlessly glad to know you.

    • I eat all kinds of creatures when I travel around the world, including jellyfish – mostly in China. I often have to get over the “gross” factor when I eat something that’s considered unusual where I come from. Less often though, I have to get over the “cute” factor (when I eat something that’s considered huggable and loveable where I come from). This post may actually have moved the jellyfish from one group to the other!

  2. My son “caught” a jellyfish once. He’s smart. It smarted. I didn’t realize it was probably a gangster jellyfish; I would’ve warned him not to grab it with his hands.

  3. I wish I have had this precious info back in the day, when I tried to become friends with a jellyfish when I was just a little annoying kid. I’m quite grateful it was only a passive nerd jellyfish who couldn’t give a toss about being vicious with humans and not a racist one with access to the frightening loadouts you’ve illustrated here, though!

  4. LMAO…love it! I’m obsessed with jellyfish (although they look a whole lot better in the ocean than washed up on the beach). I want to join the gang. Will I have to jump-sting someone to get in? Thanks for the laughs & congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  5. This is funny, but since jellyfish don’t have brains, completely ridicules (probably spelled wrong) who knows, maybe they have another way to think.

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