When I was growing up, I loved me some My Little Ponies. I wasn’t allowed to play with Barbie dolls for quite a long time (old enough to buy Barbies myself, and technically too old to be playing with them at that point), but on the subject of brightly-colored plastic ponies, I was an expert. I didn’t have all the mail-order-only ponies or nearly every pony known to girl-kind like my cousin did, but when her mother moved to Barbie collection instead of stalking the MLP rack at the department store, I inherited a number of sketchily-cared-for ponies.
Eventually my brother got in on the act, as it was the only way I would play with him at all, and my parents (in their fear that playing with girl toys might effeminate him permanently, I assume) bought him a Big Brother pony. Of course, despite being larger and hairier in the fetlock region than the regular ponies, the Big Brothers still came in alarmingly “girly” shades of pink, cornflower, daffodil, violet and mint. They also had flowing manes and tails, some of them longer than your standard collector’s pose ponies, because MLP did not forget that the main (mane?) attraction of the horse figurine for little girls was all the brushing and braiding and fussing with hair. This was unacceptable to my parents, and they promptly popped out Tex’s pink and blue tail (leaving a gaping hole that as a very dirty-minded adult I find far worse) and sheared his pretty magenta and royal mane to a butch mohawk. A mohawk that bristled so fiercely, his wee little yellow cowboy hat wouldn’t stay on anymore. Did I mention he was a cowboy? There was also a sailor, train engineer, quarterback, construction worker, Indian chief, baseball player, fire chief, and pirate, each of which came with a hat and bandanna; I remember snide remarks about the “Village Ponies” that I don’t think my parents realized I overheard, and I certainly didn’t understand at the time.
Thanks to sites like My Little Wiki (which started this whole trip down the memory rabbit-hole) and Ponyland Press, which is actually easier to browse, this was all brought to mind very recently. As a result, I did a bit of investigating into the new “MLP: Friendship Is Magic” cartoon, and the reboot of Equestria and the new characters and all the kerfuffle over the show. My opinion thus far is: it is made of awesomesauce and I am very sad I do not get the Hub channel.
Naturally, now that I have a daughter, she should have ponies of her own, right? I decided to go find some for her. Not me. For her. And maybe one or two that the Podling wouldn’t mind playing with, too.
So, I did. And, if you buy them by themselves instead of in a dress-up play set, they are teeny. Three inches tall, MAYBE. Wee. All their accessories are completely unsuitable for a baby. I picked up Twilight Sparkle (purple), Applejack (orange), and Rainbow Dash (blue), thinking the Podling would enjoy a blue flying pony with rainbow hair. Imagine my surprise when he latched onto the orange one and the purple one and dismissively insisted that the blue pony was “for girls.”
That evening, Mr. Cranky-Face came home from a long day at the coding mines and stopped at the kitchen door, where all three of us a sat at the table, combing hair, saddling ponies and talking in squeaky voices. He looked at his son, shoving a plastic chipmunk onto the saddle of an orange pony, then looked at me and sighed. “What have you done?” was all he said.
“Play ponies with me, Dada!” cried the Podling. “PleasepleasePLEASE?!!”
Let me tell you, it was very difficult to smother my laughter. Cackles, one might call it. I believe someone did call it that, that night. I believe that same person shot me very exasperated looks every time, too, as he put off the inevitable by fifteen minutes over and over. He never did play ponies with the Podling. (The Peanut, meanwhile, seems to be afraid of them. Go fig.)
Fast forward one week, to last night. Since then, the ponies have been dragged around in the diaper bag, rolled and tossed about the living room, and generally roughed up the way toys are when they’re owned by a 3.5-year-old and 8-month-old. The ponies’ hair was in quite a state.
Last night, I also cut Mr. Cranky’Face’s hair outside on the patio, with clippers, like the white trash we pretend to not be. He showered afterward (an absolute necessity for a hirsute gent) and came back downstairs in his bathrobe, looking all Old Spice-manly and damp and rugged with a day’s growth of stubble and his dark, wavy hair in shock at being cut short. You know; the sort of scene a lot of romance novels work hard to properly cultivate in the reader’s mind’s eye right before the heroine decides that maybe, just maybe it really IS too cold outside, and she really ought to stay over just this once…and goodness, the fire is really hypnotic and what’s this drink called again?
And then, as he strode through the living room wrapped in plush, red- and blue-striped terry cloth and looking very dangerously full of deliciously wicked male intentions, he stooped to retrieve the orange and purple ponies lying mangled on the floor in tumbleweeds of their own hair. He then sat down on the couch with a peculiarly intent expression, picked up a wee pink comb, and began to methodically comb the ponies’ hair. And comb. And comb.
I don’t know what expression was on my face, but I imagine it might have looked something like this:
“Shut up,” he muttered darkly, teasing out the tangles gently to avoid stretching the individual hairs. “It’s tangled.”
I believe I just shook my head without saying a word, because anything I really wanted to say would have meant one of us sleeping on the couch. After a moment, he moved onto the pony’s mane.
“I’m really surprised how well this crappy comb works. It should suck, but it actually does the job pretty well.”
“Yeah.” What can I say? I’m a wordsmith.
“The trick,” he explained, which is what he does when he’s learning something; he lectures to help clarify his own thoughts. “The trick is to not pull too hard, or it’ll stretch the hairs and then you’ll have these random hairs that are twice as long as the other ones.”
“Yes, that sounds about right.” Am I losing my mind? Is he really…?
“I’ll give them this; whatever they made the hair out of, it does actually feel like hair, not plastic.” His eyes narrowed and he glanced up at me, shame and defiance fighting for mastery of his face. “This is it, isn’t it? The draw?”
“Pretty much.” Don’t smile. Don’t laugh. Don’t spoil this. Move slooooowwwwly toward the camera….sloooooowwwwly… “Add in some shoes and dresses and barrettes and play sets, and you pretty much have it.” And then, because I couldn’t leave it alone, “I’ll teach you to braid yet.”
“I know how to braid,” he said scornfully. “Of course I know how to braid. I was a Boy Scout.”
“They braid hair in Boy Scouts?”
“ROPE. You braid rope in Boy Scouts.” He tsked and shook his head, setting the tidied pony on the coffee table and reaching for the other one. I did let it go this time, trying very hard to turn my attention back to my needlepoint and away from my large, hairy, half-naked husband meticulously grooming a 3-inch purple plastic pony.
After a moment, he sighed heavily. “I can’t believe you didn’t get Pinkie Pie.”