My Little Pony, there's no place like Elsinore
Things have changed since I traded in my dummy for a My Little Pony at the Early Learning Centre, and not just inflation! Back then, the only thing on TV at 6am was the test card with the horrific clown on it, My Little Ponies had very fat bottoms and were sort of horse-shaped, and the Care Bears lived in the woodland doing good to one another. Care Bears were not on TV, but in books, apart from the one that I tried to steal from an A&E in Aldershot. Since those halycon days I have been largely ignorant of life in Pony Land. However, spending the weekend with the delightful children of a friend lead me to a rude awakening! Nowadays Care Bears travel on hovercrafts and live rather a violent lifestyle. The My Little Ponies no longer live in Pony Land, but in the rather hierarchical kingdom of Equestria, and they have all lost rather a lot of haunch.
Such shocking revelations came alongside the realisation that I wasn’t ‘down with the kids’. One of the ‘kids’ in particular, covered his face or fled the room on my approach. The other, very generously said that I was a bit like one of the My Little Ponies (I believe it was Fluttershy if you’re interested). Initially I was unable to take this generous gesture as a compliment. Did I really give off the same impression as a huge-eyed, pastel-coloured pony with magnificent hair? I realised that I had hoped that a bit of intellectual gravitas might shine through in my interaction with others, but clearly glitter and a cutie mark were all that were doing any shining. This, I thought, was surely something of an isolated incident. Yes, my penchant for brightly coloured high-heels may make my size three feet look rather like hooves, but, by-and-large, I concluded, my friends perceive me as a serious PhD student. Just as I bolstered my confidence with that thought, my smartphone pinged. I had received a joke from another friend which likened me to the pink My Little Pony. That was that. I threw down my phone and ran from the house. When I reached the top of the garden climbing frame, I flung wide my arms, threw back my head, and cried to the sky in my best Kenneth Branagh bellow: “How all occasions do inform against me!”
Later that weekend I really did meet the Fortinbras to my dithering Hamlet. My friend’s husband invited one of his colleagues to supper. This Fortinbras figure was ludicrously charming, successful, handsome, and intelligent. I would say that any comparison between us was like “Hyperion to a Satyr” but since we’re roughly in the same kind of work, I felt that unfortunate comparisons were almost inevitable. This Fortinbras-type was one of those people who radiates good-feeling and makes those around him feel incredibly interesting. When I mentioned the unfortunate pony incident, he self-assuredly replied that if he were a My Little Pony, he would probably be Princess Twilight Sparkle. This remark seemed to me evidence that he was confident in his own skin. Just as Fortinbras’ action pricks Hamlet from his inaction, I could see that this, in fact, was the occasion informing against me. Like Hamlet, I ought to pull myself together, project confidence, not self-doubt, and claim my own identity. Perhaps I do have large eyes, rather hoof-like shoes, and totally magnificent hair! And what is so wrong with that? I was determined that next time I visited the house, I would leap in with a flourish, declaring: “It is I, Fluttershy the Pony!”
So this weekend I returned, with new confidence in my My Little Pony status. Now that I was less reticent and was taking myself less seriously, the children enjoyed my company far more. We had a lovely time. We watched My Little Pony and The Care Bears, we drew, went for a walk, and I was even invited to read a bedtime story. I call that success. Luckily, this weekend did not end in a blood bath, but I did help with bath time. When Hamlet, finally claims his identity and returns to Elsinore as “Hamlet the Dane”, he is finally able to fulfil the tasks that his father’s ghost set before him, and take revenge on Claudius. When I finally accepted the Little Pony in me, I was able to swish my mane of hair and join in the fun!
With thanks to Sandy!