When I sat down to write this post, I asked Adam Beckmeyer how I should start. He said, “When I write something, I like to find the logical beginning and go from there.” For this story, though, finding the beginning is about as easy as Carl Sagan’s method of making apple pie from scratch – you could just keep going back and going back and not find a real start.
Why did I walk into Toys-R-Us intending to buy a twelve pack of pony figurines? Where did that start? I suppose you could say it started when I began debating over whether I wanted to buy the toys a few weeks prior, but why was I debating whether I wanted to go to Toys-R-Us and buy pony figurines in the first place? Maybe that started when I became a brony back in February after watching my first episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but again, why did I even watch that episode, and what made me like it?
Of course, if we get all philosophical and keep tracing the story back through all of my background and upbringing and preconceptions and predilections and personality quirks and beliefs I’ll have to start when I was born, and I have to go to and stack peppers in a supermarket tomorrow at 5 AM, so let’s start the story in the place that makes the most sense: when I stepped out of my brother’s car in front of Toys-R-Us.
“I can’t believe you’re actually doing this,” he said disbelievingly as I closed the door. In case there was any doubt about his level of disbelief, he also shook his head.
I just smiled and laughed. I had no problem with believing that I was actually going to do this. I’d chosen this course weeks ago for two reasons: first, because I like the show and wanted to support the creators by buying their merchandise, and second, because I really wanted to see how people would react when a nineteen year old man walked up to the counter at Toys-R-Us with a bright pink box of ponies. I spent a while debating over whether I wanted to buy the cheaper four pack at Meijer despite the fact that it didn’t have two of the main characters or the more expensive twelve pack at Toys-R-Us that had all six main characters but also six random characters that aren’t in the show. In the end, the twelve pack won out, mostly because Fluttershy wasn’t in the Meijer one and that is inexcusable.
So there I was, marching with purpose down the toy-laden aisles in search of my purchase. I knew right where it was, I’d done the reconnaissance the week before to cut down on aimless wandering when the time came, and yet I found myself wandering aimlessly nonetheless. I wasn’t ashamed to be seen buying the toys, that was part of why I was looking forward to buying them, to see people’s reactions. I knew that their opinions of me didn’t matter, but there was still a visceral response somewhere inside of me that refused to walk down the girls’ toy aisle in broad daylight and pick up a toy and take it to the register. It’s a common theme of many bronies’ stories, and I won’t dwell on it for too long here, but the preconceptions and expectations of society are a powerful force whether we recognize and choose to ignore them or not. What we know people will think of us for what we choose to do often carries more weight with us than what we know is true about ourselves and the situation, and many times that leads us to shy away from things that could give us a lot of joy.
Anyway, back to the story. Finally, I set aside my reservations, walked down the aisle, picked up the box by its pink handle, and went to stand in an exceedingly long line at the register. I had decided that if these people were going to look at me funny anyway, I might as well get a laugh out of it. It was almost my turn to pay when the lady in front of me turned around, saw the box I’d placed on the counter beside me, and announced, “Wow, those are really cute ponies!’
I grinned. “I know, aren’t they?” Everyone in line saw me slide the box over to the girl at the register.
She rang it up, took my money, and asked, “Would you like a gift receipt for that?”
I grinned wider. “No, thanks.”
Any uncertainty I’d felt about my harebrained scheme to purchase ponies was long gone. As it turns out, defying people’s expectations can be kind of fun. Especially when you get six awesome figurines out of the deal.