Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ponies Ain't Porny

 Someone asked me the other day where I got the moniker "The Party Pony."

"Is it like a porn name?" she said tactfully. "Cos' it sounds a little porny."

Party Porny? Anyway, no! No, not at all! My sainted mother's curly hair would go straight as a pin if she heard such slanderous suggestions.

Me love you, dirty martini.
The story of how I came up with the name Party Pony is so drenched in innocence that you will be sorry you ever thought porny thoughts about that little My Pretty Pony (at right), and her sparkling wicked eyes, and her tail extensions and glam tats.

At age 14, I was so scrawny and friendless that I made friends through the mail system. I had a whole bunch of pen pals, and they were all hopelessly horse-mad. One called herself "Dream Rider" and another called herself "Blackie." We traded something called "Slam Books," which were little homemade stapled books—made by girls for other girls, or sometimes greedily for oneself—that would ask questions such as:

Favorite band?
Who is the dreamiest?
Favorite horse breed?
Best friend's name?
Finish this sentence: Horses are____.
Put your fave sticker here!

Slam Books were invented to "slam" other kids with mean statements, but ours were totally innocent. They would get passed around through the mail system and each girl would add her responses to the questions (for the participants were always girls, except for the occasional pervy man who entered the system, much like today's cyber-stalkers, by posing as a teenage girl). The answers were gushy: Duran-Duran! Nick! Appaloosa! and were studded with screamers (!!!) and heart symbols and stickers of plump spangly ponies. If all went well, the Slam Book would get returned to the girl for whom it was created--but often one's Slam Book, like a modern recipe chain email, never came home.

Sometimes you would see a kindred spirit in the pages of a Slam Book, and you'd seek her out by writing a letter. Some of them discouraged friendships: NNP (No New Pals), they'd write at the base of their signature page. I was drawn to various girls by their handwriting: Jennie's curled, perfect script; Erika's blocky, confident pen marks. The girls who claimed to own horses were my frenemies, for I had no horse. I didn't even have a pony. All I had were about 18 Breyer horse models and a list of names for my future steed. I read their letters with a thin thread of jealousy souring the breath in my mouth. But I loved them all the same.

At one point I had a whole crew of pen pals, and I decided to band them together. We needed a name. Hence was born THE PONY CLUB and I, now self-named Pony, would be its leader. Perhaps we would have a face-to-face meeting one day. We would call each other by our Club Names: Pony, Blackie, Starlight, Mystique. We would ride together through the fields!

(Ponies must be a little porny because all those names are dirty, dawg!)

Anyway, lots of letters came to our house addressed to THE PONY CLUB by more girls who wanted to be a part of the cult. (I was pretty puffed with self-importance at this stage, because I had such a slew of friends...who had never met me.) The best of the letters would have a horse drawn on the envelope in such a way that the return address would be written in the tendrils of a flowing mane and the recipient's address within the horse's saddle. Every time a letter came my brothers taunted me remorselessly, calling out "Pony Club delivery!" with a giddy lilt.

For years whenever someone wanted to give me a poke, they would call me "Pony." Those who knew the tale, that is. One day a few friends and I were driving in NH and we saw a big sign that said "Party Ponies! .5 Miles."

"Party ponies! Gosh, I'd like to see them," I said. I thought they might have pink ribbons in their manes. Maybe their saddles would be in Lilly Pulitzer patterns. No doubt they would frolic a great deal. We never came upon them (wily creatures). But I have always longed to find them... sort of like mythical unicorns. Maybe they would lead me back to the day when I sat alone in my room and gazed beyond a fly, beating itself lifeless on the ice-starred window, and into the fields beyond.


Sam Southworth said...

Hurray for The Pony!

Anita said...

Hey there. I'm raven1 from QT. I saw a comment you left in the forums today saying you were feeling a little down so I followed you over to here.

OMG! This is a GREAT post! If the voice of your books are anything like the voice on your blog, it's just a matter of time until you get picked up, girl!

You're so lucky to have found sorrelmates (heh) as a kid. I yearned for horses in silence, collecting the Breyer sets (Black Beauty and friends were my most prized possessions. LOVED Merrylegs. And I even had a stable for them. Sigh...).

I also collected horse books: novels like the Black Stallion and Black Beauty, and breed catalogs where I could pore through page after page of magnificent studs for hire and ponder their beauty and inventive names.

I saw that you write MG. Have you ever thought of writing an MG series about a group of elementary school girls in a club like this? You have TONS of fodder here, and your enthusiasm shows in every word of this post. So I know you could carry it through into a book!

Well, it was nice to meet you. :-) And I hope you feel better about your writing soon, you're obviously VERY talented and have an amazing voice and wit.

Good luck!

Sam Southworth said...

Hey Anita! You get a big gold star for your comment! Excellent idea about The Pony writing a book about horsey things, and yes, she does have an amazing voice and a most unusual imagination! I hope you get half as much validation and good commentary as you have given to my friend--you're a good egg!
Cheers, Sam