The wind whipped my face as my extremely long hair danced in the air. I shoved my hands into the pockets of a long blue coat that was wrapped around my shivering body. I fingered the pen and folded up piece of paper, both of which were vital to the mission I was on. My boots tapped on the ground with each step I took, producing a sporadic rhythm as I quickly dodged people who meandered back and forth on the sidewalk. The bright lights of Madison Square Garden glowed on my face as I passed. Halfway there. With each street that I crossed, my stomach sank lower. Pulling my phone out, I rechecked the address for the tenth time, trying to ease my nerves. Nearing my destination, I looked up at the numbers marked above four glass doors. I grasped onto the gold handle and leaned back, pulling the door open with all my weight. The walls of the lobby were painted a stark white and the pillars that lined the perimeter towered in an antique gold. My steps echoed off the black and white marble-like floors as I neared an attendant standing behind his desk.
“Hi,” I said, trying to let go my nervousness in a single breath. “I’m here for this Meetup thing tonight?” My voice raised, hoping he would know what I was talking about.
“Ok, do you know which floor it’s on? And can I see some identification please?”
I pulled out a card and handed it to him. “I think it’s the 12th floor,” I replied.
He smiled, and I could feel him judge me, like he knew exactly where I was going. “Walk straight back and take a left. Use the leftmost elevator. It only goes to the fourth, sixth, tenth, and twelfth floors.” His eyes crinkled as he smiled and gave me my I.D. back.
“Thank you.” I quickly shoved the card back in my pocket.
Only a few nights prior, I was sitting in my dorm scrolling through the documentary section on Netflix, in desperate need of something to keep my attention. With my blue fleece blanket wrapped tightly around me, the TV clicked every time I pressed the arrow button. I started pressing the button faster, annoyed at the lack of interest in any of the documentary covers. About to give up, a documentary titled A Brony Tale caught my attention. In the center of the cover was a blond woman holding her head as if it were about to explode while in the background sprouted rainbows, fluffy clouds, and some sort of pony all mixed with the heads of some very masculine guys. Confused, yet intrigued, I pressed play. Not even five minutes later, a roommate of mine walked in.
“Yo, what are you watching?” She held a tortilla in her hand; a few bite marks already showed from where she ate.
“It’s called A Brony Tale? I guess it’s about My Little Ponies.” I looked up at Sam as she froze, mid-chew. “Have you heard of it before?”
“Please. Don’t. Tell. Me. You’re. A. Fucking. Brony.”
I shifted in my chair, “You know what a Brony is?”
“Well yeah. They’re weird as hell. It’s like all these grown ass men who watch a little girl’s show. They’re all pedophiles. Or gay.” She stared at me in disapproval. “You’re so fucking weird for watching this.” Sam shook her head before leaving me in silence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to make hastily first judgments, but at first glance something did seem a little strange about the Brony culture. The term Brony started a few years back. It’s typically described as a group of men in high school and college who enjoy watching the little girl’s show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but the documentary followed both adult men and women of ages ranging from thirteen all the way to people in their forties and fifties. The thing that struck me about Bronies is how comfortable everyone was being weird about a little girl’s show together. The concept of an adult interested, if not obsessed, with such a childish thing sparked an interest in me. Feeling adventurous, I found a Brony meeting just a few blocks down from where I live and RSVP’d to it.
But now, I was thinking it wasn’t such a good idea. My side was pressed against the white, freckled wall. I couldn’t shift an inch. Ten people were squashed in an elevator that comfortably fit six and the second the doors opened to the twelfth floor, I was shoved forward as everyone swarmed around me. The hallways were dimly lit and every twenty feet was a door leading to a dance studio looking room. As I walked down the stark white hallway, I could hear Spanish-sounding music coming from one room, and then hip hop blasting from another. The doors opened and closed as people came and left as they pleased. My stomach flipped and I started to realize that I was in the wrong place. I turned the last corner to find one last door tucked away. Brightly colored balloons bobbed next to the handle and I peeked in the small window to see a larger man sitting at a table dressed in a bright red shirt with black pinstripes and black suspenders. A black newsboy hat sat on top of his slightly greased hair, hiding the small beads of sweat that started to form at the top of his forehead. I pushed the door open and was immediately greeted by the man.
“Hello! Welcome! What’s your name?” He was clearly excited at the position he had been appointed to.
I smiled at his enthusiasm. “Hi my name’s Heather. I didn’t pay online so how much do I owe you?” He looked up at me stumbling on his words. He wasn’t prepared for that question.
“Oh, um, one? That would be, um, fifteen dollars.” His eyes followed my hands as I pulled each bill out of my wallet and placed it in his hand. “Thanks. Enjoy!” He mumbled.
I smiled at him. Brony Meetups hadn’t been going on for more than a few years. The Brony culture itself was fairly new, too, but you wouldn’t know that by going to a meeting. There were maybe sixty people there and they all seemed to know each other, comparing different merchandise and joking around with each other. The room wasn’t too big; it was long but not too wide. On one of the long walls, mirrors hung from the floor to the ceiling but only peeked through the cracks of the black curtains that hung in front of them. Lined along the same wall were banquet tables covered in tablecloths and cluttered in My Little Pony t-shirts, playing cards, and fan art, all for sale. A few people stood behind the tables, pulling items out of clear and blue Rubbermaid bins, excitedly chattering amongst themselves. I walked toward the tables as a girl sporting a powdered blue wig jumped in front of me.
“Hi! How are you? I haven’t seen you before? What’s your favorite pony? What’s your name?” She spit out questions faster than I could comprehend them.
“I’m Heather.” I extended my hand to shake hers. She just stared at it. Pulling my hand back in my pocket I said, “I don’t really have a favorite pony, this is all pretty new to me actually.”
“Oh. Well, ok. Have fun!”
“Thanks, I will! I love your blue hair, by the way.” I complimented her, trying to make friends in the unfamiliar place.
“It’s actually a wig.” She twirled her fingers through the plastic looking strands, as if I actually thought it was her real hair. “I got it at the Comic Con a month ago.”
Finally. I thought. Something I can make conversation about. “Did you go to the one here in the city?” She nodded her head ferociously. “That’s awesome! My friend went, too. She loved it.”
“Yeah, it’s amazing! Ok, well, bye!” She quickly turned on her heel and made a beeline to a group of guys standing on the other side of the room. Slightly shocked, I sat down in one of the many tan, metal folding chairs lined up in the middle of the room, facing an organically-shaped screen. Next to the screen were three computers and what looked like a D.J. booth. A man hovered over all the technology, connecting wires, testing the volume of a microphone, and changing the colors of the picture projecting on the screen. Pushing one last button, he walked to the middle of the room, cleared his throat and put the microphone close to his lips.
“Hello, everypony! Welcome to the monthly My Little Pony Meetup! We have some exciting stuff going on tonight. In just a little bit, we are starting our Super Smash Bros tournament.” The man gestured to the opposite wall where there was yet another large screen hung up projecting a video game. “And we’ll also start playing some of our favorite episodes of My Little Pony!” This was followed by cheering from every person in the room. “Also, we have a webcam set up tonight, so later on we’ll be Skyping other Brony Meetup groups tonight from all over the world! There’s a group from Germany who wanted to talk as well as Bronies from Salt Lake City and Nashville! So that’ll be cool. Anyways, I’m finishing up some techy stuff but in the meantime, get your gaming on, and check out all the tables with merch and awesome fan art. Episodes will be playing in a sec. I promise! OK, bye!” The man hastily waved to everyone and shuffled back to his computers as they cheered for him, eager to watch their favorite show. As I was sitting in the chair, others began to sit down as well. A very tall man plopped down in the chair next to me. His shoulder length, curly brown hair cascaded over a majority of his face and he did nothing to move it out of the way. As soon as he sat down, he pulled a Nintendo DS out of his backpack and popped his thumbs into the holes of his sleeves before turning the power button on and pulling its matching stylus out from its hiding spot. He kept the DS in his lap as he crunched over it, hiding the screen with his hair. He saw me watching before he angled his body in the opposite direction of me, afraid to make any sort of human contact. Next, an older man sat down a few rows behind me. He was in his mid-fifties and wore a light brown cowboy hat. His jacket matched, embellished with fringe along the breast seam, and underneath his jacket was a t-shirt printed with a horse splashing through water. He sat by himself, but person after person would pass and pat him on the back saying their hellos and how are yous. He would just raise his hand, nod at them and smile, acknowledging their greetings. All of a sudden, a very large, pudgy woman ran, or waddled rather, flailing her hands in the air, a box in hand. If there was one thing I observed, it’s that these Bronies come in all shapes and sizes. Some members of the group were high school students, while others were classical music experts or employed by NASA. There was even one guy who would come to meetings occasionally who was an Air Force pilot in Afghanistan but has since returned to the States to deep sea dive and participate in amateur racecar driving. A loud shriek rippled through the air.
“Bbbrrrreeettttttt!!!! Brett! Look at this! Look what I ordered and what just came in the mail! Oh, my god you’re going to die!” The woman stopped, out of breath. The woman’s stomach wiggled its way from the waistband of her pants and hung out underneath her blue t-shirt.
“Brett.” Gasp. “Look. At. This.” She raised the clear box she was tightly gripping.
A man with rainbow-colored hair gasped as his eyes grew wide. “No way! You have got to be kidding me! My Little Pony curtain hangers?” He jumped up and down as he clapped his hands. “Those are absolutely amazing. I can’t believe you finally got them!” The two huddled together, whispering and giggling about the new My Little Pony gear. I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Hey! How are you? My name is Wyatt.” He smiled. “You don’t go to many of these do you? I haven’t seen you before at least.”
“No, this is actually my first time here!” I turned around to talk to him.
“Well, welcome to the Bronies!” He threw his hands up in the air and leaned back in his chair as he grinned. I smiled right back at him. Wyatt was only in high school, yet he looked to be about 23. He had been a Brony for only a year but became extremely involved in the Brony Conference in New York City fairly quickly. It all began for him when he went on vacation to Florida and a tropical storm hit. He was stuck inside all day with nothing to do but look on Facebook. My Little Pony memes popped up in his newsfeed and that’s what sparked his interest. He found the memes funny so he watched the show, curious to see if it was funny too.
“I was like wow, this is awesome. So I watched more and then some more of it and more dramatic things happened and there are funny bits and references to like, Star Trek, Star Wars, Apocalypse Now, all hidden within.” He wrung his hands together, recalling the vacation. After talking to many Bronies, I started to see a pattern. Not a single one of them found the culture, they just fell upon it. Whether it be from Facebook or via friends, they all unintentionally found it and loved it. Most of them hid it from friends and family, afraid of the judgment. My Little Pony was like their dirty little secret that they indulged themselves in but didn’t allow anyone else to know about.
Wyatt and I sat in the metal chairs as more and more people started to file into the room. The Super Smash Mario Bros game was picking up attention and there were small groups of people huddled in circles next to the tables, discussing the latest Dr. Who season. While this meeting was for people who love My Little Ponies, I started to realize that as a group, My Little Pony was only one similar interest that everyone shared. Next to all the Pony merchandise were also Dr. Who and Star Wars items too. Almost all the Bronies knew these other shows just as well as they knew My Little Pony. Wyatt explained that although the show was for little girls, the amount of adult references there were pertaining to shows like Dr. Who and Star Wars was huge. The writers hid small phrases within each episode that a small girl wouldn’t think twice about but made complete sense to an older group of people. I started to realize that My Little Pony is much more than just a little girl’s show to these Bronies.
A man dressed in all black started to walk towards us. He looked about mid-twenties as he shuffled his way toward us. The man was lengthy with short brown hair and he seemed to always have a smile on his face. He stopped right in front of us, lifting his hand to wave.
“Hello!” I warmly greeted him. “How are you?”
The man just kept waving with a sheepish grin on his face. After about a minute he walked away, following the perimeter of the room. Confused, I looked towards Wyatt.
“There are a lot of people who come here who are of the autistic spectrum. Some are more obvious than others. The guy who walked up to us usually doesn’t talk, but he’s always happy when he’s here.” Wyatt chuckled as he explained. Up until the man in black came up to us, I hadn’t even noticed. Everyone bonded with everyone. When I looked closer, some seemed more awkward than others, but their awkwardness was accepted with open arms. Not a single person seemed to feel out of place. Although Bronies come together to celebrate the show itself, I realized that they focused on the friendship aspect of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The idea is that any person, no matter shape, size, race, or sexuality, is welcomed and accepted as who they are. Almost every single person who I walked by made sure to say hello and ask how I was doing. Judging someone was a concept they never used.
Toward the end of the night, I began to see Bronies as something other than what Sam would call pedophiles and weird, creepy people who found children’s shows amusing. It was much, much bigger than that. The Brony community is a welcoming place where little to no judgment is made. It’s a place to build friendships around multiple hobbies and enjoyments other than My Little Pony. The show, the characters, and the lessons hidden within helps those who have disabilities as well as those who don’t. Being a Brony doesn’t mean being an adult who loves a girly little kids’ show, although that’s how it started. Being a Brony means embracing who you are and who others are without judgment. It means welcoming everyone with open arms and creating an environment to grow in.
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