Not every little girl wants a pony, or a magical unicorn. Some little girls are different, want things other little girls would consider odd. But often the desires of little girls can be prophetic of what they will become, of what they will desire, as adults.
I listened with great fascination to the NPR program “The Hidden World of Girls”, exploring the deep interest in horses by so many girls. As they interviewed little girls and former little girls, they spoke of the dreams projected upon these creatures, the longing for freedom and the potential for power. My Freudian suspicion of early phallic longing was shattered—this was about the self-perception of the girls, and not what they wanted to straddle. They wanted to be the amazing galloping creatures, not to tame them. Then it occurred to me—our relationship to our childhood objects of passion and fantasy could be the key to understanding our erotic adult selves.
Just to be clear at this point, I have never wanted a pony.
I didn’t fully appreciate until well into adulthood how many little girls in the U.S. wanting a pony, or a unicorn, or a dolphin. Coming from the land of Godzilla, these creatures just seemed so namby-pamby to me. At the age of fourteen I was dropped into the midst of the American teenage labyrinth, barely grasping English, much less the ways of the American Girl. As we grew up along side one another, these girls became young women who spoke a language of femaleness that I couldn’t understand. Thankfully, I came to the conclusion early on that I was free to make my own rules.
It never occurred to little Midori to want a pony, a unicorn or a dolphin—and I never understood the delight of endlessly grooming and decorating purple plastic ponies with creepy grins. A lot of it seemed odd and pointless to me so I read books, made weird art, and observed these American girls like an alien anthropologist.
A few years later, these same girls began dating, and dressing, strangely, like their plastic ponies. They seemed to know what they were supposed to do with these creatures called boys. I, on the other hand, began to find my own ways and outlets to dress like my weird art and fantastical creatures—first Halloween, then gay men’s dance clubs, the pervy underground circuit, and performance venues. The potential to transform at will seemed closer than ever.
Just when I thought I was safe from the pony-loving girls in the kinky world, I met the pony-play people. They dressed as horses in fanciful outfits with feathery things stuck to their heads. The ponies and their trainers seemed to spend endless hours grooming and dressing, and practicing dressage and fancy steps. They pull carts for ladies and gentlemen. They were (mostly) very well behaved, very pretty, and very precise. They were pampered and posed. The ones I chatted with fondly recalled their childhood love of horses and ponies. They seemed to expect me to automatically understand—because I’m a girl. Once again I was expected to desire something that I could not wrap my mind around. My eyes glazed over as the old sensation of bafflement crept over me. I nodded politely as they invited me to join in. I backed away slowly, remembering that I wasn’t issued their playbook and could be found out as an infidel at any moment. I was the atheist among the believers speaking in tongues.
I still did not want a pony.
Or did I?
Some long lost childhood memory tugged at my brain. Indeed there were occasions where horse-riding games set my imagination on fire. As a vestige of feudal, militaristic, education style, my grade school in Japan often marched the kids around in formation during assemblies and had us perform as groups in exhibitions of athleticism for the parents and teachers. As a small and uncoordinated child, I usually strove to blend in the crowd unnoticed. But the Kiba game was different. All the students were separated into two teams, red caps vs. white caps. Children formed groups of three or four within each battalion. Two or three of children locked arms to form a ‘horse’ and remaining child mounted the arm saddle as the warrior. Across the large playground, the two teams faced off. Tiny faces scowled in concentration and socially sanctioned aggression. Laughter faded and silence fell on the playground. When the red flag finally dropped, each cavalry battalion charged forward all screams, claws, stamping feet and bared teeth—fierce little candy warriors reenacting the finest Kurosawa battle scenes. As one of the smallest and most nimble kid in my class, I was always chosen as the fighter jockey. In the heat of the battle I would beat my mount to charge harder and faster, as I grappled with other fighters to snap off as many caps. Caps=Heads=Life. I imagined beneath me, a heavily-muscled, war steed, fierce and obedient, splattered in mud and the blood of enemies, nostrils flaring as it tramples the bodies of fallen opponents. I was the armor-clad warrior of blood, blade and poetry. Adrenaline charged through my veins as I forged forth, delighting in my power and glorious ruthless chaos.
The red flag drops again and the battlefield falls silent again. The parents and teachers politely clap their approval, unaware of the truth of the bloody drama that played out before them. The combats were always too brief. As I dismounted, with many enemy caps clutched in my tiny child’s hands, the massive warhorse dissolved into mean little school kids and I returned to the meek little girl.
I didn’t want a nice pony, and I certainly didn’t want to be a nice, pretty, pampered pony, but I did want to be a valiant warrior, riding in on a blood soaked beast, bristling with potent power, rippling just beneath the surface.
It doesn’t take an analyst to see the seed of the woman within that little girl: fierce, loyal, cruel and graceful. The erotic personae was already there, laying dormant and waiting for the opportunity to grow and blossom. Sadly, the authentic sexual power within was still not within the realm of commonly accepted femininity. It also seemed at odds with other aspects of my personality—nerdy, quiet, polite and shy. It took a few more decades and a great deal of exploration and work to get all the parts to fit comfortably together—and lead to personal and erotic fulfillment. At times it’s still a struggle, to remember to own the fierce sexual fighter within, to keep her in top shape and fend of doubts and complacency. But then, no sensual warrior can let her steed grow slovenly or her sword rust.
There’s a saying in Japan, “the spirit of the three-year-old lasts a hundred years.”
Childhood games and obsessions are indeed revealing of so many aspects of the self. Consider your joys of childhood—with a bit of work, the key to your adult sensual fulfillment may reveal itself.
P.S. I’m more open to the ideas of ponies now. I just need to find warhorses, whether four or two legged.