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Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What a Piece of Work is a Brony

When I was, oh, let's say, 12, I inherited what I thought was a bangin' Metallica shirt from my older sister. I was a somewhat awkward kid, not *quite* on the bottom rung of the social ladder, but not too far from the bottom, either. I actually suspect that at a different school my life would have been a living hell, but I benefited from:

a) my generally obliviousness to life, and b) living in a very wealthy town where rich kids didn't tend to dirty their knuckles beating up on the poors

In any case, as a tween I was discovering the power of music to move you into the right social circles, or at least open up doors for you. And I was constantly flirting with ways to be "cool" or, at the very least, to improve my station in the food chain. Wearing this Metallica shirt seemed like a slam dunk for me. Let's take a look at it now:

No, I don't still have it, dickbrain. I found this photo on ebay.
 So, did you catch my mistake there? I thought "Metallica = cool." But of course everyone at school thought "naked old man = uncool." I made it through that day dealing with potential bullies who were luckily in varying states of confusion asking "Is that your Dad?" when I would point out the Metallica logo and earn a confused decision to mutually ignore one another. What had happened was I had gambled with the rules of the playground and lost.

So fast forward twenty years and most of you have probably by now read this story about a young "brony" or male My Little Pony fan who brought his lunch sack to school and was bullied for it. The bigger uproar, though, seems to be over a school administrator who told the kid that maybe if he didn't want to get bullied, he shouldn't bring a My Little Pony lunchbox to school. This is the point where the general flow of public panic loses me. Because, yes, that administrator is correct. If you don't want to take a bunch of shit, you don't bring a damn My Little Pony lunchbox to school. I'm not saying it's right. I'm not even saying it's defensible. But what it is, though, is fucking obvious.

At any point was this kid under the impression that he wouldn't get his ass beat if he came to school with a My Little Pony lunchbox? By the time we're five we have a fair understanding of the way the world works, and after a few years in school we probably have a keener sense of social expectations and obligations. What I'm asking is, was there really a point where what was glaringly obvious to the school administrator ("My Little Pony lunchbox = ass beatings") was not obvious to the kid who had to live and struggle and survive and hopefully thrive in that social environment every single day? Like, was he really confused about what the outcome was going to be? Or did he decide that he was defiantly and proudly going to make his stand? And if he did decide he was going to make his stand, then why is he complaining about it now?

And all other things being equal, if the kid really was that oblivious, were his parents as well? The kid did not buy his own lunchbox. So this mother, presumably around my age, went to the store with her son, and said to herself, "Oh, My Little Pony. I used to play with those when I was a girl. I'm sure this will in no way cause my son to get his ass beat at school." Like, isn't that why we have parents? So they can tell us when we're making bad life decisions, not underwrite them?

I'll give you another example from my own childhood. A lifelong cartoon fan, I watched Pokemon like clockwork every day when I came home from school, well into high school. I was what you might call a Pokemon fan. However, valuing my own health and well-being, I did not go to school and loudly announce that I would be watching Pokemon later that day and hey, did anyone want to see my Squirtle/Misty slash fiction. (I'm exaggerating, of course. Everyone knows Squirtle wouldn't touch that uptight bitch Misty with a ten-foot pole.)

My point is that I didn't feel that society had to adapt to me. I had some obligation to accept my social expectations, or, at a minimum, to accept the consequences if I didn't. I mean, hell yeah, there were kids that came to school with the contemporary equivalent of a My Little Pony lunchbox, and defiantly so. And they accepted their lumps as a consequence of that.

I'm just picturing myself coming to work unshaven in flip-flops and a bathrobe with a half-empty bottle of gin in my bathrobe pocket. There's nothing illegal about that, and assuming I don't actually drink from the gin at work, probably not even anything that violates workplace guidelines. Like, my point is, I could 100% do that. I could try to make some point about how my work isn't any different even though I dress like I'm unemployed. I could legally, morally, reasonably do this. But then if my boss came to me and said, "Hey, maybe if you don't want everyone to treat you like a bum, don't come to work in a bathrobe with a booze bottle" would I get all defiant and angry and call the media in?

I don't have all the answers, obviously, and I get it, there's two sides to every story. And maybe the whole point of this exercise is that we should strive for a world where there are no social expectations and everyone can just do whatever the fuck they want and if I want to go to work naked or dressed like a clown then I should be allowed to. I can't deny that a lot of social mores are just junk, outdated, bigoted junk. But then there are other things that just exist because, hey, we all have to co-exist on this rocking sphere together, so maybe don't go into 7-11 barefoot. I don't know.

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