Asking for a Pony

Okay, the latest Scientiae carnival is up, but I’m still processing the last one. I was struck by the way Kat, in the middle of explaining how she hungers for closer professional friendships, takes a quick break to worry that her hunger is unreasonable:

I feel like my academic upbringing socialized me to not expect my style of friendships in professional circles, until I woke up and realized how much I missed them, and–worse still–how much I feel I stagnate intellectually by not having them. The latter is where this issue really irks.

Perhaps I shouldn’t feel hungry over this at all. Perhaps I asking too much to want close professional friends with whom I can interact regularly and easily. Perhaps I am still mourning having graduated from college, where the dorms were a continuous feast of interactions academic and not. I know I’m not an academic in hopes of reliving college, but I did expect more from the promise of the academic environment as an adult.

Because how many times have I caught myself making similar defensive maneuvers, prior to or immediately after expressing my wants or needs? A whole bunch of times, that’s how many. This habit becomes excruciatingly obvious when I start talking about my decision to cut and run with the MS – whenever I’m about to launch in to the “push”, the reasons I am unsatisfied with academia, the things I wanted to find in grad school but did not, my carriage shifts and my speech becomes halting. I hedge; I posture submissively; I describe things as personal that are really political.

While I don’t quite have the urge to scour the blogosphere for similar rhetoric, I am certain that Kat and I are not alone here. In fact, this kind of conflict over desire – is this reasonable? Does wanting this mean I am bad or broken? If I ask for what I want, does that mean I am selfish? – is as common as dirt and nearly as invisible.

Let me pause here to note that the human need for meaningful relationships is as basic and undeniable as the need for food and water.

I’ve been reading The Mismeasure of Woman. Carol Tavris spent an awful lot of ink to document how psychology (both establishment and “pop”) has a) pathologized traditionally feminine roles and virtues, and b) provided personal solutions to political problems, situating flaws within the individual woman instead of her environment. I could probably quote any number of bits that would seem relevant to this post, but I happened to be reading a section on the codependency movement:

Women tend to feel so guilty and anxious about any joyful assertion of themselves as individuals, Lerner argues, that they accompany each small move “out from under” by an unconscious act of apology and penance (as in “I’m so happy he’s letting me go to my friend’s house for a weekend that I’ll never ask him to wash another dish”). …. Certainly it has always been safer for women to feel guilty rather than angry. “As long as popular explanations keep saying that the reason for women’s unhappiness is in them,” Goodschilds concludes, “women won’t deal with their real difficulties. ….”

(If you can’t read this next paragraph, try selecting/highlighting the text.)

Yet here we are, apologizing for asserting our own desires, because there are little goblins in our heads spewing out endless variations on the theme of no, you can’t have a pony. As you can see from my cheap and obnoxious illustration*, the constant clamor of No You Can’t Have A Pony NO PONY NOT YOURS NYEAH NYEAH makes it difficult to talk about what we want – whether that’s a pony dressed in ribbons, or friends who can share a large, important slice of our lives. If we can’t even talk about what we want, how are we supposed to go after it?

*If you aren’t seeing this text on top of the No Pony graphic, consider yourself lucky.

God dammit, I want a pony. That is all.


  1. tectonite wrote:

    I want a pony, too.

  2. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Are you implying that the personal is somehow less important or applicable than the political? ‘caue I’d say it is the other way around.

    I’m not convinced that ponies exist, and even if they do I think I’d prefer goats anyway. But I can see how equine fans would be disappointed if they bought a pony ranch only to find out that it was actually a goat farm.

  3. yami wrote:

    Applicable to what? Politics?

  4. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Obviously the political is applicable to politics. But is it applicable to anything else? E.g. Life, work, or reality?

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