Warning: reading this book may result in serious pony-buying contemplation. Not the Polo Ralph Lauren type, though. Oh, no. I'm talking My Little Ponies. Don't blame me if you wind up in Kmart toying with the idea of spending $9.95 on said plastic Pony. After deliberating between Stardust, Sweetie Belle, Starsong, Rainbow Dash and Star Catcher (you're erring on the side of Sweetie Belle) and reasoning that you are a child of the 80s, making owning a My Little Pony practically a birthright (okay, maybe when you were 10 – but now you have money! And you can have any Pony you want!), you'll glance at the 'For ages 3 and up' recommendation on the packaging and feel a twinge of embarrassment. What are you doing here? What on earth is possessing you – other than perhaps some suppressed desire to reconnect with your childhood self and a time when things were safe and life was simple – to consider adorning your office space with a Pony?
Sloane Crosley's book of essays I Was Told There'd Be Cake, that's what.
You see, Crosley has a drawer full of toy ponies (in her kitchen), the result of a quip she frequently inserts into everyday speech ("Coffee, tea, a pony?"), which morphed into her standard dating line: "I have something for you," a guy will say on our first date. "Is it a pony?" No. It's usually a movie ticket or his cell phone number or a slobbery tongue kiss. But on our second date, if I ask again, I'm pretty sure I'm getting a pony. And this the pony drawer came to be. It's uncomfortable to admit, but almost every guy I have ever dated has unwittingly made a contribution to the stable."
It's this kind of quirkiness, along with poetic glimpses into her life as a New Yorker/publicist's assistant/museum volunteer/part-time vegetarian/maker of chocolate dessert tarts/girlfriend of a pot smoker/daughter of semi-detached parents/child of the 80s/Jewish girl on Christian camp, that makes her work so endearing and entertaining. She's like a literary Woody Allen trapped in the body of a pretty 29-year-old from the monied side of the block (Westchester, to be precise). The willing display of her flaws (she admits to being insufferably selfish), her social failings, the way her generally good intentions go astray, her vulnerable-girl-child-beneath-smart-girl-exterior quality and her cynical, though sometimes romantic, take on New York life make her extremely likeable as a writer.
I particularly enjoyed 'The Ursula Cookie', her essay on the book publishing boss who turned nasty and methodically depleted her self-esteem to the point where everyday was miserable: "Some people do yoga in the morning; Ursula gave looks so stern I believe she burned calories creating them... I was so petrified of messing up that the fear blocked all my memory pores. It didn't take long for me to become precisely what she thought I was: a lousy assistant." After presenting Ursula with a good-will cookie made in her likeness ("Later I found out that she gave it to her daughter, who ate the whole thing and spontaneously threw up from all the sweetness. After that, Ursula and I stopped speaking altogether."), the chapter concludes with Crosley resigning on the day after 9/11... and you sighing with relief.
All the pop cultural references (The Blair Witch Project; How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days; Ghostbusters; Twin Peaks; Care Bears; Jurassic Park; Belinda Carlisle; Starburst; Crocodile Dundee) will please 80s babies, any girl who's suffered for a bride will love 'You on a stick', and you'll likely get a laugh out of 'Smell This' (think poo on the carpet), while Aussie readers will get an added kick from 'Bastard Out Of Westchester', where she recalls the time when her family was planning to move to Sydney (they didn't):
"I wanted to be an Australian as soon as humanly possible. I went on a self-designed immersion program(me). I started watching tapes of post-Kylie Minogue/pre-Natalie Imbruglia Neighbours, an Australian soap opera popular in the UK for its mind-numbing cliffhanger plots... This sugar-and-spice programming was in peculiar contrast to Australian Vogue, which boasted bare breasts both in the articles and the advertisements. Not to mention the Australian teen magazines. Thanks to a publication called Girlfriend, I know what "pashing" is. Girlfriend was incredibly informative. I found my new Australian best friends to be fun loving, occasionally nude, perpetually tan, devilishly into neon pink thongs, and frank about yeast infections. They were intimidatingly self-actualized."
I wonder what she will think of Kath & Kim?
Order I Was Told There'd Be Cake online at amazon.com. Order your My Little Pony at whateveryouwant.com.au.
Girl With a Satchel (and a My Little Pony)