When I was growing up, there was nothing more glamorous to me than watching a good old fashioned beauty pageant. Watching the beautiful young women walk across the stage in gorgeous dresses, performing their talents and strutting around in their swim suits was my idea of a perfect evening. I actually broke a date once so I could stay home and watch The Miss America Pageant.
As a young girl, I had my aspirations of competing in one of these pageants. As I got older, my fascination with them never waned, but my desire to be a participant slowly evaporated. I remember when I was younger, I heard stories of how my grandmother was one of the first “bathing beauties” back when Miss America origninated in Atlantic City. Some years, my family would draw names out of a hat and that was your “girl”, in an odd sort of horse-race. I recall pouring over the pre-pageant “catalog” that listed a photo of each contestant and her biography and being more than a little disappointed when my favorite turned out to look nothing like her photograph. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the pageantry and glitz that accompanied the show. I still miss Bert Parks and his rendition of the Miss America theme song, “There She Is…”. No one, in my opinion, can croon that song like Mr. Parks could. It makes me tear up to this day.
As I got older, I preferred to watch the “Miss USA Pageant” because the competition did not include the “talent” portion, which some times dragged “The Miss America Pageant” to epic lengths in both time and mediocrity. I also relished the year that Donald Trump, owner of the “Miss USA” brand, had his daughter Ivanka, as a commentator. I lit up like the Times Square Jumbotron when I heard her announce that one of the contestants was “quite the competer”. You can send them to the best schools, Donald…
So recently, it was not unusual to find me sitting in front of the tv tuned in to the “Miss USA Pageant” one Saturday night. My family, bless them, has realized that this is mommy’s crazy time, when I select my favorites early on and write down my proposed “finalists”. I cheer “my” ladies’ choices in the evening gown competition and cringe when I hear a clinker of an answer to one of the judge’s questions. It is the first and ultimate in reality tv.
While I was scrutinizing each contestant’s chances, my oldest son, Ryan, wandered into the room. He was getting ready to go out with his friends when he spotted my viewing choice.
“Is it that time of year again already?” he asked me. “Are you going to cry?” I’m not sure why my children ask this question, because all of them do; of course I am going to cry.
“Sit down and watch some of it with me, Ry,” I asked him. “Tell me who you think will win.” He was so not interested, and made that abundantly clear to me, until he noticed that the swim suit portion of the show had begun. He immediately sat down, enthralled.
“She’s sexy,” he purred as Miss South Carolina pranced acrossed the stage.
In a sudden need to defend my pasttime, I countered with, “And she is probably brilliant, too.” She could have been a NASA scientist for all he knew; all that mattered was she looked good in a bathing suit. Ah, my son.
Thankfully, he left with his friends before I had to endure any more unsoliciated commentary from Ryan. Why did I ask him to watch in the first place? He was making a mockery out of my cherished childhood memory.
As the event drew to a close, I watched with great interest as Miss California was selected as the new Miss USA. My daughter, Shannon, had dyed her hair earlier in the week to a stunning dark auburn, much like that of our new winner, and all the memories of my childhood aspirations suddenly shifted to Shannon! Of course!
Daniel came in the room at that time, to find me sobbing on the couch, and he handed me a box of tissues. “Why do you always cry, Mom?” he asked me.
I half smiled through my tears, “Because some little girl’s dream just came true.”