As Christian parents my husband and I try to teach our daughter that life has rules. There are “house rules” where our boundaries and expectations for her behavior are defined. There are “school rules” that the school and/or board of education have determined will do the same for her school behavior and actions. Even her Sunday School class has rules. When she grows up and is old enough to have a job outside the house that job will come with rules. Games have rules. So do beauty pageants.
My husband & I had quite a few adversions to the whole beauty pageant “thing”. All the material that came home from school kept emphasizing “age appropriateness” for dress and make-up. So we agreed to the $40 entry fee and the $10 photogenic contest entry fee, and filled in the necessary paperwork.
She and I found a simple dress that had enough “bling” for her with its red sequins & that seemed age appropriate. She borrowed some jewelry from me, wore a pair of her Sunday shoes and her oldest cousin prepared our little girl for her first beauty pageant.
After watching the final rehearsal (the only one parents were allowed to be at) I felt better about our decision to let our daughter enter. At their age the stage rules were simple, consisting of “the walk” with three turns and an escort on and off the stage. In their regular school clothes and minus the “bling” and make-up all the girls seemed to be on a level competition field. When one girls shoes caused her to fall the vice principal had the PTSO president call the girl’s mother right away and request she wear different shoes. Yes, I thought, this will be good for our daughter’s self-esteem and hopefully fun too.
Two nights later our initial apprehensions seemed mild compared to what we witnessed. First, all those age appropriateness rules were the first ones broken. Shoes, make-up, dresses, hair, jewelry – these girls weren’t dressed as girls, they were dressed as Miss America contestants! Kindergarten girls tottered on high heels beneath the weight of dresses bigger than they were! Sixth graders looked like seniors in high school. (Apparently I should have watched “Toddlers & Tiara’s”!)
Second, that simple walk with its three turns? Only a souple of girls just walked the walk they’d been taught. Those girls with “pageant experince” worked the walk. Also clear was that when it came to investment of monies we had fallen way short of the mark.
We had one dress, our daughter was going to wear that dress. We had one pair of shoes, those were the shoes she was going to wear. My mouth gaped open seeing mothers who struggled in the wind and rain to haul in three or four dresses, a bag of shoes and enough make-up cases for a LA runway. We live in a rural area, few people have “wealth” and I knew some of those families were struggling financially as we were with the economy.
I felt totally naive and a bit less than intelligent. As a parent I wondered why I hadn’t “foreseen” the “way it would be” instead of believing it would be as it appeared on paper.
Our daughter didn’t place. Her “Princess” experience ended quickly. Her inexperience as a pageant contendor was evident. However, she played by the rules. Her dress, shoes, make-up and hair were age appropriate. She did her walk as she was instructed to do. She was beautiful. She still “lost”!
To be continued: