I’ve decided that I would like to be the next Miss America.
I am not kidding. I think I’d be great. Yes, I’m too old. I have no discernible talent. I am not perky, dedicated to public service, or particularly graceful. But I still think this could work. My current beef with the pageant is that the promoters insist that it’s not beauty pageant; it’s a “scholarship” pageant. Who are they trying to kid? If it were truly a “scholarship” pageant, the contestants wouldn’t be uniformly beautiful. They’d look like the occupants of the campus library on a Friday night. For me to win, though, there would have to be some serious revamping. There’d be no bathing suits, no helmet hair, and no plasticized smiles. It would have to become a true representation of the “average” woman in the U.S. today. Some would argue that it should not represent the norm; it should celebrate the “ideal” woman. I say that if they want to keep this thing afloat, they need to stir the pot a bit. They need, in a word, me.
Here I am. Miss Unusual America.
Doing a little digging, I found that back in the day, the pageant was originally seen as a symbol of the U.S., with Miss America often being referred to as the “female equivalent” of the President. (I’ll save the political rant and the need for a “female equivalent” for another day. Stay tuned.) But this is an interesting concept, Because I’m telling you, I think under the best of circumstances the presidency could be a two-person job. For example, the President could send me, as Miss America, to deal with the Congress, with all the bickering, petty politics, and selfishness. I was a middle school teacher – I can handle that sort of behavior. Set expectations with the Senators and Representatives. Let them know what the rules and guidelines are. And make sure they know that there will be consequences for bad behavior.
“Senator, you shot down the bill to help extend veteran’s benefits. Is this appropriate behavior for the government?”
“But he started it!”
“Senator, stop poking the gentleman from Massachusetts.”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Precisely. You will be given a twenty minute detention after today’s session and will lose several points in your next polling.”
Consistency is key, with Republicans, Democrats, and seventh graders.
(Again, saving the uber-specific political rant for another day. Moving on…)
As for the nuts and bolts of the competition, there are a few areas in which Miss America must be judged in order to win the crown. The first is a personal interview, where the candidate must be well spoken, articulate, polite and confident. Not surprisingly, this part is not televised. Too bad, because I think this could be my strongest area:
Host: Miss Old Illinois, what do you think is our greatest issue in this country?
Pageant Me: OK, listen up. First of all, I’d tell everyone in the Republican Party to just relax already about the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ” and let LGBTQ people serve as well, for Pete’s sake. Gay people have always bravely served in the military – this is not new. There will not be a sudden surge in gay enlistment. There will be no formation of the 77th Airborne Liza Brigade. Although if there were an uptick of gay enlistment, I think that would be awesome. Send these fellows in anywhere, surprise the hell out of the enemy with a chorus of, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” and if the opposing troops won’t retreat, they would be met with a withering glare and firm “Bitch, please.” They’d have the enemy running for the hills. (AUDIENCE GASPS) Oh, really? This bothers you? An entire generation of kids is wasting brain cells on violent video games and overdosing on Fritos, and you all clench over a stereotypical gay joke?
Host (beginning to sweat): What are your personal goals?
Pageant Me: I would someday like to pull off wearing skinny jeans and a beret. I would like to invent a chocolate cake that does not induce feelings of guilt and an immediate increase in fat cells. I would like to convince the USDA to classify wine as a fruit. I hope to convince the world (and myself) that wearing pajamas all day is cool and not, as my friend Sophie classifies it, “sadthetic.” And, most of all, I’d like to persuade Nathan Fillion that those hot Hollywood starlets are passé and that he really needs to date a middle-aged woman with saddlebags, an overdeveloped sense of snark, and a killer lasagna recipe. (Looks at host) I think the word you’re looking for is, “Anyway…”
Perfect 10s all around. Nailed it!
Next up is the talent competition, which for many years has played fast and loose with the word talent. In the past, many contestants overplayed the piano or violin, while some juggled, did fast sketching, or even ventriloquism. There have been firewalkers, tractor drivers, and the ubiquitous baton twirlers. Some sang loudly with dramatic pageant arm gestures, garbled arias, or delivered a maudlin torch song with a huge smile, because, as my friend Nadine said, “Miss America is not allowed to be sad.” No more. Let’s bring this area into the real world, too. How about a Spelling Bee? Bargain Shopping? Expensive Footwear Justification? Those would be interesting. But what is my particular talent, you may ask? I can look at a photo of a man and with less than three bits of general information, tell you why he’s still single.
“Orders for a woman in a restaurant.”
“Calls women babes.”
“Continually tells women they’re overreacting.”
“Thinks he’s an artiste.”
“Career goal is to be on Jersey Shore.”
“Is on Jersey Shore.”
I can hold a violin while doing this, if it makes the judges more comfortable.
The next part of the competition is where they walk across the stage in a bathing suit and high heels. This is where I might have to take a pass. I won’t wear a suit in sunlight, much less a spotlight. And it’s not just an embarrassment issue; it’s really a logic issue. I mean, who wears a bikini (oh yeah, they can wear two-pieces now) and high heels? Since the main arena for bathing suits is generally near water and not in an actual arena, it’s really a matter of safety. You could slip and twist an ankle. See? I’m looking out for my fellow Misses. Doesn’t that show depth and higher-order thinking skills? Now, if it’s a real problem, I’ll don the suit, but I’ll wear it like most women my age wear it – completely covered with a knee-length t-shirt. Or with a sarong that starts under the armpits, reaches the knees, and is made of something that won’t stain if you get margaritas or Pop-Tarts on it.
On to Evening Wear. Now, my typical evening wear is flannel pants and a “Mystic Warlords of Ka’a” t-shirt, so I’m thinking I might have to bump it up a notch. Contestants in my new version of the pageant would be judged on poise, confidence, and who complains the least about how their double-Spanx is cutting into their waistline. I walk best in high heels if I’m carrying a cocktail and a plate of mini-quiche, so I’d see if I could work that in somehow. To make it more relevant, they could also judge things real people generally do while wearing fancy garb. We don’t just sashay, pivot, smile, sashay. We make small talk. We pretend to be glad to see someone. We eat cocktail franks. We sit through boring speeches. We fake smiles. We politely excuse ourselves to the ladies’ room to tug at our strapless bras. The pageant could tie-in this part with the “onstage question” they pose to all of the finalists, which is topical, completely random, and for which they have no prep time. I could handle this much better than the Miss Teen U.S.A. contestant from a few years back who couldn’t give a coherent answer to why one-fifth of Americans can’t find the U.S. on a map. My answer?
I really think we can get the Miss America pageant to be popular again. It just needs to be relevant. Right now, saying Miss America represents women in this country is like saying reality television represents…reality. There’s a real disconnect. Miss America should be outstanding, but not so incredibly removed from the rest of us that she ceases to become real. These things that they’re currently judged on in the pageant are not really life skills. We want our Miss America to be a representation of the best in all women. And that does not involve walking across a stage in high heels and a bikini. That’s why I think I’d make a good Miss America (or, in my case, Ms. America, thank you). I’ve survived in the real world. I have life experience. I’ve burned pot roasts. And I’ve raised a glass of wine, both figuratively and literally, with some amazing, brilliant, kick-ass women who I feel privileged to call my friends.
Plus, I’d love any excuse to wear a tiara on a regular basis. And if I added a cape and some awesome boots to the ensemble, I’m pretty sure I could take over the world. Who’s with me?