Rumors generally grow deformed as they travel. ~ Edward Counsel
Ah, what fools we were, Ed and I, when raising our daughter Katie. We can hear them whispering. "Ellie and Ed didn't give Katie what every little girl should have - that all-important, rise-to-stardom opportunity." And they’re right. We didn't. Shame on us.
Because of our neglect, Katie missed out. So determined to raise our child on good old-fashioned values, we neglected to provide that one life experience that would have sent Katie straight to fame. Little girl beauty pageants. How could we have been so remiss?
And because of our selfishness, Katie now doesn't have a houseful of pageant nostalgia - the gowns, the ribbons, the awards, the trophies, the tiaras - to touch and pet and pine over - reminding her of those golden moments in the limelight. And because her home is bereft of the icons of eminence, she has nothing to show her own little girl, who, at twenty-two months, is ripe for the pageant world.
So - if we could do it over . . .
. . . we'd move to the South, where the good pageants are held - where pageant moms have an over abundance of beauty-contest enthusiasm and the morphologies of Pillsbury Doughboys. We'd buy a house with shelving for pageant paraphernalia and plenty of room for prancing around in Las Vegas showgirl outfits. We'd over-spend on contest necessities and cut back on non-essentials, like food, clothing, and the mortgage. We'd keep cases of caffeinated beverages on hand for when Katie got the droops during late night rehearsals, and we'd bribe her with toys and MacDonald's when she refused to swish the boa across her butt.
I'd start right off calling Katie 'Princess' and 'Perfect Preciousness' and 'Sweet Cinderella' to raise her expectations of the general public. She'd learn that she was the best, the prettiest, the cutest of all the contestants – far superior in all categories. She'd learn to love being in beauty pageants as much as I loved sticking her in them. And regardless of long car rides, musty motels, lethargy, and sitting for hours in itchy starched crinoline, she wouldn't cry. I'd scold her - in front of people - if she did, 'cause "Queens don't have meltdowns, Missy."
I’d enter Katie in contests as early as, say, two weeks old. She’d wear something expensive, something beyond my budget, something over-the-top - perhaps a pink polyester flouncy tutu with sequins and baubles – something that stuck out - a layered shelf of petrified mesh. She'd have pink striped leggings with sparkles and matching socks with treads. I'd strap a papoose board to her back, making it look like she could hold her head up even though she was still wrinkle-red from a nine-month bath. Talent? No sweat. Head Flopping. Performing would be a cinch - just remove the board.
As she got older, I’d hire a pricy pageant coach so Katie would get the best of instruction in how to tilt her head and put on those Wow! facial expressions – wide, batting eyes and plastic smile.
A professional make-up artist would transform Katie from natural child to tart – skin-toned cream to hide facial discolorations, pink cheek powder for the big-girl look, tomato red lipstick for the pouty look, black eyeliner painted to a cat-point just above the outside corner of each eye, neon confetti eye shadow that shimmered under the lights, and false eyelashes, thick and caked with mascara.
A hairstylist from some hoedown would tease Katie's hair and stick in curly, bleach-blond extensions, making Katie's head look like a yellow poodle sat there. Katie would cry and whine, “That hurts. You’re pulling my hair."
I’d tuck my spandex tank-top back under the belly pounds I’d put on special, and say, “Shucks, sweetie, y’all wanna to luk nahse for the jedges now, don-ja? So shuddup and quit yer squeelin.” I'd talk like that because I'd want to fit in, being in the south and all.
She’d stand in the shower in her underpants and scream and cover her face with her hands while I spray-tanned her whole body orange-brown. I'd say, "Hold steel, now. Yer gonna git tha goo in yer ayes, iffin ya move 'roun." And while the tan glop dried, Katie would walk like a pig farmer in manure so her thighs wouldn’t scrape together and mess up the layer of sticky fakeness between her legs.
We’d practice her routine.
“Now swing your hips, baby girl – thas righ’ – now tear off yer skirt, yeah - toss it ta here! Lookin’ guud! Swish yer’ bitty butt! One! Two! Tharee! Fouh! Woo hoo! Y’all got it goin’ on!”
And when she was called to the stage, Katie would be a darling in her strapless yellow puffy dress, lacy ankle socks, white Mary Janes, and coiffed up do with fake diamond fascinators clipped above each ear. And she’d sway and slither and sashay across the stage with cutest damn frozen smile you ever saw, showing off those perfect white, flipper teeth, throwing kisses and making eye contact with each judge simultaneously.
Then we'd sit in the hotel lobby and wait for the judges to announce the winners. I'd munch on a couple of Paydays and Katie would finish off the last Mountain Dew.
Katie would say, "Did I do good, Mama?"
And I'd answer, "Coulda done betta, Suga' Pops. Yer smyle was a tad stupid lookin'." I'd shake my head in disappointment and sigh, "Cain't do nothin' bout it now. S'all up ta them jedges."
Of course, Katie would win something. Maybe not the High Supreme Queen or the Supreme Queen or even the Queen. But she'd get a tiara and a trophy the size of church steeple and a stuffed animal.
Once in the car, I'd chew on another Payday and look in the rear view mirror. Katie would be falling asleep, holding tight to her stuffed animal, streaks of mascara flowing down her cheeks.
"Oops," I'd say, "Gotta git y'all may-kup remover."
I'd pick a peanut out of my teeth and turn onto the main highway.
"Ya know," I'd shout into the back, "y'all gotta work harder iffen ya wanna win." I'd pause and wait, but there'd be no answer.
"Maybe next time, Honey Bee," I'd say to the road. "Maybe next time."