Saturday, January 21, 2006

My Miss America Record

"The pursuit of beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives." Albert Einstein

Okay, busted. I'm a Miss America fan. And not just any fan -- I have an uncanny, unblemished record of picking every single winner since 1960. Usually from the opening parade. Always from the Top Ten.

Don't ask me how. I never read anything about them ahead of time. I avoid articles and professional predictions about front-runners or preliminary winners. I go in cold, watch closely, take some notes and select.

And please don't ask me why. If you don't just know, then nothing I say can explain it.

Any girl who's ever played with a Barbie, gone to a high school prom, participated in a wedding, tried on a bathing suit, dated, watched a chick flick or read a romance novel knows that while beauty may be skin deep, its value is a mile wide.

And for a couple hours once a year, the rest of us can watch Beauty get knocked around. We can critique the gowns, dis the hairdos, harrumph at the bodies, guffaw at the "talent," roll our eyes at the interviews and generally feel both empathy and superiority for the ladies on display.

It's a hoot. Especially if you sweeten the show with some innocent handicapping and compile a sizable pot. Which I've won so consistently that now I have to give points to my companions or nobody will bet.

I've been watching the annual bitch and pony show since I was a little girl. (Hey, a bitch is a female dog, yo.) One of my earliest memories of Miss A is when our family went to a neighbor's house to watch the first pageant ever broadcast in color.

Through high school, college and bachelorette career days, from marriage and parenthood to the present, nothing has kept me from my spot in front of the TV on the weekend after Labor Day. I'm from Philly, so I felt a twinge when Miss A moved from September in Atlantic City to January in Las Vegas. But my loyalty is ultimately to the show, not the venue.

I was still a kid when I picked my first winner in 1960, defying family and conventional wisdom that a contestant from Mississippi couldn't win twice in a row.

Later in the 60s and 70s, while appreciating the message, I just couldn't identify with my feminist "sisters" out there burning their bras in protest against the pageant. Forget Miss A, she's small potatoes. I was more interested in changing the world by doing than stewing.

Then on chicks night at CJ's in 1976 when nobody believed me, we all cheered as Tawny Godin of New York became Miss A -- because she wanted to be a judge. (What happened to that admirable career goal? She gave it up to become a TV twinkie. Oy.)

I made my biggest splash picking Vanessa Williams. It seems outrageous now, but even as late as 1984 it was impossible to believe a black contestant could actually win.

There's no point in mounting a cultural discourse on the pros and cons of this most American tradition. Yes, it's a meat market. Yes, in some ways it devalues women. But in other ways it celebrates them.

Yes, there could be more diversity among the contestants. But every single one of them is either a college student, a college graduate or a grad student. No matter how dumb they look parading around in swimsuits, they all represent the value of higher education.

It's kitsch. It's claptrap. It's a TV show for cryin out loud. And it's way better than American Idol. You either grok the fun of watching Miss America or you don't.

I'd stay and argue with you but the show's about to start and I have to go pick the winner.

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Blogger MamaQ said...

Nice one, Sally. I think you and I subscribe to a similar brand of feminism.

1:33 PM  

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