The Beauty Pageant

The Beauty Pageant

I’m channeling David Sedaris to tell this story. So, due to the unwanted attention he’s gotten in the media for embellishing his largely factual personal stories, I’m gonna do my best to be more like Diane Sawyer, but in a David Sedaris kind of way. I’ve also been writing about 6,000 words nonstop for NaNoWriMo and it’s not exactly the most light of stories, so I’m getting a little punchy. Lucky you! I need to let off some steam. Most writers might go for a walk or call a friend or run or I dunno, GET UP from their seats, but not me. I’m committed like that.

Diane Sedaris, how’s that? Ahh, whatever.

If you’ve been following me, you’ve read that when I was little, I looked like Snow White. I had jet black hair, fair skin, a bit of freckles and green eyes. My face was apple-shaped and my lips were ruby red. I was really cute. I’m not just saying that. Here I am around five:

C’mon, I was adorable.

I also simultaneously wore Mary Janes, a work vest and rode a Big Wheel with no reservations whatsoever:

Yeah yeah, you’ve seen this one before. but check me out,
no whims about the Mary Janes. This is important.

During my sixth spring, I was entered in a fashion show, beauty pageant, whatever, against my will. My parents belonged to the Buffalo Yacht Club, a sorta fancy-schmantzy social club where you could dock your sailboat or motor boat for $67,000 a month to sail it the six weeks that Buffalo has safe and warm-enough weather.

Grown men who were officers of the club wore special navy blue dinner jackets with gold-threaded crests emblazoned across the breast pocket, where the hankie would go. I also want to say that they wore white captain’s hats, y’know, like the kind the Captain of The Captain and Tennille wore:

I shoulda checked on this, but was he the captain of anything, other than being the Man behind the genius of “Muskrat Love”? Go here to hear all their chart toppers: – notice that he’s pointing at her, but she’s not pointing back… or if she is, she’s doing it under her right elbow… hm! So that’s how things are with them…

I could be wrong about the hats; that might just be a custom of the Buffalo Canoe Club, yes, there is such a thing. But the BCC is stationed in Canada… it’s a long story that someone else knows and that I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about, so feel free to Google it if you’re dying of curiosity. But if you’re actually dying of curiosity, the last thing you should be curious about is the BCC and whether the little men at BYC wore hats too. I’d think that the meaning of life would be something worth dying of curiosity over.

I digress. Been a long day.

When the parents were eating Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (yes, very nautical) or peanuts (not nautical) at the hull-shaped mahogany bar, their children were either: running around outside in the parking lot, swinging from the land moorings, throwing goldfish into the harbor, throwing gravel at each other from the parking lot and hitting cars instead, spitting into the harbor, bending silverware under the tables (and no, while it’s clever, it’s not (yet) code for anything but bending silverware under the tables), knocking back their parents’ unattended and diluted gin & tonics or having drink mini-sword fights from their Shirley Temples in the bathrooms. If we were eating dinner at the BYC, it was likely “chicken in a basket” which consisted of over-fried chicken pieces, french fries and a piece of broccoli for good measure served with a frigid smile from “Janice” or one of her many clones in their scary white nurse shoes and super-tight chignons.

The fashion show was held for charity, or to buy some unlucky dude a new dinner jacket because the crest was ripped off and hocked at a pawnshop. I can’t recall.

I was not a toddler and tiara type. I was a toddler and terror type. I didn’t wear dresses, I wore pant suits, as evidenced above in my Big Wheel shot.

My parents, my mother really (let’s not kid ourselves to suggest that my father had anything to do with this other than laugh inCREDibly loudly and say, “Oh! Jeeezuz!” over and over and over again when I was on the catwalk) got me all ready to go. This required:

About 10 feet of clothesline from Mr. Ott’s dock line to tie me down

A paint scraper from the boat yard to brush my hair

A custodian from the clubhouse to hold me while my mother crammed me into:

A pair of white leotards,

A mint-green smocked Polly Flinders dress complete with frills (I can’t believe it’s out there!):

and my beloved Mary Janes, which I was relieved to see and gladly put on in order to add a real sense of familiarity and fashion to the charade.

And just for added measure to ensure a total Molly Meltdown, I had to carry something close to, but not nearly as cool as this as well:

Except that mine was shaped like a watermelon and its buckle wasn’t hypothetically
as promising for use as a weapon as this one’s is.

It was however, as close to as death as I could get to participate in this event and then be completely humiliated by being required to carry a purse. All that was missing was the cute bunny rabbit or stuffed kitty toy. This type of thing was Not.For.Me. I saw kids out in the play yard running around and playing tag or smash the child who’s back is turned, and I wanted to be a part of that. I did NOT want to be walking down a catwalk four feet off the ground in a dress, carrying a purse for crying out loud.

Cue the cheesy 70s music, I’m sure they were actually playing, “Muskrat Love” (bitter irony) and my turn was up. My mother pried my sweet-smelling, clean and freshly manicured hands off the door jamb, clasped on to my wrists with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns (credit: “Cheers”) and dragged me to the catwalk. I was kicking and not screaming, but rather hissing, “I DONNN’T WANNNNT TOOOO DOOO THISSSS… NNNNNO.”

She picked me up, plopped me on to the catwalk and the audience cooed and “awww’d” and I wanted to barf or kick gravel at them all. I remember it vividly: I was on the catwalk, all what, 3’6″ and 30 pounds of red-hot, pissed-off me. I focused on the windows, through the windows and into the Great Lake beyond  the windows and I walked down the aisle. I saw people taking pictures of me and I picked up the purse, held it in front of my face and walked all the way to the end. Instead of turning around, so everyone could get a better view of the other side (screw ’em) I jumped off the catwalk and went for the door at the front of the clubroom.

Insert: my father laughing inCREDibly loudly and saying, “Oh! Jeeezuz!” over and over and over again.

I opened the door, took the steps / fire escape down the front of the building, ran down to the harbor and threw my Mary Janes and the purse into the water, next to the Ott’s boat. I don’t know if I played smash the child with the other kids, but I’m guessing I threw gravel instead.

Revenge isn’t always best served cold. Sometimes it’s best piping hot.

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

2 responses »

    • if you see one flying in your direction, it’s coming from me. under that dress (i didn’t go into it) i had the fluffy eyelet crindelin (?) and i swished when i walked. my favorite dress of ALL TIME are just two: my first communion and my wedding gown. i do like to wear dresses now because they are cooler and they allow drafts to my undercarriage, but as a kid: hated them. xo

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