Category Archives: cut your own bangs

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.

when you’re five years old


when you’re five years old, you don’t know about tomorrow. you know that bump down in the sidewalk when you’re in the wagon goes like this: ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum-DUM. 

when you’re five years old, you know the path to the park like the back of your own hand. if you cared to learn about the back of your own hand, if you could see the skin beneath the dark gray, dried sparkly dirt. 

when you’re five years old, you don’t worry about an hour ago. you worry about whether Wyle E. Coyote will catch the Road Runner, big brother says so. 

when you’re five years old, anyone over 4 feet tall, with clean hands and brushed hair is met with suspicion until they pick a better hiding spot than you. 

when you’re five years old, you don’t care about the president. you care about what’s your dessert in your TV-dinner. will it be the apple turnover or the cherry pie? you also plan to eat that first because you know they’ll make you eat your veggies first if they catch you.  

when you’re five years old, you don’t care about china. you care about what you’ll be for halloween. and if old mrs. neill will give out pennies again instead of candy. you hate it when she does that, even though your parents say it’s better than candy. 

when you’re five years old, you see everyone’s bellies before you see their faces. some bellies are big and you bump into them and others have belts, sashes, purses in front of them. 

when you’re five years old, your hands are dirty, sticky sweaty, nimble and strong. they can make mud cakes with your eyes closed and top them with the poisonous red berries your mom told you not to eat. 

when you’re five years old, you know which tree branches are the strong ones and which branches are not as strong. you know which branch to stand on for launching paper airplanes to get the best loft. 

when you’re five years old, you don’t go to school, you go to kindergarten and that’s better than school. 

when you’re five years old, snow is just like dirt except that it’s cold, wet and clean.  snow-cold is never really cold and wet, red hands from soppy mittens don’t feel bad until they come off.

when you’re five years old, a glass of milk and a peanut butter and bacon sandwich tastes better than candy and you don’t care for anything else for weeks. no, really, you don’t. even if little brother makes a barfy face. 

when you’re five years old, cleaning your room is stupid and under the bed is a secret hiding spot. oh! that’s where your bear went! 

when you’re five years old, brushing your teeth is boring so swishing your mouth with toothpaste works just as good. 

when you’re five years old, ski wax is great for putting up posters

when you’re five years old, any blank wall space is a canvas and people look like eggs and don’t have bodies; their heads are their bodies and their arms come from where the ears are on other peoples’ drawings.  

when you’re five years old, a spoon is a shovel and a fork has too many points, so you push part of the fork against a wall to bend a point.  now it works.

when you’re five years old, a tennis ball is big. throwing a tennis ball very far is hard.

when you’re five years old, a cat’s back is as high as your knees and picking them up takes all your muscles.

when you’re five years old, the wind outside sounds like a monster. 

when you’re five years old, crayons melt on the furnace vent.

when you’re five years old, your Big Bird record player makes fun noises when you rub the needle against a washcloth.

when you’re five years old, you can’t reach the faucet, so you put your stomach on the counter and hold your breath to reach to turn on the water. 

when you’re five years old, the attic is haunted and you don’t like to pass by its door on your way to your bedroom. 

when you’re five years old, a dress over pajamas is suitable for trips to the bank with dad.

when you’re five years old, you hold everything with two hands and you stare at it if you’re walking with it and it has water in it.  

when you’re five years old, banisters are the quickest way downstairs for teddy bears in blankies. 

when you’re five years old, the inside curve in the back staircase where you can’t be seen from the top or the bottom is the best place to hide when you’re gonna get in trouble

when you’re five years old, bedtime is for tearing your favorite pages out of your Babar books and sleeping with them. 

when you’re five years old, doing your own hair is mandatory. if you don’t like your bangs, you just cut them and they are gone. and bangs can never be too short. even if mom disagrees.

when you’re five years old, you have your front teeth, unless you lose them during a game of cops and robbers with your big brother when you slip and fall and have to rush to children’s hospital to have them taken out. 

when you’re five years old, tricycles are for babies. big wheels are for winners. health-tex vested pant-suits are The Best for meetings, mary janes are better than sneakers and speed rules. 

this is me when i was five. 

if you’re not five years old, remember these things for your friends who are five years old. maybe they can remind you to loosen up, cut your own bangs and feel how cool it is to be a kid.