“Gentlemen, start your engines!” Seriously, if I qualified as a gentleman, I would refuse to start my engine. Not unlike Marlon Brando, George C. Scott, Katharine Hepburn, or Sacheen Littlefeather, with regard to races and/or contests and/or competitions, I am a non-believer. Fighting others to win laurels is an unattractive, pointless endeavor and significant maybe only to those odd creatures known as “marketers” who delight over a manipulated bigger picture and money in the pot at the end of the rainbow.
True that the week of April 15-19, 2013 qualified as the easy winner of a miserable contest called “most horrendously spooky televised five days of this century thus far” boasting a fiendishly terrorized Boston Marathon for starters! Failure of gun control legislation followed, then onward to the incredible explosion of a Texas fertilizer plant which preceded a Thursday memorial service for victims of Monday’s back-pack bombs culminating with a frenetic Friday Police State shut-down of the city of Boston and a storm trooperish man-hunt reminiscent of “The Life of Pi” convincing America that “The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!” Where was Borat? Or Alan Arkin?
“Don’t cry for me, Argentina!”, but I seldom ever toted home a prize even as a result of the “luck of the draw” — except for a totally useless set of bar-bells in the fifth grade. Oh, wait! An exquisite doll with her own trunk-load of fashions “once nearly was mine” but got snatched from my hands at the Delts’ Halloween Queen festival, traditionally held at the 4-H pavilion for years, because not only had my Dad bought raffle tickets but another family member, superstitiously, also had entered MY name, rather than her own daughter’s, into the drawing! Following a brief, testy family consultation and tussle which gained “And-the-winner-is-Susie Duncan” instant martyrdom, an upright decision (worthy of King Solomon) facilitated an intact pre-Barbie dream-doll accompanying another diminutive, blood relative “little-kid-mommy” home instead! I harbor excellent reasons to disown “contests”! Although, I’m still a teensy bit proud of consolation prizes — tacky decks of flowered plastic-coated cards — that Jeannie Strouse and I got awarded while substituting for adults at an Elks Duplicate Bridge night! Mere high school kids upstairs at the Elks mind you, we returned home with both wounded pride yet “booby” prizes for cooperatively, mind numbingly occupying folding chairs as we moved from one table to the next simply to clasp 13 cards in our inexperienced hands and to “Pass” rather than bid.
I accidentally garnered a couple of scholastic awards and an Arion Award musicianship medal along the way, a “good” citizenship certificate at an Indiana University Journalism Institute, a couple of trophies…and THE premiere John R. Emens Outstanding Senior plaque at Ball State University…but I never even knew I was being monitored for such. Contests cannot be other than subjective, noteworthily based on who knows whom or what’s in it for the presenting body.
No crowns, valedictories (pretty close, though!), loving cups, contrived amassing of “penny votes”, bouquets of roses, velvet capes, nor angel wings ever happened for me, but a close encounter with co-starring alongside nine other coeds in Stephen King’s horror movie “Carrie” did. Only nineteen, skinny, shy, naive and suddenly “crampy”, I strutted my stuff while wearing a virginal white swimsuit and very high heels in a beauty/scholarship (?) pageant in front of irreverent fraternity boys, sorority sisters who wondered why they themselves were not on stage, and a judges’ panel comprised of ogling, elderly males and seasoned, manicured, specious veteran beauty queens! My own jittery parents, seated in the audience in the cavernous lush new Emens Auditorium, writhed in agony, over-hearing whispered derogatory comments as we ten finalists thrust out chests, sucked in tummies, wiggled rears, waved, and smiled broadly to mask our embarrassment. The experienced winner got coronated possibly due to two last minute tricks–an entire bottle of baby oil slathered allllll over her resultant glistening form PLUS a surprise designer gown and bathing suit previously unavailableat dress rehearsal and actually hand-tailored just for her toned bod! Hands down, the perky little crown landed on her winsome, mayonnaised, Breck-Girl hair-do! Awwww, who would want to go through life as a former “Miss BALL State” anyway? Sour grapes? No, truthiness!
My guilty pleasure from that Salvador Dali-esque spectacle involved an ambitious first runner-up — whose charmingly disarming snarkiness would assure that a “Miss Congeniality” she never would be — who re-entered herself that same particular spring in the Miss Indianapolis pageant and achieved queendom due to her Julie Andrews voice in a “Mary Poppins”/”Sound of Music” season. Irony of ironies! Miss Indy defeated Miss Ball State by the time this (highly personalized) victimization of young women chapter reached the final curtain of “Miss Indiana” status. She actually got perilously close to hearing Bert Parks serenade her walk to the end of the plank at Atlantic City in that banner 1965 year of living dangerously: “THERE SHE IS…MISS AMERICA…There she is, your ideal…Walking on air she is…Fairest of the fair she is…There she is, MISS AMERICA!” The only titles I ever may have accumulated over a lifetime consist of Miss Represented and perhaps Miss Understood!
Believe it or not, I still have bad dreams about the entire event every May in commemorative retrospect…once was enough! A feminist/finalist got born on a Muncie stage during that overwrought festivity in the mid-60s! Girls aren’t supposed to be herded about and treated like cattle. And neither are cattle!
POSTSCRIPT: For all of my noble protestations, I am quite proud that an animal tale of mine recently won first place ranking as “Story of the Month” — my award consisting of a $75.00 coupon to be redeemed for two huge buckets of horse nutrients — and will proceed for consideration as an on-line magazine’s “Story of the Year”! Should I emerge victorious, do you suppose the UPS truck will deliver an actual “horse, of course”? Ah, memories! I recall my dad’s jocular, repetitious announcement: “I’ve got to travel to Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo to see a man about a horse!” And he did just that in 1950. He named the mare Maude, and we loved her and she loved us in return! Hey, in my book, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE sweeps all categories, whether “Win, Place, or Show”, without fail — no strings attached!
“We are far more likely to be harmed by our fellow man than by our fellow animals, yet we call animals wild and dangerous and we call man advanced and civilized.” ~ Anthony Douglas Williams, “Inside the Divine Pattern”