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Quiet Desperation

Nothing against beauty, but we could do without the pageants


If I had a daughter, the first thing I would say to her would be, "Please don't talk with your mouth full."

The second thing I would say to her would be, "Please don't enter beauty pageants."

I think they're dumb.

The little girls, the young women and the women who enter them aren't dumb, it's the idea.

I watched a few Miss America pageants when I was a kid. When I was old enough to know better, 9, I stopped.

I thought by now they would have disappeared like travel agents and pay phones.

They haven't.

The absolute worst of the worst of the worst are the child-aged ones that once featured JonBenet Ramsey.

When winners are announced, it's always news to me. I never know when they are scheduled, where they are scheduled, or why they are scheduled.

Miss District of Columbia was recently crowned Miss USA 2017. I heard her answer to the $64,000 question stirred things up for a day or two.

Perhaps you didn't know this. According to The Washington Post, "beauty pageants emerged in the South during Jim Crow as a way to assert white superiority." Not a great basis for something.

Historian Blain Roberts has written a book about this. "Pageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women."

The Miss America pageant lifted the rule that contestants "be of the white race" in 1950.

Every minority or mixed-race winner since then has been met with racist backlashes.

Still, they go on.

For the winner? I think they get a tan Ciera and a scholarship of some kind.

My idea of feminine wonderment is a 51-year-old high school art teacher named Jennifer, who happens to be an exemplary mother, an exceptional painter, and an exceedingly patient girlfriend, in a relationship with someone who misdirects just about every conversation into a labyrinth of obscure references to films and songs.

She has a sense of humor, and she has sense enough not to wear a sash with the words "Miss Colorado" or anything else on it.

Of course, if I did have a daughter, I'd leave it up to her. If she wanted to enter a pageant, I would even drive her there. I'd wish her luck, drop her off, and pick her up afterward.

I would do the same things if she hoped to be a Broncos cheerleader, another aspiration that completely befogs me.

There is something fundamentally wrong about beauty pageants. I feel the same way about Black Friday, karaoke and sprinkles on donuts.

Who doesn't appreciate beauty? My friend Ruth was a stunning New York City model in the 1920s. She thought she had lost her looks by the time I met her, when she was 88.

One day we looked at a book. It was Georgia O'Keeffe's biography. There were pictures of O'Keeffe that were taken when she was in her 80s.

I said, "What do you think?"

She said, "She's beautiful."

I said, "So are you."

Ruth by then was a tough bit of crust, and didn't believe me. It took some convincing.

I cannot imagine what a little girl must think when she looks in the mirror after watching a beauty pageant.

Kid, take it from me. Please.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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