I am now paying attention to an aspect of society that I have never wanted to fill my brain with and it scares the shit out of me. There are many worlds I do not understand and many aspects of American society that I am clueless about much less the rest of the world and their norms and rituals. Let me get to the point, this week Hueytown Middle School, the school in which I teach, is holding their annual “Sweet Treats” beauty pageant. This entry may be long so be forewarned that I have some thoughts on this and it is going to be based on my biased opinion and view of beauty in our country and throughout our world.
Be aware that I am obsessed with things also. My wife would probably say that I have an unhealthy relationship with bikes, watches, and backpacking gear. These are the 3 things that I love to look at, collect, and want to own but generally am to poor to support my habit. So understanding obsession is easy for me, especially with material things. But know that I would gladly give it all up to make sure my family and friends were provided for and happy. Also, those things(except the watches) help me to get in shape, commute, or enjoy the outdoors. So I say all that to talk about beauty pageants and what a obsession they are to a certain sect of our culture. In the rest of the entry I am going to try to not make any broad assumptions about a group of people that I do not know and am only looking inside their fishbowl from outside the glass.
Let’s discuss our culture’s obsession with beauty and what the gatekeepers tell us is beautiful. As a young man, 12-14 years old, I bought into what society thought was pretty and what they pushed as beautiful. What became very clear moving into high school and actually looking at the world and not letting them tell me what to believe is that the ones pushing a certain type of beauty have their own agenda. They are trying to sell you something that is hardly ever obtainable. Know that even though I say that, it has been put in front of me so often in so many different forms that it is hard not to let a little of those beliefs seep into your mind and be accepting of them. Fighting back is fun, but can wear you down because of the forces against you. America, being my experience, has an unhealthy obsession with beauty. Let’s not be stupid and not acknowledge that looking at beauty is one of my goals in life. I have a very beautiful wife, I backpack to see a sunrise in a place that many have not experienced, I go to as many art museums as possible to see what an artist has created to make beautiful, and most of the art has to do with the human form. But, the misplaced beauty I am talking about is involved in beauty pageants. This is a contest that starts at a very young age to make very young girls look like grown women. To be brutally honest I have never been to a beauty pageant and really never plan on it and some of my viewpoints come from movies such as “Little Miss Sunshine“. It is a contest that mothers, like fathers of kids in sports, seem to live vicariously through them. They use their daughters to obtain infamy that they themselves have always been striving for in their lives. That is one of the saddest parts of this whole pageant society, that adults possibly ruin the lives of their children because of their insecurities. I agree this happens with mothers and fathers with children very involved in sports. Some teachers at my school told me some stories of what parents and kids did to be in this contest in a small suburb of Birmingham. These may or may not be true, but made me wince when they were spoken in my presence.
Starting with something minor and bringing you into the appalling is the path I have chosen. Most of the mothers spend hundreds of dollars on make-up, hair, and dresses. That is not abnormal, but scary for a community that lower-middle class is the majority and most do not live an even middle class lifestyle, but what is spending money on physical beauty when you can barely afford bills and forget buying books who needs those because education is so not the way you will make money, looks are the way to go. These girls will get checked out of school for this pageant and then have the gaul to come to me, a coach whose players never get a break and I have to remind constantly that education will get them everywhere and sports will teach them some very valuable lessons, and ask to get an extension on work they chose not to do because they wanted to look pretty for some judges. Needless to say I cut them absolutely no slack. Yet, let me say that the one that made me cringe was when they told me that some young ladies with financial backing from their parents get their braces removed for the week of the pageant. I will not espouse my disgust(trust me when I type that I could write pages on the wrongness of this), I will let you think about that for a moment.
Beauty is something that we should all strive for whether it be with your life, your partner, or the things you surround yourself with(material and non-material). It is just my humble opinion that we should not be having children strive for a physical beauty on the outside, but a radiance that comes from within. When I think about this whole contest I think of the “Gilded Age” of America. For those, like my wife, who hated history let me be brief. The Gilded Age was coined by Mark Twain as a cheaper metal covered in gold to make it look valuable. It is not my mission in life to point out all that is wrong from my perspective, but I do have to poke fun at things or else my head would explode. We are all crazy, but we all have our level of crazy. I feel that I am about a 7.5 on a 10 point scale. Could be worse, but I have room to grow. Beauty is wonderful, but be careful what you consider beautiful. Make sure that it is you that appreciates the beauty and not what you have been programmed to believe.