Posted in Today's File

Tiaras and Carpet Tape

A fellow blogger paid me the lovely compliment yesterday of supposing that I’m constitutionally incapable of being “boring.”  I’d like to imagine that’s so—I certainly haven’t led a monotonous life, and some of the exploits I’ve undertaken puzzle even me, in retrospect…  An episode that definitely falls into that category would be my one-and-only stunt as a Pageant participant.

I should lay the groundwork on this one by saying that “Beauty Pageant” is way way WAY off my radar as an admirable or interesting thing to do.  That’s my opinion now, and it was twenty years ago as well—at least, until a comment from my mother…  I actually have no recollection, now, of exactly what she might have said—in fact, I have no memory of the conversation at all.  The only “memory” that lingers with me is the impression that she’d hinted (or possibly said) that I wasn’t a pageant-kinda-girl.

So?  If she did in fact make such an observation, it was an undeniably accurate assessment of my personality.  And yet…  I was a teenager, she was The Mother, and I had this primal urge to prove her wrong about stuff.  (With very little success, I have to add.)  So guess who jumped feet-first into the Miss Idaho pageant.

courtesy of

Well, actually, that was the year they were trying to re-brand it as a “Scholarship Program,” so it was going by the unwieldy name of “Idaho’s Young Woman of the Year.”  A year or so later they gave up on that and went back to plain old “Miss Idaho.”  My aim in entering wasn’t to WIN, by any stretch of the imagination—I acknowledged my limitations in this arena.  I was the geeky class-president type with a boyishly short haircut, a penchant for ripped jeans and grubby Keds, and no performance talent whatsoever.  (Somehow I didn’t consider Writing a “performance art,” though I’ve since had the pleasure of experiencing a plethora of poetry-slams and wonderfully dynamic author-readings of poetry and literature–so now I know better. Oh well, too late.)

I didn’t plan to win, only to prove I could do it—enter and see it through. Maybe scoop the “Academic” section of the awards.  And since I wasn’t worried about the win, I was (according to my fellow contestants in the first-round home-town competition) rather shockingly carefree in my interactions with the judges.  We all met the judges for a lunch at a local pizza joint, and while the other young ladies were attempting (probably for the first time ever) to approach their pizza daintily with knives and forks, I picked mine up in hand as I always have…  And did the crossword on the back of the menu while we were at it.  (Two of the judges helped with that.)

When we all had to ride in the University of Idaho Homecoming parade, the other girls wore their Homecoming dresses, and I wore my letter jacket.   (I was the only one of us who didn’t freeze my way down Main Street.)  When we had our portraits taken for the printed program and marketing materials, fifteen girls showed up in ball gowns, and one in a suit borrowed from her lawyer-Mother’s closet.  Having gotten myself into the gig on purpose to prove I could be a “pageant kind of girl,” I perversely spent the entire experience refusing to be a Pageant Kind of Girl.

If I'd been permitted to provide the caption for this front-page photo, it would have been along the lines of "WTF?" Notice, though, the lucky number I'd been assigned...

Going into the night of the pageant itself, I knew exactly who the winner would be—a beautiful cheerleader with a truly generous heart, a noteworthy musical talent, good grades, and a sweet and lovely presence about her.  No-brainer; Laura Hansen was the shoo-in.  So I must report… that in the front-page picture the next morning, the gaping mouth of the winner was no simpering demur; it was an honest expression of shock.  I was in for more than I’d really meant to sign on for—I’d intended to see myself through the local-level competition, chalk it up as “something I’d done,” and go home.  The rigors of a state-level competition (and the year-long duties as “Miss Moscow”) had not figured anywhere in my calculations.

Fast-forward six months to the Idaho pageant—this was a whole different game.  Instead of a chummy atmosphere with home-town girls I’d known for years, this was a group of driven and focused young women armed with suitcases of hair products and cosmetics, some of them with “coaches” in tow, who had been training for this competition.  My own preparation had consisted entirely of walking around in my gym-clothes with my new high heels until I could traverse the stage with something resembling a graceful stride, and composing the little ditty about some of my interests & experiences, which (along with a selection of different hats to go with each verse) served as my “talent.”  Oh, and I had bought a new formal dress, having been sternly told that I wouldn’t be permitted a second time to flout the parameters of “formal dress” with my flirty little knee-length number.

The other contestants didn’t take me any more seriously than I took myself, which is just as well.  I was so out of my element it wasn’t even funny.  Which actually made the whole thing pretty funny—I guess my sense of humor is as perverse as I am.  I’ll skip the gory details and jump right to the ultimate yuck-ness of the Pageant night.

The most dreadful portion of the Pageant itself was the “Presence & Composure” element, when we donned our dresses and swanned around the stage in a choreographed number in which we all held sparkly wands trailing silver ribbons.  Please, someone, shoot me now.  I pretty much thought it couldn’t get more humiliating than this insipid display—until the moment, midway through the choreography, when my new dress slid right off my shoulder while I was front-and-center stage.  Okay, “partially topless” just upped the humiliation factor.  I had my hands full of wands, so I kept smiling and swooping until I was at the rear of the stage and could adjust my garb less obtrusively.  I don’t know about my “Presence,” but I will say for myself that I kept my Composure.

taped tiara? (courtesy of

Once backstage, I suffered the glee-disguised-as-sympathy from the other girls, and discovered that everyone knows you’re supposed to tack your gown in place with Carpet Tape. Duh. Now I know that too—but I expect not to need that bit of information in the future.  Who knows, though…  I do have a stubborn, feisty, perverse—and beautiful—little critter of a daughter…  If she insists on an experience like this one, I’ll at least arm her with carpet tape.

Although… I’ll confess to a tiny, devilish bit of satisfaction in remembering the dismay of some of those too-serious Pageant Girls when The-Girl-Whose-Dress-Fell-Off walked away with the Runner-Up Miss Idaho scholarship.  I wouldn’t have traded that for carpet tape after all.


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

26 thoughts on “Tiaras and Carpet Tape

  1. Brilliantly awesome post.

    Beauty contests in Idaho… Who knew!

    My memories of late teens were not quiet so full of pomp and circumstances. I was more of a pig knuckle and beer, surfboards and roller coasters, Alice Cooper and Zig Zag papers, kinda guy.


    1. that’s just the thing–I was closer to being that kinda guy myself. Minus the surfboards–not much call for those in Idaho. ;) The title should have been “MissFIT” in my case…


  2. Nothing like a good ol’ wardrobe malfunction to be able to hee-haw about later in life. At least yours happened while people were distracted by other beautiful women. Mine happened solo, in the form of self-assuredly and authoritatively strutting across the state capital rotunda fresh from the ladies’ room to the House floor, unwittingly with the back of my skirt tucked into the top of my panty hose. Quelle horreur! Carpet tape would have done me no good, but a tiara might have crowned the experience and distracted them from my hind quarters. You are full of tricks in your bag o’history…love the post!


    1. TOO funny–because I’ve done that one too! It wasn’t the Capitol, though; it was the Board of Directors to whom I was about to give the annual report on my department… Easier to laugh at the on-stage episode than the one where I DID wish to be taken seriously…


    1. Too funny–I’ve been singing that one since 4th grade. :) Question is–does she know the REST of the verses? ;)

      Thank God the Internet wasn’t around yet during MY stint–there’d no doubt be a YouTube video of the dress…


  3. There’s a special place in my heart for people whose dresses fall off. (I’m always so close to disaster myself.) Composure like that deserves recognition. Congrats on getting the scholarship.


  4. I’ve often found motivation in “me Mither’s” thought that I couldn’t – or shouldn’t – do something. It strikes a chord deep inside. Just yesterday Mum said I shouldn’t prepare a standing rib roast for Christmas dinner (oh! the horror!). Grrrrr.


  5. Having just attended such a pageant on behalf of a young friend, I totally enjoyed your recollection of your wardrobe malfunction. How funny! Charley McKelvy


  6. Oh, this reminds me so much of my single “pageant” experience, in my local county’s Miss Farm Bureau competition my senior year in high school. The charm and the aura and all that stuff were beyond me, so I just wore my favorite piano recital formal and played my longest and most complicated classical piano composition as my talent. I had learned nothing about pitching my “outdoor, cattle-calling voice MUCH, MUCH lower (as I have since learned to do) in those days, so my interview WORDS were not heard at all, just the revolting tonality thereupon! Anyway, one does go on to bigger and better, right? I congratulate you on that runner-up scholarship! I won a full scholarship myself, but by means that did not require personal interviews, glamour, etc. See why I am so ecstatic to be returning to writing full time?


  7. Okay, so I can’t resist a little bit of Motherness: It was the Junior Miss Idaho pageant, and not the Miss Idaho one…where you would have found yourself in an even more intense state level competition!


    1. Yes, I stand corrected–the teenager-tier of Miss Idaho. ;) The mementos I have all say “Young Woman of the Year,” what a mouthful…


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