teen daughters is an experience chock-full of firsts, especially for
dads. There's the first time you have to go down the "ladies' personal
products" aisle at Walmart praying to the merciful Lord that you won't
see any other members of the dude species, the first time you make
her scream because you're wearing one of her bras like a pair of swim
goggles, and the first time she goes out with a boy whom you've threatened
to dismember if he doesn't keep his cooties to himself.
My wife and I recently experienced another one of these firsts when
our eldest and most expensive daughter signed up to compete in a community
beauty pageant. Throughout our girls' upbringing, we had avoided child
beauty pageants out of fear that we might end up starring in our own
exploitive reality show on which I might have to adopt a nickname
like "Sugar Bear."
This situation, though, was completely my daughter's idea, and we
were actually proud of her willingness to step out of her comfort-zone
and try something new. Besides, we'll only have to sell our plasma
for the next couple of centuries to pay for the numerous outfits,
cosmetics, and other accoutrements she required for the competition.
The event began with a small-town festival parade featuring fire trucks,
community luminaries, and the pageant contestants waving to the crowd
while violating seatbelt laws atop vehicles I can't afford. It was
a particularly cool and breezy day for East Texas in early autumn,
and although I had goosebumps in my navel, I was distracted from the
chill by my youngest daughter incessantly fretting about the fact
the she had somehow managed to soil her cell phone with a layer of
When I saw my eldest daughter approaching our vantage point in a gleaming,
black Jeep Wrangler Sahara, I couldn't help honoring her appearance
by doing my best "Whoop, there she is!" chant, which she later affectionately
described as "completely mortifying." Her two sisters tried their
best to seem enthusiastic, but I could tell that they were more impressed
by the sight of several spectators on horseback ordering Dilly Bars
in the drive-thru at the town Dairy Queen. Ah-life in the big city!
The actual pageant took place later that evening in the school auditorium
that had been doubling as an overflow junior high cafeteria due to
COVID-19 protocol. As a result, the pageant announcer warned us to
avoid partaking of any snacks we might discover stuck to the underside
of our seats.
My wife and I beamed with pride when our daughter took the stage as
the announcer detailed her accomplishments and her plans to attend
a prestigious university. In turn, I began praying fervently that
she wouldn't be too disappointed that we had spent her entire college
savings on the dress she was currently wearing.
Although our daughter didn't win the pageant, I couldn't have been
more proud of her poise, elegance and skill in not face-planting on
stage in those ridiculous heels.
Believe it or not, I know how difficult it is to sashay in front of
a crowd wearing a close fitting gown and pumps. Several years ago,
I walked on that same stage for charity in a woman-less beauty pageant.
And while I wasn't crowned that night, I did take the prize for most
likely to be mistaken for Cruella de Vil. (I'll also never forget
the exhilarating sensation provided by a high-quality pair of support
The highlight of the pageant experience with my daughter occurred
at its conclusion when her mother and I met her on stage, caught her
in our arms, and presented her with a bouquet of flowers. Shortly
thereafter, a young man her age also gave her some flowers, and she
joined him for pictures with friends. I guess that's just part of
the bittersweet process of children separating from parents and growing
Speaking of separation, I need to have a serious discussion with that
young man about keeping his cooties to himself.