The Miss America Pageant was very important to me when I was a young, hormonally unstable boy of around eleven. After all, it was the one night of the year when the network opted to replace The Partridge Family and Room 222 with hot women frolicking around in swimsuits. And I’d do anything to be able to watch the show late at night. I would have happily given Bert Parks one of my kidneys if he had needed it to continue, that great of a television show I was so eager to see. The same desperate desire for biological knowledge led some boys my age to steal National Geographic magazines from the dentist’s office or smuggle the Sears catalog outside to the barn for a quick browse through the underwear section. I still recall my initial impression of a brassiere from a Sears catalog. I initially assumed it to be some sort of prosthetic. Yes, the Miss America Pageant was indeed a very big deal to a growing young man living in the rural Alabama sticks in the late 1960s.

The Miss America Pageant, however, no longer appeals to me nearly as much as a long car ride with my mother-in-law does. Maybe it’s because I’m approaching my forties and the sight of bubbly, toothy, bathing beauties doesn’t really appeal to me anymore. My current turn-ons are an uninterrupted nap and my brand-new vibrating Lazy Boy recliner. But if I say Miss America has outlived her usefulness, I doubt I’m alone in thinking that. She is now outdated, a custom that has outlived its usefulness.

Today, you can hire bikini-clad maids to clean your home or bikini-clad car washers to wash your car. In addition to Victoria’s Secret, other popular media include Baywatch, the Playboy Channel, NYPD Blue, Calvin Klein commercials, Madonna, and the Playboy. Why on earth do we require Miss America?

The 77th Miss America Pageant took place last Saturday night, and I watched it out of nostalgia. Okay, I did flip to a rerun of “World’s Funniest Surgical Bloopers” during the talent competition, but that’s only because classical piano, opera and badly sung show tunes have been known to induce cranial bleeding in men my age. You know, one can never be too careful.

The Pageant’s theme this year was “Everything old is newly fashionable.” I guess the “New” claim is in light of the fact that this was a year of firsts. For instance, this was the first year that participants could choose to compete in two-piece swimsuits (three of the top five finalists, including the winner, Katherine Shindle of Illinois, did). This was also the first time a contestant displayed a tattoo, while another flaunted a bellybutton ring. And, surprise, surprise, Miss Mississippi was wearing shoes! Can you believe these girls are referred to as role models? I don’t think so.

I was a little uneasy with all the tattooing and piercing. I nearly thought Miss New York would have a hot pink Mohawk and a knitting needle stuck up her nose. She didn’t, of course, but if she had, the program might have been more engaging. Whether or not there were two-piece bathing suits, this year’s show lacked the excitement of watching an egg hatch. The most exciting part of the performance was when Miss Arizona’s face began to twitch after two hours of nonstop grins. Mud wrestling is my two words of wisdom for the pageant organizers to avoid the disaster of the following year.

Speaking of the organizers, they went above and beyond to make it abundantly clear that the Miss America Pageant is not a beauty pageant. Contrarily, this is a competition of intellect, personality, poise, and charm intended to advance the interests of American women. It’s just a coincidence that there is a swimsuit competition, I suppose.

In addition, they claim that only 15% of the final score comes from the swimsuit competition. Miss America is chosen for her intelligence rather than her looks. Do they really think we’ll accept that? Who wins as the smartest woman? Okay, fine. Let’s do away with that irritating talent competition and devise some actual intelligence tests.

Let’s play Risk for twelve hours straight without a bathroom break with Miss South Dakota and Miss Rhode Island. Let’s take Miss Michigan out back and have her rebuild the carburetor on a 1963 Pontiac Catalina. While attempting to construct a Jacob’s Ladder out of a piece of string that is too short, let’s have Miss California discuss the principles of quantum physics. Miss Wyoming should ink the crossword puzzle from the New York Times! Let’s have Miss Kentucky reconcile my checking account!

They will need to perform all of these tasks while donning bathing suits, of course.

After all, this is Miss America.

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