It began to hit me when I looked up at the clock and realized I had been bedazzling a tulle skirt for the better part of two hours: my weird obsession with over-the-top child beauty pageants specifically, the abomination known as TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras" may be getting out of hand.
For Halloween I had planned to dress as one of the spray-tanned, fake toothed, Pixi Stix-gobbling, Mountain Dew-chugging little girls featured on the show, and the details were of utmost importance. Little white frilly socks must be tracked down, the skirt must pouf out in just the right "cupcake" style, my curls must be shellacked with hairspray, and I must seize the stage of life as my imaginary mother shouts "WORK IT SMOOCHY" from the wings.
But I'll admit that my unadulterated love for the show has earned me some side-eyed looks and disgusted questions of " why?" so I wanted to pinpoint exactly what turned so many people off about the show, and why I just secretly wanted a pink bedroom full of trophies and crowns all of my own.
First, I needed to find a pageant virgin, and luckily I was able to talk the dude I am dating into giving it a shot. What good relationship doesn't begin by sharing a special moment where you must unwittingly watch a five-year-old girl do a Madonna dance routine (complete with cone bra outfit) onstage?
So we watched two episodes, one that was set in Tennessee, and another in our own backyard of Brooklyn, New York. Every episode begins by introducing the three little girls that will be followed by camera crews over the next few days. They are either really cute little kids that just want to play and have fun, or awful little pieces of DNA barf that cry and scream forever.
Pageants always begin with a "beauty" routine, and then either her talent, some weird swimwear thing, or an outfit of choice. At the end, the kids get crowns, or they don't get crowns, or they do get crowns, but they still cry because they didn't get a Grand Supreme crown, and then the show is over. Basically 97 per cent of all episodes end in tears.
So later, I asked my dude his thoughts and he ranted and raved about how contests like this are designed to tear down a child's self-worth at a young age, and could later lead to eating disorders and delusions of grandeur, and blah blah blah.
But to sum it up, he said: "[The show] made me feel like a dirty old man and it made me uncomfortable, but it got better once we started making out."
Point taken, but wasn't it the goal of our country's founding fathers to create a land where people were to be awarded for their looks and wealth? Or furthermore, doesn't the Constitution say that even fuggo babies can be covered with blush and bronzer and made to look decently attractive? Is it not our right to parade our crotch spawn around to live out all of our failed dreams? This is America, after all, the land of opportunity and Go-Go Juice.
If anything, child beauty pageants represent the complete opposite of my childhood, where my dentist once called me "a handsome young man." I was an ugly kid with Will Smith-caliber ears, a low threshold for discomfort and an even lower ambition to win awards. If I was ever entered into a pageant, I surely would have thrown up down the front of my dress, tripped off the stage, broken my neck and died. My little coffin would have been adorned with an honorary sash that said, "Well, she sort of tried, I guess."
So maybe the reason I love to watch "Toddlers & Tiaras" is because it's like looking into a world that I'll never know. Was my mom trying to live through me when she signed me up for a hip-hop dance class to awkwardly perform to Boyz II Men's "Motown Philly?" Was I begging to wear fake nails and hair extensions while I was digging up worms in the backyard and throwing my cat off the swing set? No, my formative years were spent shoving hot dogs in my face.
But there's still plenty of time for me to take a name for myself as a pageant coach, right?