Miss Superwoman

Copyright © 1992, 2011 William Mego

It is very difficult for the average guy to keep up with the times. In my case, I still refer to stores by the names they had· many years ago (like Clark's Corner and Prince Castle) , I still fool­ishly expect to be able to buy replacement parts for things, like the push button stove switch I once found in the basement of a pump store in Warrenville, and I wear hopelessly. out­dated clothes. Would you be­lieve that I still have a suit that has a belt across the back and cuffs on the sleeves?

That's why I think it's so terrific that the Miss America Pageant is keeping up with the attitudes and prin­ciples of our modern era; it kind-of helps all of us, including me, stay up to date in our thinking.

Now, it wasn't too long ago, as you'll recall, that we didn't have such an enlightened attitude about the Pageant. It was known then as an out­and-out beauty contest, and the 'girls' , as they were called, competed head to head, curve to curve, and curl to curl. During the contest, you found out a whole lot of things about the contestants, including the circumference of their bodies at selected sites, and the girls would say catty little things like, "Miss Delaware must have an unusually broad back."

Physical beauty was all that really counted, and talent just wasn't stressed that much. Basically, a girl who could feed her­self, and who wouldn't bite Burt Parks, was considered talented enough for most men's tastes. Talents like playing 'The Bells of St. Mary' on the bells, dramatic readings from 'A Streetcar Named Desire', and baton twirling were all big favorites. I never actually heard a contestant list her talent as "bringing beer," but it probably would have caused the judges to purse their lips and nod in approval.

The girls weren't permitted more than one fall during the Evening Gown Competition, and all the contestants looked dreamily into space while expressing a vague desire for peace in a world that seemed to blur into fantasy three feet past the runway.

But, boy, how times change.

It's no longer sufficient for a contestant to have a pneumatic body and supernumerary teeth. Now the bathing suit part of the Pageant (technically, it's not a Contest because they don't have a first round draft, there is no point spread, and the bleeders don't get Lasix) counts less than 20% of the total. That places it just below "Subtle Use of Irony in Language" in the scoring process. The women are no longer told to continuously open and close their smiling mouths, as if they were pumping air through their gills, and all you know about their bodies is the adjusted gross weight.

No, the accent here is on professional and academic development. "I have my degree in law from Yale, and will, after standing around for an entire year in this ridiculous crown, pursue an MBA at Harvard."

When it comes to talents, these women remind me of the roles Sidney Poitier played in his first movies. You know, the typical black nuclear engineer-poet who spoke fluent Greek and Japanese . Next year, Miss New Jersey will deliver a concert violin interpretation of the neuro­surgery she performed on Miss Wisconsin. Well, I'm excited, maybe they'll also have a debate in Esperanto.

We wouldn't let boys do this stuff. There is an old Latin expression: The times change, and we are compelled to change with them. It is, as they say, a different world now. It is no longer too dangerous for you to pump your own gas; filling station attendants are gone. Yellowstone is gone. Small town Naperville is gone. And Walter Payton is gone. At least he had the good sense to know when to leave the game. It's time to get nostalgic about a lot of things, like beauty pageants, but it's long past the time we should be holding them.