At the risk of losing my man card I’m going to go ahead and confess that this past week I did something I never thought I’d do. I judged a beauty pageant and, to be perfectly honest, I found it to be fun.
When I was asked to judge the young princess pageants, my first inclination was to politely turn down the offer. But then I thought about it and figured why not try it once. It was little kids, beginning at 4 years of age and then other age levels up to 12, four contests in all. How hard could it be?
My cavalier attitude changed during the pre-show briefing for me and my fellow judge. We were told that parents may try to “crowd” us from behind to see what we were writing, thus a rope behind us that kept parents from staring over our shoulders. We were also warned about talking with each other at the judge’s table since parents would be watching us like hawks.
“That’s daddy’s little angel up there,” it was pointed out by one of the contest coordinators. “They take it VERY seriously.”
Suddenly I went from being a celebrity judge to trying to determine the best escape route from the grounds should things go south and an angry mob form. There have been soccer referees beheaded in South America. This is daddy’s little angel we’re talking about.
The pageants ended up being peaceful and the parents were all very polite so I didn’t have to put my exit strategy into motion. The judging, however, was very tough since a lot of the young girls had obviously been trained for beauty pageants. There were 5-year-olds who strolled the runway like Miss America contestants, complete with permanent smiles and the queen’s wave. The really trained ones made eye contact with us judges as soon as they emerged from behind the curtain and maintained that stare-down the whole time on stage. They had obviously been told to look at the judges.
I think some of the younger ones took a literal interpretation from their instruction, staring me down like it was the beginning of a prize fight. I found myself slipping from eye contact, intimidated by their unrelenting glare. I’d look down at my notes for a few seconds, hoping they’d lose interest only to look back up and find myself still the focus of their steely gaze.
Yes, I know these were 5-year-old girls but until you’ve sat on the other side of the judge’s desk, you have no idea of the hole that is burned through you by the constant stare. It didn’t matter where they went on stage, the eyes were still there. It was like one of those paintings you see in the movies where the eyes follow you no matter where you move.
With that said, I have to admit I was very impressed with the way the contestants held themselves in what had to be a very stressful situation. I left my first judging gig with a new-found appreciation for pageant contestants. And yes, you can keep my man card if you must because I would judge again if asked.
Standard reporter Duane Sherrill can be reached at 473-2191.