September 30, 2010

Your Life, Thankfully, Is Not a Beauty Pageant

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After watching an interview with the former Miss Taiwanese American on TV, my mom decided it would be a pretty good idea to sign me up for a beauty pageant. Most reasonable mothers would leave that choice up to their now grown-up-and-can-think-for-themselves daughters, but I think it’s safe to say that my mother has never been the most reasonable person. I’m not sure if this is a cultural thing, but she has been trying to set me up with “a friend’s son” for years and telling me that I will probably never get married without her help. Right. Anyway, she decided to wait until I was 20 to tell me that she never wanted a second son and that this would teach me how to be a real girl. In other words, she wanted me to have more girl friends and eat salads more often (gross). “But I like shopping!” I protested. “And … other things …”My mother was not convinced. And before I knew it, I was in a room filled with 12 other girls, who were all skinnier than me. It must have been all of those goddamned salads. And of course, on the very first day, our pageant instructor, Miss [T], told us to eat less and exercise more. Before I had time to roll my eyes and think, “Please, like that’s going to happen!” she harshly demanded that we line up against the wall. She wanted us to do the cat-walk across the room. I involuntarily twitched at the thought of trying to sexily walk across the room with other girls staring at me with their judging eyes. They were probably going to think I was fat and laugh at my waddle. I’m pretty sure that’s why I didn’t join a sorority. Or maybe it’s because I can’t seem to function correctly with a group of girls. Or maybe I’m just socially inept. But I digress.When it was finally my turn to walk, Miss T stopped me and asked me what I was wearing. I had just gotten a flowery and flowy shirt from Forever 21 along with yellow flats the day before, so I was rather proud of my selection of the day. “Uh … a shirt … and shorts,” I said, looking down to make sure this wasn’t a terrible dream where I had appeared naked in front of her. “And flats.”“Do you see girls in pageants wearing flats?” she asked coldly. “From now on, you have to come in heels. And don’t wear that shirt in front of me again — it makes you look fat.”I died a little inside and cursed my mother for signing me up for girl boot camp as I clumsily walked down the runway. Miss T stared at me with a cold expression the entire time. I quickly posed by putting my hand on my hip and power-walked back. To my relief, a lot of the other girls were just as clumsy and ungraceful as I was. And you know what they say, misery loves company. But of course, everyone knows that when you’re with a group of girls, there will always be some sort of drama. The first occurred when we met the Queen from last year, who turned out to be … well, what’s the nicest way to put it? A bitch. She was so condescending and rude that a girl dropped out of the pageant because she didn’t want to become her. The second round of drama occurred when some girls started imagining other girls “trying to get ahead.” And of course, there were always rumors circulating around that someone had “inside connections” to win the crown. If you ask me, I’m pretty sure our menstrual cycles just started to synchronize, making everyone just a little freaking insane. And I can’t really blame them for it. Being in a pageant was hard, and it stressed me out more than I thought it would. Even though I told myself I didn’t give a shit, Miss T still scared the bejesus out of me, and I also wasn’t too fond of being called fat all the time. Plus, it was stressful having cameras all around you and having reporters ask you what it means to be Taiwanese-American rather than Chinese-American. On one hand, I don’t support the numerous human rights violation done by the Chinese government. But out of respect to my grandparents, who always missed China after fleeing to Taiwan, I have to identify myself as Chinese. But no matter what I say, every move I make, someone out there was making a note of it and keeping points. But as the weeks went by, we all grew closer. For that summer, they became my closest support system and a group of incredible friends. If I had to make a comparison, I was a lot like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality (except not as hot). I came in thinking that these girls were all batshit insane, but left realizing that they were among the nicest people I had ever met. Maybe under other circumstances, we wouldn’t have given each other a second thought, but I’m still glad we came together under this rather strange one. And after a while, it stopped mattering whether or not someone was keeping score (or telling me that I was fat). It mattered more that I continuously supported and encouraged everyone the same way they supported and encouraged me. Except for the times when they thought I was gross for eating an entire burrito and enchilada on my own for lunch breaks.Sandie Cheng is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at scheng@cornellsun.com. That One, Please appears alternate Fridays this semester.

Original Author: Sandie Cheng