Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cinderella shoes and global warming

Lois Greiman

Looking back, I see it’s been almost a year since I initially blogged about my wee daughter becoming involved in the Miss America system. Of course, it all began before that, when she and I first visited a private college she was considering. On the way home, a little morose, and firmly in the throes of sticker shock, she turned to me and said, “Did you know that the Miss America program awards $40 million dollars in scholarships annually? Thirty seconds later I was screeching into the nearest mall and shouting, “We need an evening gown. STAT!”

Actually, it may have taken a little longer than that for me to get on board, but not too much because the next words out of Tara’s mouth were, “global warming.”

Okay, I can see where you might think the connection between scholarship money, a sequined evening gown, and global warming is a tenuous one. But as it turns out, Miss America contestants at every level choose a platform, and after a childhood of hiking, riding, and appreciating nature, Tara has whole-heartedly embraced environmental awareness.

Still, there was some trepidation when we signed her up. It was the swimsuit portion of the competition that caused me the most concern. Because, despite the women’s movement and good old common sense, the Miss America people still require their princesses to participate in the ‘fitness segment.’ And let me tell you it’s a bit of a shock to see your only daughter, endless legs flashing, parade up and down a runway. And I wasn’t the only one concerned. It was difficult for her too. In fact, she was so uncomfortable with the whole idea that her coach (nine months pregnant at the time) demonstrated the strut on her own driveway in the middle of Minnesota suburbia, then asked Tara to emulate, just to get her out of her ‘comfort zone.’ Her neighbor, a middle-aged guy with a cigar, did a double take, then fetched a chair from his house and plopped it down in the middle of his sidewalk to watch the show. Meanwhile a stream of adolescent boys cruised past on their bikes, careened off each other like bowling pins and reappeared minutes later, doubled in numbers. It was an eye opener for everyone.

But all in all it’s been a positive experience. It’s a four-prong program: talent, interview, evening gown, fitness (that’s code for swimsuit). Tara, while always extremely cerebral, has really benefited from a social standpoint. She’s gained confidence and poise and has learned to state her opinions in diplomatic, (in my family that means ‘without bloodshed’) yet certain terms. But most importantly to me, she’s been afforded a chance to voice her concerns about the environment. Plus the fact, of course, that she’s learned to walk in four inch slippers without falling flat on her face. I mean…what well-educated, future leader doesn’t need that dubious skill?

Oh, and last July she won the title of Miss Heart of the Lakes which means she will not only compete in the Miss Minnesota pageant next year, she has an ever-increasing opportunity to promote a greener America.

So, in honor of my little one’s success, here are her top five ways to make a greener, cleaner world.

#5. Don’t be embarrassed to stand up for what you care about. Ask questions, consider your options, take a stand. If you don’t want your local grocer to dish out plastic bags like candy, suggest alternatives.

#4 Recycle everything you can. Which is probably a lot more than you realize if you do a little research.

#3 Think about your transportation habits. Walk, bike, carpool, or use public transport whenever possible. It’s good for you and good for the air.

#2 Cut down on your energy use. Shut off lights, turn down the thermostat, insulate, and use florescent bulbs. It saves money and resources.

#1 And most importantly, be willing to change. It’s not only necessary to life. It is life.

So, give me feedback folks. I know last we discussed this topic there was some uncertainty about whether or not we should expose our vulnerable daughters to this kind of competition. In my mind there still is. The good and the bad. The yin and the yang. But, with the opportunity to highlight an issue that truly concerns them, is it worth the effort, or is it just a clever ploy to get young women into swimsuits the size of my thumb nail?


Playground Monitor said...

I don't know if y'all know Michelle Buonfiglio over at Romance B(u)y the Blog at, but she was a top 10 Miss America finalist. I believe she said that's what got her through college -- the scholarship money. And look where she is now -- interviewing romance novelists. What better job than that???

I'm sure it's a rough decision as a mom. Here's this chance to not only win the money, but to make a difference. Michelle's platform was to promote organ donorship since she's had a kidney transplant. Promoting ways to go green is important too, says she whose area has set record high temps for December this week.

Didn't they have a vote a couple years ago about whether to eliminate the swi... er... fitness portion? I'd be interested in the demographics of those who voted.

Me personally, I was always fascinated by the talent competition. My home state had a Miss American when I was growing up -- a former Rockette who tap danced her way to the crown. And my present state had the first disabled Miss America -- also a dancer who is hearing impaired. Singers, dancers, pianists, ventriloquists and Marilyn Monroe impersonations -- I've seen 'em all.

I suppose if you believe strongly in what you're doing and you're doing it for all the right reasons, who gives a rip what "they" say?

Good luck to Tara in the Miss Minnesota pageant.


Virginia Lady said...

Well, I'm a mom to three boys, so the issue is a not on my plate, and there was no way I was going to be in any pageant when I was younger. :-)

But considering that, I've seen some good and bad come from pageants. Careers are formed and networking happens and the women all grow emotional and socially. But there are also problems with access to drugs and alcohol for minors, back-stabbing between contestants, and perhaps a little too much importance placed on the 'model' figure, which isn't really a healthy one for most women.

I think like anything else, it can be a positive thing if you discuss it as things progress and keep it in perspective with the rest of your life. And don't make it your whole existence.

I love her platform, btw. I hope more people start to realize we have become a horribly wasteful society and start to make those small changes in their daily lives that really do have a big impact in the long run.

Dara Edmondson said...

I think it's a great opportunity for an intelligent young woman who wants to go places. Sounds like your daughter is the perfect candidate. There's nothing wrong with using her physical assets to get there. Sounds like her heart is in the right place. Good luck to her. Let us know how she does!

Betina Krahn said...

Lois, I'm glad to hear Tara is pursuing her dream and has such a level head about it. Yeah, the swimsuit thing is a little nerve-jangling, but it's also the main reason Miss America has survived and thrived over the years. It's just that popular. And if Tara has the bod for it, go for it!

And what a good way to publicize a cause she feels strongly about. I like your #1. Being willing to change not only makes for a greener tomorrow, it makes for a healthier "today" for us as individuals. Because change is the one thing we can be certain of. As Epicetus said (at least I think it was old Epi): "No man steps into the same stream twice."

(Especially if there's a heard of cattle upstream!)

:) Betina

Cindy Gerard said...

First - what a doll! Takes after her momma.:o) Second: If it works for her, go for it. If her approach to the contests was based strictly on superficial issues (like - I'm the prettiest girl in the world and want everyone to know it) you'd have yourself a problem and so would she. But she's participating based on logical decisions. More power to her.
In the meantime, I've been Green in the recycling area for years in an area where recycling is still not mandatory. And my new hybrid car is yet another step, not to mention it saves on the wallet.

Playground Monitor said...

Love the photos!

We have curbside recycling in our area but they only take plastic, newspaper, glossy magazines, phone books,aluminum and steel cans and batteries. They used to take glass but it wasn't profitable for them.

I try to remember to carry my reusable shopping bag with me (and don't always succeed -- I should just put it in the car) and our home is well insulated. We keep the thermostat down and just dress warmly and wear socks. In summer we use ceiling fans to circulate the air. I have allergies so opening windows is a no-no. Our cars are both good on mileage but my next will be a hybrid for sure. Unfortunately we've no public transportation and I live too far from town to walk. But I list my errands and try to do them all in one trip and all in geographic order.

Gotta change out the lightbulbs still. That's the next project.


Michele Hauf said...

Awww, I remember Tara when she was just a little kid, chasing after puppies... You raised her right, Lois. She's smart, pretty and isn't afraid to use brains before beauty. I like that about her. Here's to Tara acheiving her dreams, and getting the word out about those nasty plastic bags. :-)

lois greiman said...

Wow. You guys are really supportive. Thanks. I guess I still feel a little funny about it. When Tara was a senior in high school she did her first pageant. One of her advance placement teachers heard about it and said, "Tara, what's this about a pageant? Is it a horse event?" She said no, it was a scholarship event. He said, "Do you have to wear a swimsuit for this scholarship?"

lois greiman said...

Playground Mon, I'll be blogging with Buonfliglio (sp) next week and we'll be celebrating our birthdays together soon. She's been very supportive of wee Tara and gave her some sassy pointers :) about intimidating the competition.

Debra Dixon said...

Lois-- I say go for it. The last time I checked, the swimming and diving teams all had to wear a swimsuit to get their scholarships.

lois greiman said...

Thanks Cindy, I don't think Tara and I look alike at all. But I wish. She's about four inches taller than I am. I have a pic of her with her competitors all tall and svelte but I couldn't get it to load. (Sorry all for the late pics and thanks Helen for helping me out...again.)

And I'm so jealous, Cindy. I didn't know you had a hybrid. What kind?

flchen1 said...

Lois, what a lovely daughter you have, both inside AND out! I echo what everyone else said, that because she seems to be approaching this from a practical standpoint and with your family's support, this sounds like a great opportunity for her to polish a lot of useful skills (you just never know when the killer heels might come in handy!) and to get her own message out there!

Best wishes to her and your family!
And keep us posted!

lois greiman said...

Thanks flchen. She went into this with a three year plan. Pretty pragmatic. So I think it'll be alright. But sometimes it still gets a little messy emotionally. Losing is no fun. At the Heart of the Lakes Pageant, after lots of practice, tons of mock interviews, and that ridiculous sidewalk strut session, she said, "I just want my shiny hat." Which lightened the mood considerably.

Cindy Gerard said...

Lois - I got a Toyota Camry Hybrid
Love. It.

lois greiman said...

Cindy Dearest, what kind of mileage do you get?

Jay Gilbertson said...

Lois dear,

Holy Cats! This is too perfect. Brilliant woman (namely Tara—but ‘Hello’ whose her mamma?) who happens to be drop-dead gorgeous also has a passion that we desperately need. What could be more perfect? It’s unfortunate that we as a nation are still mesmerized by scantily clad women cat-walking with little or nothing on—but I say, “Work it Tara!”

The best part is her obvious focus on this issue of a Global Crisis. She and her children will be adversely affected by our and our parents’ lust for cavernous homes, gas-sucking SUV’s and daily Target-Trips all for stuff we already have, but then need to get rid of.

With the incredible support of you and the rest of us, it’s the Tara’s we need to hold up and cheer on and be so proud of. It’s so refreshingly hopeful to know that our young people give a damn. No matter if she wins this thing or not, she is already a winner!

Happy Holidaze!