Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ditz Calls To Ditz

I never thought I'd grow up to be a peace blogger.
I wanted to grow up to be a writer. Check.
I wanted to grow up to be a musician. Check.
I wanted to grow up to be a singer. Check.
I accidentally stumbled into teaching...Double Check.
I wanted to grow up to be a peace activist?

Let me explain.
When I was in high school I took myself WAY too seriously. I wouldn't try out for cheerleading because 1) it would hurt my diva voice and 2) I just thought it was stupid.

Rah Rah cheer cheer go team go.
No thank you.

No offense to any cheerleading friends out there, my best friends were in the squad and really had a LOT more fun than I did. I saved my voice but I had fewer boyfriends. Hindsight is everything. Instead, I was the secretary of the Quill and Scroll Club which is the International Honorary Society For High School Journalists.
Doesn't that sound exciting? Academic. A poetry/short story publishing school newspaper for nerds. I, in my spare time, when I wasn't dating my steady boyfriend of 3 years, also wrote a weekly column for the local paper. At seventeen, I was a reporter in my small town (if you can call listing grade averages, baseball scores, and extracurricular activities reporting) - and dating only one guy for an eternity.

Can someone say b.o.r.i.n.g? Rah Rah Cheer. Go team Go.
I was a serious young lady, most definitely not the cheery type.

And then someone gently pushed me in another direction.
One day I walked into an after school meeting and found that my dear classmates had nominated me, me, and me to represent them in the school beauty pageant. So much for democracy. I didn't even get to vote. "No way!" I said. "I'm not going to parade around and smile and say stupid things." (It never occurred to me that one day I would be an imaginary Queen...) "But you'll win," they said.

I looked down at my bonier-than-legal body and said again, "No way! I'm not going to parade up and down a stage, smiling and waving and saying stupid things.  "Like what? they asked.
Like..... "I want to cure hunger. Or... I want world peas." Oh please.
(Did you just hear thunder?)

"I demand a recount."
"But you'll win!" they said.
I looked again at my bonier-than-legal-body, which was still there and still bony, surrounded by long hippie hair that I could sit on and repeated, "No. I'm not parading these stick legs across a stage wearing short shorts (Daisy Dukes were in) and a stupid smile."I looked around. They were not smiling.

"It's about time this club got some recognition. You should be our representative. Aren't you loyal to the writing club? What about us??!"

" Let Samantha do it. She's reallllly pretty," I said. They voted again. Did I get to vote? No. Stick legs won again. So much for democracy. Samantha hated me but at least she had legs. Three weeks later I found myself in a chorus line of cuties and too-short-for-school-dresses rehearsing for the big night. Only to find out that the next day's rehearsal would involve - you guessed it - Daisy Duke shorts and a song from Dukes of Hazzard. I lived in the sticks.

No pun intended.

I quit.

There was no recount. No meeting. No conversation. Dictatorship can be a lovely thing when it's your own territory. But really. Who wanted a girl whose hair weighed more than she did to represent them in the Miss-School-Of-The-Deeply-Deprived-South-USA-Competition? I couldn't do it.

But I knew a truth that no one else did. I had the talent but I didn't have the confidence. Samantha, who had the misguided confidence but not the talent or the looks, took my place. She lost.
It was not a good day in the Quill and Scroll meeting that afternoon. I tried to tell them it was just a stupid stupid competition that meant nothing and not to blame Samantha. And really (I thought to myself) who wanted a girl whose Maybelline weighed more than her brains? Not I.

I rest my case. And my crown.

I was finished forever with tiaras and cheesy smiles. Yippee. I regained my serious pose, sat on my hair, and carried on with life.

Hindsight is everything.

I find it hilariously funny now that my closest girlfriends through the years were beauty queens.
Priss must call to priss as deep calls to deep.

Perhaps, in my case, ditz calls to ditz.
I wondered.

During my freshman year in The School of Music, my best friend was a gorgeous flautist, brilliant musician, with intelligence out her lovely crowned-with-everything-in-the-county-head and double-majored with honors. Beauty and brains. I was impressed. And shocked.

I learned a lot about being a queen from her. She taught me how to do the parade car wave. It's a gift. And not fall down in heels. We both lived in the sticks and carpooled to class, laughing and talking about which soprano slept her way to the solo in the spring opera. We had such fun. If she had an appearance or interview that day, she often wore a crown in the car on the way to class. We got some strange looks at stoplights let me tell ya.  Pinning and primping and lipsticking. When she drove, I primped. When I drove, she primped. Until the car accident. (Don't ask...I was driving) She hurt her prissy flute and had to take a semester off. I lost track of her after college. She must have recovered, however, because she was crowned Mrs. United States a few years ago. I really should contact her about my recent crownship.
Somehow, I don't think it's the same thing.

So, after her demise, I thought I was finished forever with tiaras and cheesy smiles. I regained my serious pose, sat on my hair, and carried on with life.

Enter Queen #2: I was assigned a new voice professor my second semester. A new mentor. "Good morning, Professor. It's so nice to finally meet you. And you are?"
Miss Missouri.
A Miss America finalist.

Why me?

She left the pageant life to earn a doctorate in music, teaching at one of the top 20 music schools in the country. And I get assigned to her? Perhaps if I'd just worn the darn Daisy Dukes in high school I wouldn't have had to learn this lesson yet again. Turns out, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. She had a way of pulling just enough priss out of me to make a classical statement on stage and prepared me for many performances - sans the crown - although I always believed it was never far from her reach, perhaps in her pocket. It had some kind of magic. Of that I am sure. Stick legs and the Missouri pageant girl were a match made in Heaven. We spent more time on which gown I would wear and how my hair would fall, than whether I'd sing the Puccini or Mozart. Priorities. You understand.

My friend and my professor. We have stayed close friends for nearly twenty years. She often pushed me beyond my own vision. Sometimes I soared. Sometimes I failed. But this special teacher beauty Queen was always working behind the scenes to trip me up.

I found myself in chorale rehearsal one day when I heard a voice from the podium say, "Miss Pencil Skirt. You will sing the Mozart."
"I will sing the Mozart what?"

"You will sing 1st Lady in The Magic Flute in the spring."
I will?
"There must be some mistake, Dr. Beautiful Man Who Conducted Me. I didn't audition."
The glaring soprano next to me whispered with a smirk on her face, "Read my lips. You will sing the Mozart."

I didn't even get to vote! And besides, there was a big bad Queen Of The Night in that opera with a powerful role full of fury and flair. She had sparks flying from her head and everything. She was seriously scary. No fluffy crown for her. I wanted that part!
I do not want to be the First Lady! She's a pipsqueak. I want to be the big bad....I looked down. Bony legs and Beauty Queens strike again.

"But...Dr. Handsome......Me?"
He looked at me like I'd lost my hearing.
Shut up, Mimi. Just sing the Mozart.

I knew there were no Daisy Dukes involved, so I did.
One day I'll tell you about falling out of the pickup truck in my evening gown on that beautifully ditsy occasion. But not today.

Once again, someone somewhere pushed me off a ledge whether I wanted to go there or not. Looking back over my life, I realize now that those are the people I should thank. They had the royal vision, it seemed, to see past my stick legs and stubbornness.

I was beginning to wonder about my mother's favorite saying that kept ruminating in my head. "You can't be pretty AND smart." Ah...the beauty queen quandary. It also transfers to soprano-dom. Although I certainly wasn't strutting stupidity - it's hard to sing in four languages and pull that off - it was sometimes hard to downplay the stereotypical soprano jokes. In music school, soprano jokes are like blond jokes in the real world. And God help you if you were a blond soprano. I got in enough trouble as a brunette. I'm so thankful God invented auburn. How many sopranos does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is: Two. One to change it and one to say "I could have done that much better."
Not these women. They were the real deal.

And my mother's theory was bogus. They were the smartest women I'd ever known and married brilliantly moral - and handsome - men. I graduated with a voice degree, sat on my hair, and went on with my life. Finished forever with crowns.

Did you just hear thunder?

Fast forward: One day I was flying around the blogosphere passing a book meme tossed from my Filipino friend, Lizza. You've heard the story. I became so enthralled with the memes that I started a collection. A blogger in England called me "Queen of Memes" ...move over Queen of The Night. Finally! And that's how I.....wait a minute.
I didn't even get to vote.
So much for democracy.

And really. Who wants a queen with a fake crown anyway? Who ever heard of such a thing? What kind of pageant is this? I didn't sign up for this! I didn't even get to vote.

But just in case you're wondering. This time. I won't quit.

And I think I'll keep my crown.
Maybe I did want to grow up to be a queen after all.

I might want to talk about world peace or something. It could happen.
Or I could just shut up and sing the Mozart.

Just don't ask me to wear the shorts.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

you are the queen mimi!!!

(and i am the empress)

smiles, bee

Bud Weiser, WTIT said...

This story is SO you. It makes a lot of sense to me. And your mom. Could she have had a more useless adage? You are pretty and you are smart. I won't comment on the crown. I think it's in the hot tub...

Patti said...

Mimi, I wish you had sung for me and Linda when we met you!
We should have insisted. Dang.

This is a great story. I've never been prissy, unless I was so young that I forgot. ;-)

I used to wear dresses and white ankle socks and patent-leather shoes. And bows in my hair. So maybe I was.

Mimi Lenox said...

Empress Bee - I bow to your Empress-ship. Or something like that. Can I borrow your crown? I think I lost mine....

Sir Bud - I think you've heard these stories a time or two (and more I left out not for blog consumption). You met my professor friend and her husband for dinner once and witnessed our twin prissiness.
My mom?

And thank you.

Princess Patti - You have the most awesome smile in the world. Bows, patent-leather shoes, white socks...I can see it now. I think you qualify for the Priss Club.

And I just realized that I answered comments from three members of the royal family.

A tad scary!

Mimi Lenox said...

Bud- You drowned my crown???!! I should have known....

Patti said...

well the alliteration works:

Prissy Princess Patti

Akelamalu said...

I enjoyed reading how you became Queen. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I guess some folks just can't escape the crown.

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

If you bring the peas, I promise to polish your crown

Anonymous said...

What a great story, Mims. You had me laughing at the thought of you in big hair back in the day.

I'll be your official mirror-holder for whenever you want to primp, crown or no crown.

Mimi Lenox said...

Princess - I DOES work. I like it...

Akelamalu - It's tiring isn't it....

Charles - Lol. Apparently not.

Bond - We'll ALL bring the peas, Vinny. On June 4th.

Lizza - Thank you! I so need an official mirror-holder these days. Can a Queen get no respect around here??!
And I do have pictures of the big hair and will share soon. It's truly scary.

bundle-o-contradictions said...

I can only say that after declining all other offers of royalty, you accepted this one. The blogosphere would be a terribly dull place without our Queen. ;)

Mimi Lenox said...

Autumn - Thank you. No dungeon for you!!

Frank Sirianni said...

I love long hair.

I love long flowing hair.

I love thick, long flowing hair tossing in the wind.

I love thick, long flowing hair tossing in the wind while on horseback.

I love the silhouette of thick, long flowing hair tossing and undulating in the wind in unison with the horse's stride framed by the light of the full moon,

And I love the silhouette of the thick,long horse's mane flowing and tossing and undulating in the wind in unison with its rider's thick, flowing hair tossing and undulating in the wind in unison with the horse's stride framed by light of the full moon.

I know,
I'm a daydreamer.

But it is a beautiful vision,
With room for a crown,
If one doesn't sit on her hair.

Travis Cody said...

Do it all...sing the Mozart, wear the pencil skirt, polish the tiara, and blog the peace.

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