This piece appeared originally on The Frisky, for my Mirror Mirror column.
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love, right? Romance and pink things and flowers, too. It’s supposed to be about couples, but I want to selfishly celebrate by acknowledging a woman who made me love myself a little bit more. So often, I think we’re trying to make ourselves appealing and acceptable to other people. We’re worried about how we look to them, how we come across, if we’re pretty and likable. But once, when I was a kid, I saw a woman who made me think there might be another way to do things, and I’ve never forgotten her.
This is my love letter to a beauty queen.
I was nine. My dad, a Jazz pianist, was playing a gig at a beauty pageant. I don’t know why. But for some reason, he was playing in a little Jazz band at intermission at a local high school beauty pageant. I really wanted to go.
My mom, who wouldn’t let me have any Barbies because she was concerned about the insidious messages about beauty and femininity they were transmitting to all of us unsuspecting little girls, said I could go, because of the music. She wasn’t thrilled, but my dad swore that he was going to work the melody of the sh’ma, the simple, central Jewish prayer that we were so familiar with from synagogue, into his big solo. He thought that would be really funny. And my brothers and I couldn’t wait to see if we’d spot it. And I couldn’t wait to see the girls in the pageant. What would they be wearing? Would they be very beautiful?