Some background: Our small community hosts a big festival once each year, and as part of that festival, a local “Miss (Festival)” is chosen. She’s always a high school senior, and the pageant awards scholarship money in several categories as well as to the Miss (Festival), 1st Runner Up and 2nd Runner Up. Usually 10-12 girls enter each year. When my daughter “Penny” was a senior, she surprised me by deciding she wanted to be in it.
The pageant judging was a point system based on talent, composure, interview, presence and fitness, but was most heavily weighted upon academics. Awards are given for each category before the overall contest is judged. There were no swimsuit competitions or any of that stuff. “Penny” chose to dance ballet as her talent, since she had taken ballet since kindergarten. She wore a pretty costume from the previous year’s dance recital and danced quite well. Others played instruments, sang, or did oral readings. Although “Penny” didn’t win the talent award, she another award or two and ended up as 1st Runner Up, snagging $1500 scholarship money for less than a $100 investment all told. (She found her evening gown on a killer clearance sale for $30, and borrowed much of the other stuff from friends, as the pageant managers had suggested that all the girls do. The winner and 2nd Runner Up each wore her previous year’s prom gown and looked lovely).
It so happens that I work in the same large building as do a parent each of two of the other contestants. One daughter won the talent award only, the other won nothing, but both did very well on stage and I sincerely congratulated each parent the following Monday when I encountered them at different times. Here are the responses I got:
Parent #1, parent of the girl who won the talent award, after I said what a wonderful job the girl did: “Oh, thanks! I just knew she had the award for talent as soon as she finished! Her uncle was sitting behind me and he leaned over and said, ‘Girl, you know your daughter just won the talent award!’ I said I knew it, because she just blew the other girls away!”
For the record, no she didn’t. At least four other girls performed every bit as well, and the others were not far behind, (and yes, I think my daughter was darn good) but I wasn’t about to say something that rude. I kept smiling and again congratulated her for her daughter’s award. She replied something on the order of “Thanks. I sure was surprised that (her daughter) didn’t win the crown, though.” There were no return congratulations on my daughter’s performance or award. I mentally shrugged and moved on, shortly to encounter…
Parent #2, parent of the girl who didn’t win any awards. After I told him how lovely she looked and how well she performed, he replied: “Thanks! But you know, (pulling me aside) I just don’t understand how my daughter didn’t win. I mean, really, she has the highest grades and did the best job. She should have had the talent award for sure; she was the best out there. I don’t know how they decided the judging. And we spent $500 on her dress!”
In truth, the first place winner and my daughter had the highest grade point averages, separated only by hundredths of a point, which all the girls in the contest knew and discussed openly, as they were all friends, but again, I didn’t bring that fact up because it would have been rude. Again, this parent said nothing about my daughter. He went on at some length about how his daughter should have won. I told him his daughter certainly had been great onstage and her dress was gorgeous, extricated myself politely and moved on again.
I wasn’t fishing for compliments. One of these parents sought me out, and the other I see often and routinely each day; both were brimming over to talk about the pageant and brought it up first, and it would have been rude of me not to stop and at least compliment their children’s performances. But what on earth happened to the old rules that you don’t brag on your own family, and that you always congratulate the others, win or lose? I said not one word about my own daughter’s performance or awards, but I’ll admit, I had just assumed one of the responses to my congratulations would have been a return congratulations. Maybe they figured that since “Penny” won 1st Runner Up, I already knew she did well and needed no return compliment, as long as I understood that their daughters actually were better? Other people were much more polite about it, so maybe I just managed to run into the only two who were raised in a barn, on the same day. It didn’t hurt my feelings but it left me chuckling to myself all day. 0609-10