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Here She Comes…Miss Festival Queen

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

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • josie June 10, 2010, 5:25 am

    It may have never even crossed their minds to compliment you on your daughter’s acheivements. I am like that sometimes….someone will ask about my life and I tell them, then walk off and think, I never asked them about their life/kids/ect. Maybe not totally a faux pas, just a brain lapse. Your daughter is to be congratulated for her placing, for having the confidence to do the pageant in the first place and for not busting the bank on her apparel. The scholarship money ain’t bad either! I was at a 4H queen pageant a few years ago where the mom of a gal who thought she was “all that” (and wasn’t) stormed the judges afterwards wanting to see the scores and wanting to know why her daughter didn’t win. Never thought too highly of that family after that.

  • Jennifer June 10, 2010, 7:17 am

    Congratulations to your daughter on her achievement and to you on your poise and humbleness. I can’t abide parents, such as your coworkers, who tactlessly brag on their kids. Especially when such bragging involves comparing their little darlings to other children, or using the opportunity to be so tacky as to bring up the money they invested in whatever activity (as in the $500 dress).

    This may be my own cynical jump to a conclusion, but I get the feeling that these two coworkers got together for their own catty little pity party after they both spoke to you. It seems like they were just waiting to see what you had to say so they could compare notes and pout together over lunch.

  • yarngirl June 10, 2010, 8:37 am

    Wow…it does take a certain level of ego to do what those people did, essentially saying that the OP’s daughter didn’t deserve to win and wasn’t as good as their spawn. What, I wonder, did they expect the OP to say? My guess is they weren’t even realizing what they were saying.

  • Chocobo! June 10, 2010, 9:24 am

    Eh… at least they clearly love their kids. Could be much worse.

  • DGS June 10, 2010, 9:35 am

    Congratulations to you both on your daughter’s accomplishment and on raising such a humble, bright young woman, and to you on your modest and humble nature! It sounds like the other two parents were simply jealous and catty (and being adults, should have known better to have been more gracious to you and to congratulate you and your daughter). However, remember that people who brag the most (about their kids, pets, jobs, spouses, money, etc.) usually have the least to brag about in reality.

  • goldilocks June 10, 2010, 9:40 am

    I really doubt the parents realized what they were saying. Parents like this get so blinded by their perception of their kids abilities, that probably both of them were in shock that their child didn’t win, and assumed that it was so obvious that their little darling was the best of show that others would agree with them. The response they expected from OP was “Yes you are right, it’s obvious that your special Cookie should have won. The judges must be blind. “

  • Sensible Shopper June 10, 2010, 10:04 am

    They probably forgot you even had a daughter in the competition, at all.

  • L. June 10, 2010, 10:15 am

    Oh well, in a few years when all of your sons are in the Mr. Festival King pageant, they’ll have another shot at being polite. Hmm… what’s that you say?

  • Rumi June 10, 2010, 10:27 am

    I’m gonna sidetrack here and say $500 on a dress???? For a high school girl? Outrageous.

    Congratulations on your daughter’s achievements.

  • Mom June 10, 2010, 12:21 pm

    I’m going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt here. Many parents believe the sun rises and sets on their children (that’s how we get through the tough stuff) and perhaps the colleagues felt that they could have a good old-fashioned gossip about the pagaent with the OP (as the parent of a participant). Often they are just looking for someone to validate their claim that their child is special – and why not? In the eyes of their parents, all children are special. OP says herself that her daughter ‘danced quite well’ and was ‘darned good’ – and that’s the way it should be. We all think our kids should win. Nobody stormed the stage; nobody booed the winner; nobody told OP that her kid didn’t rate. Yes, they should have commented positively on her daughter’s abilities/performance – but hey, we all goof occasionally (as Josie points out).

  • Xtina June 10, 2010, 1:44 pm

    Probably no ill intent there; probably just a matter of they were asked, and they talked, and it never occurred to them to congratulate the OP on her daughter’s award (congrats, by the way!).

    As a side note, it seems that in this day and age, people have gotten a lot more self-centered and sadly, it has become much more common for people to never ask about the other person they are talking to. Not necessarily out-and-out rude, but we just don’t live in as polite a society as what existed in decades prior.

    I’ve always heard that people love to talk about themselves and their business, and it is the rarer person that is a good listener and conversationalist.

  • PrincessSimmi June 10, 2010, 7:38 pm

    Parents have a tendency to be really stupid when it comes to their children. I remember a story my Nan told me- my older cousins C and J were about 7 and 2 respectively. Cousin C was picked up and carried to the car by her dad so she wouldn’t get her feet wet. When J held out her hands to be carried too my uncle said “you can walk, you’re a big girl!” and left her there.

    Congratulations on bringing up such a lovely and talented young lady and also on being so patient and such a lovely parent. Any chance I can trade my Mum in and get an upgrade?

  • Fanboy Wife June 10, 2010, 8:49 pm

    I participated in speech contests when I was in high school, and there were always a few competitors who would proclaim that they were the best and thought they would always place first. They would say that they were the best speak in the room to the other people they just competed against! When I would check the judges’ scores at the end of the day, those people usually placed last and had very low scores. The people who were the best usually had enough manners not to brag, and they would congratulate the other competitors on their success.

  • Anonymous June 11, 2010, 10:06 pm

    Rumi, the girl might routinely go to pageants, which would explain the $500 dress. A neighbor of ours does pageants with one of her daughters–nothing huge, but some of the larger local things. She used to make her daughter’s dresses, or buy sale or second-hand ones. Then one day she was informed very directly by the pageant judges that, if she wanted her daughter to ever succeed in the pageant world, she’d have to start spending money on real pageant dresses, which are absurdly expensive. I’m not sure if they started shelling out or not. I know that, as the daughter got older, they started focusing more on her singing, so maybe they switched over to that.

    On a side note, those neighbors had another kid, a baby boy, who looked exactly like the Gerber baby. No idea what he looks like now.

  • Doris June 27, 2010, 1:55 pm

    Having been raised by a very intrusive gossip, I often feel uncomfortable asking about other people – afraid they might think I’m like my mother. Possibly, that’s what was going on with the ones you spoke to. However, I’m afraid they are part of an increasing type of parent who isn’t involved enough in the child’s life to know such things as what her GPA really is, see the child’s achievements as reason to be proud of themselves not the child, think his/her children can do no wrong, and think money is the answer to everything.

    Congratulations to your daughter for her placing so well in the pageant and to you for having such manners and such a great sense of humor about the other parents.

  • Liutgard July 23, 2010, 8:04 am

    You know, there’s something that happens to some parents when it comes to pageants and such. I’m sure we’ve all seen the tv specials with all of those 3 and 4-year-olds being dolled up with thick makeup and being trained to smile just so, and turn and wink over a shoulder, and walk as if they were for rent by the dance. My guess is that the parents are getting their self-worth through the achievements of their children, even if it’s simply dolling them up and marching them around under the klieg lights. Sad, really. Especially to think that those little girls will grow up thinking that they are only worthwhile so long as they look right.

    And it seems that the parents of these high school girls are passing a similar message on to their daughters: it is their looks and performance’ that matters. And that is sad too.

    I won’t a pageant a few years back- I was the Eugene SLUG Queen in 1999. It is all very silly (a lovely Wiki is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SLUG_Queen) and you can’t really enter unless you can laugh at yourself. My friends think it’s great, my daughters were part of my royal ‘retinue’. My son just about died of embarrassment. 🙂

    Wouldn’t it be fun if our girls could enter because it’s fun, and not worry about topping the others?

  • Cindy August 14, 2011, 5:10 pm

    My comment is to the, surprisingly, very many people commenting that there’s nothing wrong with forgetting to congratulate someone/ask how they are after you’ve been congratulated or they’ve inquired how you are. When someone asks you a question about your life, getting so wrapped up in going on about yourself/your offspring until you decide to walk away without returning the kind gesture is not “a brain lapse”. It’s incredibly rude and selfish to be so absorbed in the opportunity to talk about yourself that it never occurs to you until later to think how the other person is doing. I am truly flabbergasted.

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