Despite really, really not wanting to watch even a few minutes of “Toddlers and Tiaras,” much less a full episode, I have succumbed to the fascination. There are so many reasons to not watch this, to be embarassed by the fact that I do watch this (or that, yes, I have it set on the DVR), yet I still find it within myself to sit there, enthralled, week after week.
It is another one of those things I just. Don’t. Understand.
When I mentioned watching this to my mom the other day she visibly cringed. And then, my family being my family, talk immediately went to Jon Benet Ramsay. But that’s for another time.
So, here are a few observations I have made consistently while watching this show. And it is a show.
- Do toddler beauty queens live anywhere other than the stereotypical South? Are there baby beauty queens in Connecticut? How about Wisconsin? Idaho, maybe? I mean, what is it about trailer parks that breeds this kind of fascination and behavior? Is it the lack of other things to do? Do these towns not have Mommy and Me classes or a library or a ballet studio? And don’t try to tell me that these typical (at least where I live) childhood activities cost a lot of money. These parents are paying thousands of dollars for these forays into glamour.
- Let’s talk about these moms. In the three or four episodes I’ve watched, there has not been one mother who was…how do I say this delicately…um, delicate. I don’t want to generalize but I will: most of these mothers are overweight. Not just a couple extra pounds overweight. One could argue, based on recent national health reports, that this should be expected, as the South has the highest incidence of obesity in the country. But their appearance just seems to contrast greatly with that of their teeny tiny over made up tykes. The attention that their daughters receive while on stage is obviously something these mothers have always wanted for themselves, have always strived unsuccessfully to attain, have dreamed about (unless it is the rare occasion where the mother, herself, is a former beauty queen). It’s like these moms are trying to live vicariously through their “cute” daughters. This is not necessarily an uncommon parental behavior.
- Except when the parent living vicariously through the four year old stage prancer is a father. Yes, “Toddlers and Tiaras” showcases some pageant dads. Dads who design the dresses and choreograph the dances. Dads who stand in the audience and mime the steps and hand gestures, lest the four year old have a temporary mental block about which way to thrust out her hip or when to flutter her fake eyelashes. One mom very proudly said that it was her husband who did most of the pageant prep work. I think, at least in this case, the use of the word husband was very loose. He obviously was living through his daughter; you could tell that he wished he was the one who was having a custom dress with “sparklies” made for him and that he could step onto the stage and do his rendition of Marilyn Monroe.
- Funny, all of these “major” pageants never have anyone other than the parents in the audience. Aren’t there pageant groupies out there? Thirteen year olds, maybe, who have gone past their prime but want to relive the glory days?
- Some of these parents (who, by the looks of it, do not come from high earning families) spend upwards of one and two thousand dollars on one dress for one pageant. Then they buy the wigs. And the jewelry. And the travel and the hotel rooms. And the spray tanning! Do not get me started on the spray tanning. Many parents invest in their own home spray tanning tools so that they can spray Britnney or Mckynzie or Madyson or Tootie (there was a Tootie! But it was her pageant alter ego.) whenever the desire arises.
- Don’t give me the BS, moms, that it is the kid’s decision to do this. First of all, she would know nothing about any of this had you not thrown her into the pageant at the age of two weeks (it’s never too early!). And it’s not like she and her fellow pre-schoolers are standing around the playground talking about the serious competition at the upcoming pageant. These little girls don’t even know how to tie their shoes and cry when it’s macaroni and cheese for dinner instead of chicken nuggets. What do they know what they want? Moms need to take ownership. It’s their choice.
- The MCs of these pageants are always super creepy. That is all.
- The poor little boys who are forced into these pageants.
- And, aside from the rare father (see above), these poor dads. All their hard earned money going toward Lee press on nails, eyelash glue, and hair spray. Lots of hairspray. And bobby pins.
- I’m all about having a healthy amount of self-esteem. But constantly telling a little girl she’s so beautiful and so cute and so wonderful—and having her parrot that constantly—can only lead to disaster. These girls have attitudes already…they are constantly reminding everyone watching the show how pretty they are and how many pageants they’ve won and how beautiful their dress looks on them. They are bratty and whiny and rude to their parents, especially their mothers, who have essentially given up their normal lives to live this pageant lifestyle. And the moms? They put up with it because little Shaylynne is “stressed out” or “has a lot on her plate right now” or “really needs to be focusing on her routine.” I’m a strong believer that there is a high annoying factor when people, especially girls, have self-esteem that is too high. To go through life thinking everyone loves you and that you’re so pretty and so fabulous can only lead to eventual disappointment. And to focus on those things instead of different qualities the young girl may possess (her intelligence, her kindness, her athleticism) will not bode well for her self-esteem as an older girl. Because there will come a time when the cuteness will disappear. And what’s she have left then? There’s no happy medium here. It’s all about looks and strutting your stuff and performing. If I took that description and separated it from this discussion, it could aptly describe a completely different lifestyle…
- This is not to say that I don’t commend these parents for getting these children involved in activities and that they don’t allow them to just sit, idle, watching whatever it is four year olds watch these days. But, they need to do both. They need to be the makeup free, scabby kneed, gummy bear chewing kiddos they are supposed to be.
I’m sure that there are very few parents out there who do not think their child is the cutest or most talented. But to parade them on a stage, wearing more makeup than a grown adult would wear, with hair extensions and little girl heels is just odd to me. Because your cute kid is cute because she’s a kid. Making her look like a mini adult is weird and creepy. Do the benefits of these pageants (whatever they may be; guess that’s relative) outweigh the costs?