Sunday, July 3, 2016

Of Tiaras and Texas

As many of you may remember, last year's Fourth of July post detailed my family's hideous adventure at Kaboom Town. Well, fool me once, fireworks, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. This year, I chose instead to pay tribute to our nation's birthday in true Texas fashion -- with pomp, circumstance and hair extensions.

In other words ... the Miss Texas Pageant.


It started, like so many things do nowadays, with a text. "Want to go to the Miss Texas pageant?" asked my neighbor Carrie, about a month ago.

"Sure," I said, because, really? Ball gowns, big hair, and batons ... how could I possibly say no?

I'll admit to watching my share of Miss America as a little girl...every year, Mom and I would make popcorn and hunker down in front of the TV for a night of sequins and swimsuits. I "may" have posed in front of the bathroom mirror and given an imaginary speech..which for some reason always started with "I'd like to thank the Academy" instead of, "my greatest wish is for world peace." Which is funny because I've avoided the stage since I was 10 and singing with my dad's band, forgot the words, ran offstage and hid in a ladies' room. But that, as they say, is another story.

As an adult, I hadn't watched a pageant in years. Until last night, during the Uber ride to the restaurant when Carrie brought up footage of Miss South Carolina's answer from the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant. "Such as the Iraq" will forever hold a special place in my heart as the Best.Worst.Answer.Ever.

This pretty much set the tone for the night, which had begun with several giggly texts back and forth while getting dressed. I mean, obviously we had to chat about what to wear. Because duh. When one attends the Miss Texas pageant, one must dress accordingly.

After exclaiming over each others' dresses and shoes, Carrie asked her husband to take a picture of us for posterity. Because if there was ever a night for ridiculous late night selfies, this was going to be it - best to attempt a "normal" picture before the drinking started.

We ubered over to Jasper's. As we got out of the car, Carrie said, "I just hope there's at least one baton twirler tonight."

"Me, too," I replied.

"And puppets," she added.

"Oooh, do you think?" I asked, giddy with anticipation. "That would be amazing. And possibly a dramatic reading from Gone With the Wind. Because that would be epic."

Giggling, we made our way into the restaurant. As we took our seats, the waiter greeted us and asked how we were. Carrie asked him the same, to which he replied, "Actually, I'm sublime." Or maybe he said he was "supine." Or possibly "sub-prime." Basically, I've no real idea what he said.

He asked if we were celebrating anything. "Miss Texas!" Carrie said, and he looked surprised for maybe half a second, and then he recovered and said, "Rock on. Do you want to start with some Prosecco?"

I don't think I need to tell you what we said to that. Because the only acceptable answer when someone asks if you want Prosecco -- is yes.

As he walked away, I whispered, "did he say he was sublime?"

"I don't know, I couldn't understand him!" Carrie whispered back.

"I think he just made up a word!" I whispered.

And then we giggled. Again.

Our bubbly came and we ordered the blue cheese potato chips. Our waiter described several specials and something very complicated the chef was doing to a pork tenderloin that involved sous-vide and sauerkraut. I'm not really sure what all that was about, but it sounded very Iron Chef. Only German. And sauerkraut? Is so not pageant food.

We asked for a recommendation, since we wanted to split a salad and entree. (Hello, we were about to watch anorexic 20 year olds, we had to drink .. ahem, I mean "watch" our calories). He suggested the surf and turf, which was medium rare tuna and steak. I'm not a big fan of fish that hasn't been cooked, mainly because A) I grew up on beer batter and B) It's fish and C) I prefer my tuna in a can. But I do have to say -- everything was really good. Once I got past the fact that the tuna was purple.

We asked the waiter to take a picture. It looked hideous. We asked him to take another. Also hideous. But we thanked him anyway, and I said (still giggling), "I bet we're the most ridiculous customers you have all night."

To his credit he said, "Nah, you're just having a good time."
And yes. We were. We tried to take a selfie before we left, but the lighting was just all wrong. So, my restaurant review in a nutshell:

Jasper's has excellent service and food.
But terribly unflattering lighting for pictures.
You're welcome.

Dinner finished, we headed to the Eisemann Center, and discussed perfume with the uber driver on the way. Because of course we did.

And then we opened the door and entered a pink and blonde cloud of hair extensions, gowns and sparkles, the likes of which I doubt I'll ever experience again in my lifetime. Family members clutched giant photos of their contestants. Past Miss Texas winners walked the red carpet. And little girls wore giant, fluffy white dresses that looked like some bizarre quinceanera. For ten-year-olds.

"Wouldn't it be great if they had one of those things where we could stick our heads in it and have crowns?" Carrie asked, because if there was ever a place for a rhinestoned photo booth, this was it.

We headed straight for the bar. Obviously. And ordered champagne. "Would you like to purchase a commemorative Miss Texas champagne flute?"

Why, yes. Yes we would. As we sipped our champagne, we asked a man wearing a lovely plaid jacket to take our photo. "Full body shot?" he asked. I had to smile. You know you're in pageant country when the men wear Madras and ask about your photo preferences.

We raised our glasses and as I took another sip, I mused, "I wonder if they'd just sell us a bottle? And would it be wrong to take that back to our seats?" Because a night like this? Was not a one-glass event.

We, along with our commemorative flutes, made our way to our seats -- which, thanks to Carrie, were amazing. Box seats right in the middle of the balcony, for the perfect view of the pag-sanity that was about to begin. Lights dimmed. We "might" have squealed in excitement. And yes, obligatory opening ceremony selfies.

And so it began. Miss Texas 2015 took the stage, lit only in profile as she turned, struck a pose and then began to swivel back and forth. "OMG, interpretive dance!" I whispered, "this is AWESOME!" Then Demi Lovato's "Complicated" blasted out as a slew of red sequin-clad ladies strolled across the stage. They joined Miss Texas 2015 in a choregraphed dance involving lots of snapping fingers and wrists. Think, "talk to the hand" only it was more like "talk to my pageant-walking sequin-wearing fabulousness." Because the pageant walk? Was in full force. If you don't know what I'm talking about, might I suggest this helpful guide to perfecting your pageant strut.

Our host was Miss Texas 2012 and she regaled us with the glorious history of Miss Texas. She introduced us to the Lone Star princesses, those little girls in white I had spotted in the lobby. Because dressing prepubescent girls in sparkly wedding dresses and false eyelashes? Is not creepy. At. All.

Then she announced a very special guest -- Miss Texas 1966. A video tribute played, showcasing her evening gown competition walk and her talent.

Guess what her talent was?

A dramatic reading from ...wait for it ... Gone with the Wind.

"As God is mah witness, I'll never be hungry again."

I almost spilled my drink as Carrie and I high-fived. Because Scarlett O'Hara? Is one of my all-time favorite heroines. "I can't think about this now. I'll think about it tomorrow." That phrase can save your life.

Between GWTD and the Lone Star princesses, they announced the 12 semifinalists, we met the contestants and I went downstairs for another glass of champagne. Because the swimsuit competition was coming up, and clearly, that required ... nay, demanded, alcoholic accompaniment.

Each of the contestants pageant-strutted down the runway in a biniki and a teensy little wrap, which they whipped off dramatically so we could all see their cellulite-free thighs and derrieres. All I can say is there were a lot of ab crunches that went into those bodies. And not much food.

Then we had evening wear. The ladies were grouped by the color of their dresses, because apparently most of them went for black, blue, red or white. There was one yellow gown and one sort of blue with gold side panels. Don't worry, I'm not going to wax poetic about fashion. Because I love a good gown as much as anyone, but let's face it. We weren't here to see the dresses. We were here to see one thing.

The talent competition.

I won't describe all the talents -- but I feel compelled to share a few of the highlights. The 90-second speed painting of Elvis was a personal favorite. As were the batons, because yes, more than one lady brought her twirlers. Miss Plano, I believe, was the best of the bunch. Three batons, or was it four? I can't remember -- it was all a blur of sparkles and sticks flung high into the air.

There were dancers. A celloist. (Note: don't play the cello for your pageant talent. Just don't. Especially if you have to follow a baton twirler. They will crush you). And yes, there was a ventriloquist. Carrie got her puppets! Fancy, dancing and singing puppets, no less!

At intermission, we both went downstairs. I headed for the ladies' room while Carrie held our drinks. When I finally pushed through the crowds to find Carrie (it was a pageant, for God's sake; of course there was a line for the ladies' room) I couldn't find her. Finally, I spied her near the doors, chatting with a cop. Who seemed really interested in knowing what she did. And where she worked. And where she lived. (Officer Stalker much?)

Then she spilled champagne on the floor and he joked, "Who's driving?" Ha ha ha, good one, Officer. Maybe you can give us a ride home after. Or ... maybe not.

As we left our new law enforcement friend, Carrie said, "did I really just spill champagne on the floor? In front of a police officer?"

"Yes, but I'm pretty sure he didn't care. I think he kind of liked you."

Giggle. Giggle.

Still snorting, we found our seats once again, this time for the interview portion of the night (AKA, Such as the Iraq). The first question was whether immigrants faced favoritism in this country. Or maybe it was racism. I couldn't really hear. All I know is the contestant used a word in her answer that I can think was meant to be "xenophobia" only it came out more like "funaphobia" which I'm pretty sure is not a real word. And if it is, how sad is that -- I mean, who has a phobia about fun?

Two different contestants were asked to "imagine you are moderating the first debate between Trump and Clinton, and what would you ask?" I believe it was Miss Park Cities who said she would ask Hillary Clinton about empowering women and how she was making history. That didn't sit well with the crowd, who booed and hissed, except for one person who cheered. Oh wait. That was me. Spoiler Alert: guess who didn't win Miss Texas?

Our mayor took the stage and talked about helping the contestants build houses. Or maybe they fed the homeless. IDK. They did something good for the community. I wasn't paying much attention at that point. My feet, in their 3-inch platform heels, were kind of hurting. Also? I was almost out of champagne.

Finally, the moment we'd all been waiting for arrived. The runners up were announced and then... drumroll ... Miss Plano was crowned Miss Texas 2016. She won a pretty small scholarship and the use of an Infiniti for a year. If you ask me, that's kind of a raw deal for years of starvation and hair extensions. She did get a standing ovation and a ginormous bouquet of yellow roses. So you know, there's that.

We decided it was too early to end the evening, so we walked over to the Renaissance Hotel for a drink. Where the bartender looked so young, I'm pretty sure I could have given birth to him. Which is kind of euww, so let's not do that math.

We both ordered the same wine. And apparently, they only had one glass left of that particular wine. But I think we scared him, so he wouldn't come back and tell us -- we had to flag down another bartender who broke the news. And looked nervous telling us. What did she think? We'd start a fight over cabernet? Then again, they had been hosting pageant moms all week so maybe they had reason to fear. I offered to have a different wine. Problem solved.

As we were drinking, a man in a sequined jacket (yes, you heard me right) leaned over the bar. Carrie complimented him on his jacket and he explained that he'd had it flown in from L.A. Then he introduced himself as the official pageant florist. That's right, people. We met a celebrity. Sort of. Not really at all, but whatever.

So of course, we had to tell him how much we loved the flowers and then he told us how he really wanted to do a more modern look but with the traditional nod to Texas via yellow roses, and we all agreed that baby's breath was so last century ... there was so much estrogen in that conversation, I'm pretty sure we could have reset the menstrual cycles of every woman within a 50-yard radius. He gave us his card. You know, for the next time we hold a pageant in our living room and need flowers.

We knew it was pretty much impossible to top the celeb florist encounter, so at this point we decided to call it a night. We ubered home, I took our commemorative glasses home to wash, and we giggled one more time over the evening.

Because yes, swimsuit competitions are insane.

So are beauty contests in general.

But nonstop giggling like you're twelve with a good friend and enjoying the spectacle of batons, speed-painting Elvis and yes, dramatic readings of Gone With the Wind?

Best.Mom's Night.Ever.