Fear the tiara & all those little taffeta girls

At a dollar store the other day, the Little Girl asked me to buy her a tiara.

She's still into princess stuff, so I paid it no mind. But then she tried it on and said, "Look, I'm Miss America."

That's when I started to worry.

I once had to cover the Miss America contest, back when it was in Atlantic City. Don't judge me. I was forced.

It was bizarre to be around a beauty contest that insisted on calling itself a scholarship competition. I'd won some scholarships in college, but I never had to wear a swimsuit and show some leg to get the dough.

The competition was bad enough, a celebration of superficial young womanhood with the ladies purposely looking alike, as though they were all cut from the same bolt of taffeta.

But the worst part came after the competition ended. When the contestants had left and the cameras had been packed away, there was a rustling in the audience. Suddenly, a small army of pageant girls dressed as Miss America contestants marched toward the runway on which the new Miss America had just been crowned.

When they reached the runway, they each held out a tiny hand and pressed their fingers against it, as though it were a holy relic at the Vatican.

"I touched it!" a little Jon Benet Ramsey exulted under the approving eye of her mother.

Seeing children dressed like women, with make-up and expensive hair treatments, made me sad, disgusted and worried all at the same time.

This was years before my daughter was born, but I vowed then and there that any child of mine would never be a pageant kid.

The tiara brought all that back. "Hey, honey," I said to the Little Girl. "Instead of a tiara, how about a baseball cap instead?"