Thursday, July 22, 2010

80s Hair on a Four-Year-Old's Head

I must confess, a guilty pleasure for me and my family is the TLC show "Toddlers and Tiaras." It's as addicting and evil as crack cocaine, but still completely legal. In the same revolting-and-can't-stop-looking vein as "My Super Sweet 16," "Toddlers and Tiaras" revolves around bratty girls and their psychotic mothers. The show follows girls (and sometimes boys) from about birth to 10 years as they fight their way through the pageant world.

Like nutrition and appliances on the porch, pageants are worse in the South. The hair is bigger, the makeup heavier, and the number of contestants living in double-wides larger. See, the crazy thing about pageants is the cost - whether it's "low glitz" or "high glitz," pageant dresses (some of which are no bigger than a large babydoll) run from $500-$2,500. The average pageant requires three outfits, but that's just upfront expenses. Pageants (even for little three-year-olds) typically require: entry fee (usually over $100), pani/medi, fake tan (it just makes them pop onstage!), eyebrow waxing, hair styling (curling irons, straighteners, curlers, HAIRSPRAY), hair pieces/full wigs, flippers (retainers containing a full set of teeth - the perfect gift for the little girl who only wants her two front teeth for Christmas ... or this Saturday), make-up (mascara, eye shadow, eye liner, fake eyelashes, blush, powder, etc), often a coach, to choreograph "routines" and demonstrate where a background in pageantry can take you, as well as cases to carry everything.

There are several shocking aspects to this. First, look at that list. Remember it's for a girl who probably doesn't know her times tables or how to write her name in cursive. Then throw in that all this work goes toward about 30 seconds on stage - if you have three events (beauty, swimwear, and outfit of choice, traditionally), you're up to a whopping minute-and-a-half. Assuming a smaller entry fee ($100), one big dress ($700), one smaller dress ($400), one fairly plain swimsuit ($100), a mani/pedi special ($35), a free fake tan (nice friend, someone who left their fridge on your porch, etc.), just tweezing, one cheap hair piece ($50), no flipper, mom's make-up, and no coach, you've cost yourself $1,385 for 90 seconds - in other words, your daughter's walk across the stage cost $15.39 per second. For each moment she spent onstage, you could have had a reasonable family dinner for four - and you were probably mocked for not going "full glitz" like you should have. Sure, you can re-wear the outfits, which are your biggest expense, but it's still a huge investment (and few girls only have three outfits).

What's shocking is that for the most part these girls don't come from lots of money - lots live in trailers, most in small houses with minimal decor. Your average middle-class (sometimes low-middle class) families are spending huge amounts of money to put their daughters in an environment that encourages reckless spending, outer beauty, extreme selfishness, and mood swings. In other words, most of these parents are paying to create holy terrors. Sure, some of the girls are sweet, but by and large they are terrifying, and that is why we watch.

From an economic point of view, it makes as much sense as copying Rihanna's hairstyles. From an entertainment point of view, it's pure gold.

I spent my money on:
Brown menswear capris, brown empire waist, belted shirt, purple and gold bead dangle earrings, gold owl necklace, and brown beaded ankle-laced espadrilles.

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