When I first got the email I just deleted it. I didn't even ponder it, just sent it to the trash bin. When my girlfriend asked if I had gotten it, I decided it would be rude not to take another look. So I did.
The email was a request for applicants to the Mrs. Florida-America Pageant.
Let me tell you about my experience with pageants. When I was seventeen years old, I actually participated in a preliminary Junior Miss Pageant with some other local high school girls. But as much as this gawky valedictorian wanted to be considered pretty, I walked away instead with the scholastic achievement award for having the highest GPA among the contestants. I took it as a sign that I wasn't cut out for the whole beauty thing and hung up my tiara. After getting in early decision to the University of Virginia (Wa-Hoo-Wa!), I went off to study, travel and later graduate Harvard Law School. I married the perfect guy, have the most amazing children, live in the greatest little beachside community near almost all my family and do work every day that I really love. I even get paid for it.
What else could a girl want? I already have it all. Asking for anything else would just be plain greedy.
But I still get all wistful when I see those girls in the Miss America pageant. I mean, on the one hand, how cool would that be? On the other hand, what about all that pressure? What are we telling girls? They have to be perfect? They have to be beautiful, accomplished and amazingly fit? They have to set out to save the world while looking flawless in high heels and a swimsuit? The feminist in me was somewhat dismayed. The little girl in me wanted to talk about creating world peace one family and one community at a time while wearing an evening gown. A really sparkly one.
Conflicted about what to do, I decided to get my kids' perspective. My 9 year old daughter's reaction was to jump up and down and ask if she got to wear a back-stage pass. My 7 year old son asked if it would make us famous. Both assured me they would help me pick out what to wear.
My Mother said, "Absolutely!" My brother and sister-in-law said, "You HAVE to do this!" My Father was cautious, not sure what this would mean, then decided I should go for it.
I started to think that maybe it wasn't such a crazy idea. That it could be a fun adventure for the whole family. But, there was just one more person whose opinion really mattered here.
After all, this is the Mrs. America pageant for a reason.
I just knew that my husband--the most reasonable and solid guy ever--would think my participating in the Mrs. Florida-America pageant was completely ridiculous. I just knew he would be concerned about my being taken seriously as a lawyer if I did this. I just knew he would say that we didn't have time for such nonsense, that I was already too overcommitted with too many causes, boards and activities. I was convinced that he would tell me not to do any such thing. I was terrified to even bring it up. I kept it to myself for about three days, then finally summoned up my courage and said,
"I've been recruited to participate in the Mrs. Florida-America Pageant. It is the married woman's version of the Miss America Pageant. They looked at my website and thought my practice of peaceful divorce would make a great platform. The pageant is February 4th and 5th in Kissimmee at the Westgate Resort. There's no talent portion but I do have to wear a swimsuit. They said I could be Mrs. Space Coast."
Without missing a beat, he said, "That sounds really exciting."
"Well, OK then. I think you'll have to escort me on stage or something."
So there it was. Nobody left to stop me but me.
It's not that I think I could win this thing. I mean, there will be younger and prettier and shall we say "physically fitter" ladies on that stage. But I've started eating more salad at dinner and stopped eating cupcakes for breakfast. I've started being more committed to my exercise routine and regained incentive to take better care of myself. I've actually started to walk taller and be more mindful of my posture.
I've decided this is a chance to be a role model, talk about the causes important to me and to promote my beloved Space Coast, where I was born and raised and now raise my own family.
Therefore I'm accepting this opportunity to be a candidate for Mrs. Florida. I'll do it for the fun and for the love of it. I'll do it for the little starry-eyed girl inside me who really does want world peace.
I'll do it for me, but not only for me.
In her book, A Course in Miracles, Marianne Williamson writes that "as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So as I hope to shine on February 4th and 5th, my wish is that it will inspire all the other 40-something minivan moms out there striving to balance work and family and muddle through each day to remember that what they are--and what they do--is beautiful. As Mrs. Space Coast, I seek to represent all of the unrecognized Mrs. Americas struggling to do their best to take care of themselves, their families, their homes, their jobs, their obligations whatever they may be. This one is for every single one of us, because as the popular song goes, "We are beautiful in every single way...we are all beautiful today."