My Mother was a Beauty Queen

Or, the demystification of the Magnolia-Mouthed Southern Woman

Really. I have an 8×10 of her with the Miss Vogel State Park Banner across her borrowed bathing suit.

Later she was a contestant for Miss Georgia. She was beautiful. Like a 1940’s movie star, in the 40’s. And not the “I’m pretty and you better know it” kind.

bqWorse. She lived in the North Georgia Mountains, and she was recruited by sponsors because she was truly beautiful. People told her how pretty she was for the next twenty years.

They told me a lot, too. How pretty she was.

Now that may not mean anything to you, but being raised by a beauty means that things have a different value. Time, for instance. Promptness. Considered a virtue in some circles, my mother always insisted that I be fashionably late.

Think about it, at 15 you’ve lived every day for a week waiting for the party you’re going to on Saturday night. Everyone else you know is also living for that moment.

And you cruise in 30 or 45 minutes late because you had something better to do?

Please. Even adults recognize it as a ruse. Or just bad manners. But she trained me well. I couldn’t tell you how many bosses I’ve had who didn’t appreciate the “fashionable” part of late.

Looks are a big thing. You’d have guessed that I suppose. Looking attractive to men was a REALLY big thing. I liked men’s shirts and blue jeans when I was 15 or 16. I rode horses. I knocked around and I wanted to feel comfortable. My mother would shriek – “Don’t you want to look attractive?”

I didn’t have the guts to tell her that teenage boys are attracted to teenage girls. Period. Or that I was tired of fighting off boys who wanted a hand up my shirt or down my pants.

The beauty queen was so strident about looks, I didn’t wear yellow until I was thirty. She said it made me look sallow. Actually I look pretty good in yellow, but I still have an aversion to it.

Then there was the thing – if you want to be attractive to men, why? To ATTRACT, right? But, when men were attracted, you had to say “NO”. So that when I met a guy to whom I was attracted (REALLY ATTRACTED) saying no wasn’t what I wanted to do. Being attractive to him and then going, “Oh no, just look at me!”

Attract Men?

Being attracted only left him feeling teased and me wondering why women would bother. It wasn’t honest. And it wasn’t what I wanted – I wanted it all!

Now, it wasn’t that my mother and I hadn’t talked about sex. When I was in the sixth grade and saw the training films in Health Ed I went straight home to tell my Mom. Those were the days when I shared everything with my Mom. That may have been the day I quit sharing.

She wandered into the bathroom, and spoke to me through a closed door. That was our conversation about sex. Left me more than a little curious. . .

When I found out about sex, I mean really found out about sex (and it wasn’t with a 17 year old boy – it was with a 21 year old guy when I was 15, and my Mother was right – they are too experienced for 15 year old girls) guess what? I knew why all the guys liked it! I liked it too! Oh, horrors. The beauty queen wasn’t gonna be happy about this, was she?

The irony here is that I’m sure she liked it, too. But ya know, Southern women didn’t act like that. They acted like they wanted it, but then they acted insulted if a guy really believed they wanted it.

No wonder men have a problem with women. It is how they act.


Now, other than the late thing and the attraction thing, the only other thing was LIFE PREP. I took Algebra early. In high school I took Chemistry, Geometry, Calculus. I also took typing. And when I got out of high school where did my parents send me? Secretarial school.

HD-OBSESSION-258X95Secretarial School. The path to marital bliss. . . a husband who will provide for you and take care of you. Except I had a taste for muscles and glistening sweat and a penchant for guys with long hair who rode Harleys too fast. Then there were cowboys … in black hats.

I think I was about 40 when I realized if a guy didn’t come across as dangerous, I wasn’t interested.

I tried analyzing that for a while, then I was 45, and anybody who was dangerous wasn’t interested anymore, so I don’t really have to stay out of trouble now. I haven’t seen trouble that I wanted since baby number four. There are six of them now. . . babies, that is. So the trouble in my life is a new generation.

Was Secretarial School the path to marital bliss?

Hell, No! Secretarial school didn’t get me a husband who would take care of me – It got me incredibly stultifying work that helped support my first husband. And my second. And my third. I never did find a guy that made me feel like he’d take care of me. Or make me feel safe. . .

The beauty queen had a degree and worked as a secretary. She married an engineer who was independently wealthy and, financially, he took care of her. Till they divorced. Then she went back to work as a secretary. And she hated it as much as I did.

College would have been a good thing. . . . If I could have gotten past being late, and being attractive, but not really interested in anything else.

As it was, I tried living the Southern Magnolia dream of husband and baby, and when it didn’t work, I tried again. And again.

The really worst part is that it wasn’t just my Mom. It was her generation. Rigid beliefs about behavior and incredible over-the-edge reactions to “what other people might think.”

You know, they must have had a lot of time on their hands. I not only don’t care much about what other people think, I don’t have the time or inclination to speculate. . . That’s been with me since I was about 15.

What to pass on to the next generation?

I do sometimes wonder how my children will describe me. My nineteen- year-old calls me “Tha bomb.”

left-quoteTha Bomb.

That’s a compliment. My sixteen-year-old complains that all he wants is a normal life and normal parents. I stopped apologizing for not being able to deliver normal in the eighties. I still haven’t discovered it.

And he hasn’t bought into my theory that normalcy is a relative thing. Evidently he wants someone else’s normalcy.

Maybe he wants a real Magnolia-mouth for a Mom. . . And, frankly, my deah, I think we’d all be bored to death.



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