the gospel of toddlers & tiaras

January 23rd, 2012

On Wednesday evenings I’ve taken to watching TV with my daughter. It’s her one night off from gym practice and after she finishes homework, she likes to tune in to a controversial reality show called Toddlers & Tiaras. I grimaced through a few episodes of overbearing mothers parading their kids through grotesque beauty pageants until I came away with an enlightened view of the whole thing. Here is what I’ve learned:

Delusion begins with hair and makeup. The line between reality and psychosis is drawn with Maybelline Master Drama Brow and Eye Pencils.

There is no end to delusion. You can just keep piling it on.

There are no bad kids. There are just bad adults behaving like bad kids. And bad kids behaving like really, really bad adults.

The husbands are the sane ones. Just admitting this makes me crazy.

The room is empty except for you. The chairs are mostly vacant, the competition is entirely imaginary, and the judges wish they could disappear.

When you win, you lose. When they crown you a Queen, or Most Beautiful, or Best Talent, or Miss Congeniality, it means you didn’t win. In fact, it means you finished last. You don’t want those titles or sashes. Spit on them! You have to lose for a chance to win big, by coming back onstage later, when you really don’t win.

It’s all about you. “We keep doing this because she really loves it.” At the end of the show, when the kids are maniacal with hunger or exhaustion, tearing off the butt-ugly $1200 dresses that will take their parents two years to pay for, all the moms and dads say that. But it’s not true. You keep coming back because you don’t have a life! You’re sick, or bored, or you don’t want to make dinner, or fold laundry, or pay the bills, or face reality! You keep coming back for a chance to sit in a room with your own child, or at least I do! I’ll keep doing this because this show gives me a piercing view of my own shit while reminding me that if I’m not careful I could be a much worse parent than I am.

I’ll be back because this show is about me.

“Mom, do you see now why I watch this show?”

“Yes, I do, honey. I’m afraid I really do.”

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. My 12 year old daughter has been watching this show (much to my dismay – she ignores all my snide comments about trash tv, ect…) Sounds like I should perhaps pull up a cushion and watch an episode or two with her. Perspective – yes…it’s a beautiful thing. 🙂

    Comment by Jill Allison Bryan — January 23, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

  2. Hilarious! And so true to the point! Don’t you love it when we are reminded of our worst qualities in the most heinous ways.
    Great post Karen.

    Comment by Jim — January 23, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

  3. “you don’t want to make dinner, or fold laundry, or pay the bills, or face reality”. My life to a ‘t’. Luckily, though, I don’t air it all out on a reality TV show. The irony of watching (or being in) reality TV to escape reality and then be faced with reality never escapes… (My escape is Project Runway…)

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Comment by Katie — January 23, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  4. It is always, always, always about my own stuff. I’ve had big reactions to lots of tv shows and politicians and it never fails. It’s because they are me. I haven’t seen this particular show, but if I did I’m sure my horror would be based on the recognition that I’ve acted out my childhood issues on my child, just like those moms. Sometimes nowadays I’m able to send metta to all those people on television. I’m lucky enough that my stuff isn’t as public as theirs. (I hope.)

    Comment by Dawn — January 23, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

  5. So now I know why I watch it 🙂 Yes, it airs in the Netherlands too – and we sneer even more about the over the top America that is on display.

    Comment by Roos — January 23, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

  6. Oh my I am impressed that you can find the good in this. I too shall try harder to do the same every day.

    Comment by Bobbi — January 24, 2012 @ 4:50 am

  7. There are lessons everywhere, aren’t there? I have to say, you are a far braver woman than I. I can’t watch T&T for more than a few minutes.

    I do, however, spend hours watching the shows my daughter wants me to see, and the process is eerily similar.

    Thanks for the big smile, and for the wisdom…

    Comment by Christa — January 24, 2012 @ 7:28 am

  8. I LOVE this post. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing the way you found a deeper message in what appears (on the surface) to be absurd.

    Comment by Pamela Gottfried — January 24, 2012 @ 8:44 am

  9. The thought of you plopped in front of the big screen watching trash TV is wonderfully entertaining. Grace under pressure indeed.

    But I agree, kids are just so interesting, it only gets richer as they move into the world (not as I like to think of it, but a world of Toddlers and Tiara’s).


    Comment by Chris — January 24, 2012 @ 9:19 am

  10. Chris- I also watch Downton Abbey, but the costumes aren’t as good.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 24, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

  11. I procrastinate on all my daily chores and often feel bad at the end of the day. I am so glad you label that for me – yes, indeed, I have a hard time facing the reality. Now I wish I can figure out why I have such a hard time facing the reality. Thank you for your candor!

    Comment by May — January 24, 2012 @ 9:24 am

  12. Oh Downton Abbey! My 14 year-old son and I are obsessed with that program. It’s such a wonderful escape…yes, not dealing with reality, but hey, it’s PBS!

    Your honesty and way of looking at the world never fail to amaze me, Maezen. You somehow manage to make life events both hilarious and touching–sometimes in the same sentence.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Robin — January 24, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

  13. not sure what to make of this post, not a big tv watcher, don’t know the show you are mentioning, but really, me, a middle aged woman loves Top Gear….hmmmmm, going to have to think about this

    Comment by MJ — January 24, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

  14. I agree about the toddler/tiaras show… i had the hardest time not tearing myself away… trying to figure out my responsibility to those women… i guess it really is about my responsibility to myself.. me. all me, all the time… :)oh reality, you slay me.

    Comment by kate — January 25, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

  15. i have watched this a few times. and i watched last week. the next day i was telling my husband about one of the mothers, she had the russian accent and such a mean abusive side to her. i told him that i would curious if her family was now being investigated by their dcfs branch. and in the end she refused to watch her daughter in the finals because she wasn’t going to win the $10 grand. because she wasn’t going to win the $10grand. the need for our children to be considered beautiful, popular and holding a tiara that is cutting into their head or could be worn as the queens jewels, whether on tv, at the gym or church. a little digging deep is in order.

    Comment by kelly barton — January 26, 2012 @ 6:02 am

  16. Hello, just popped by to take a look at your blog. Great discussion. I get really angry watching beauty pageant type stuff, or programmes where the parents just spoil their girls by turning them into princesses with designer everything. I have four boys so I guess I will have a different bunch of self esteem issues to help my kids through as they grow older….. There are so many more pressures on girls aren’t there? I wonder what the mothers of the mothers in those programmes were like? Where does this obsession with perfection first begin?

    Comment by Motherfunker — February 6, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

  17. Perfection is delusion and delusion is as old as wisdom. We have a choice to live in the ignorance of delusion, or the clarity of wisdom. We each have to make the choice in each lifetime. No one to blame but ourselves if we don’t.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — February 6, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

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