Photo by: Jen Redmon

Deliver Me From Prom Queen Purgatory

Photo by: Jen Redmon

Twenty some years later, and I still have trouble getting the words out of my mouth…

I was the prom queen.

Not that a lot of people are asking these days, but you know what I mean. Actually, there’s even more to the story, because at my school, the prom queen was also designated as the high school representative in a state-wide beauty pageant. And guess what…

I was also the pageant queen.

And at the risk of sounding like an announcer on an infomercial, might I take it one step further to let you know that…THAT’S NOT ALL! Along with winning prom queen and pageant queen, you also get this free gift…

I was the homecoming queen as well.

It’s starting to get obnoxious, I know. And the worst part is that I don’t even really know how it happened. I had absolutely no poise or grace, and the only two items in my make-up bag were chap stick and eyeliner (not much has changed, by the way). Shouldn’t beauty queens have a little bit more to offer?

Recently, while visiting my mom, I stumbled upon a dilapidated cardboard box that she had carefully tucked away for safe-keeping. In it contained all of the relics of royalty from my days of old. I felt frozen in time as my fingers fixed on extracting the mind-boggling memorabilia; newspaper clippings, photographs, leaflets, and cards.

Digging deeper, I finally uncovered them; three jeweled crowns nestled among dried flowers and interwoven banners. I was feeling very “Miss Havisham” as I examined the treasures from a lifetime ago. And as I sat there, soaking up the nostalgia, the tiniest creak from the bedroom door stirred me back to my senses. There stood my daughter, surveying the room, and looking very puzzled by the mess.

As I motioned her over to sit down and join me, I realized that I had never really shared this part of my life with her. I’m not sure why, really. I guess I just didn’t want her to feel as though this was something that she had to live up to. It’s one thing to pretend to be a princess as a little girl. It is quite another to realize that the glass slipper was your mother’s, and your foot might not be the same size.

Photo: Jen Redmon

“All of this stuff,” I began to explain as she surveyed the room, “It’s not who I was. It’s just something I did.”

It sounded like the noble thing to say at the time, but as we sat amongst so many objects that reflected the need to perform, I wondered how true that statement actually was. Perhaps that really was the case in my high school days, but what about now?

Why do I often look to others for approval and identity?.

I can’t tell you how many times I have sat down to try to write about uncovering the box of pageantry pleasures. And every time, I kept hitting delete. Why? I was too worried about what you would think of me, of course. Will someone reading this think that I am bragging? Being too haughty? Living in the past of my high school days? Delete. Delete. Delete. Let’s face it…

Some days, I feel like I’m stuck in prom queen purgatory.

I strive for votes. I feel pressured to impress. I want people to be dazzled by me and like what I have to say. I hope they think that I am confident and clever, and that my clothes are cool…What does this shirt really say about me, anyway?

And just when I think I am making progress with this pathetic little issue of mine, a sorted voice from the bowels of hell comes creeping into my ears. “You’re not enough,” it whispers. “You need to be more, do more, accomplish more, and have more in order to be accepted.”

Sitting on the floor with my daughter that day made me realize that that is a lie that I cannot afford to believe any longer. Not only for myself, but for the daughter that I am trying so desperately to raise in a world full of voices and images that are telling her who she needs to be.

I never did end up bringing that box at my mom’s back home with me. I figured I might as well leave all that striving behind.

Maybe the next time we visit, my daughter can take out the crowns and put them on her head and dance around the bedroom. And my prayer for that sweet princess of mine is that she will know how much she is loved and accepted; not for what she does but for who she was created to be.

Only there will her identity be found.

Jen lives in Maryland with her husband, practically pre-teen children, and narcissistic dog named Nitro. When she’s not with family or teaching middle school students, she likes to go for long runs to work out the crazy and grab coffee with women who have no desire to pretend that their lives are perfect. You can find her writing about her attempts to courageously live out her everyday callings at Brave Guinevere. You can also connect with Jen on Facebook and Instagram.

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