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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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Knees, Vaseline and Barbara Streisand

My grandmother realized very early during the growth spurts of my youth that I was going to be above average in at least one thing, height. In her own way she set in place a plan to ensure that this would become an asset in my life. One of the aspects of this plan included me having spent my entire youth balancing a book on my head thinking this would make me stand tall with my shoulders back. A memory I might add that no one in my family seems to be able to forget.

Another essential element of this plan was my participation in each and every beauty contest that existed at that time.  Her theory was this would further enhance my confidence since I was heads and shoulders taller than most of the boys I perceived as being romantic prospects.

One of these beauty contests was particularly memorable for me; it was one of the preliminaries to the Miss America contest and my introduction to the swimsuit and talent competition.  The swimsuit competition was particularly nerve racking, because it involved all of us wearing the same Miss America standard issue swimsuit, which was not anyone’s idea of a fashion statement. It also involved smearing your body with Vaseline to include your teeth. (According to the Miss American folks the Vaseline thing was to keep your body looking glossy and to ensure that your lips would stay in a permanent smile), you then paraded out on the runway to perform quarter turns for the judges.  When it was my turn, and I began to start my much-practiced quarter turns my legs began to tremble.  I am not sure anyone actually saw this trembling, mind you, but nonetheless I was completely convinced the entire world was watching.  Simultaneously a nerve in my lip began to quiver and since my teeth contained more lubrication than an automobile engine. I had no alternative but to stand there smiling, knees knocking, lips twitching praying that the floor beneath me would open, and I would be able to disappear.

The rest of the contest went well for me, but I think it might have been a little embarrassing for the four girls who all sang the same Barbara Streisand song, “People” in the talent competition.  As the rest of us waited backstage and tried our best not to laugh, each one of the four belted out the lyrics while standing far too close to the microphone.

Whenever my mind decides to pause for a while on this particular memory, I am not sure whether knees, Vaseline or Barbara Streisand gives me the biggest chuckle.

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About the Contributor
Karen Phillips Smith, Contributing Writer
Karen Phillips Smith is a contributing writer for Cape Fear Voices. She resides in Wilmington, NC.