In late April 2019, I entered the Miss BC Pageant on a whim. There was no forethought. I didn’t wake up and say, “I’m going to enter a pageant this year.” It was nothing like that at all. In fact, if you watch the video I submitted as my pageant talent, you discover that I learned the Miss BC Pageant existed in the same five minutes I decided to enter it. At no point did I make a well-thought out decision to enter a pageant.
But then I did and it changed my life.
I’m a unionist. I don’t enter pageants. *scoff* I’m smart and I ride through life with the knowledge that I am smart. Not sure if I’m smart? Just ask me. I’ll tell you. I’m smart. AND I’m political. Smart and political. That’s me. and while I’m smart enough to know God has gifted me with a face I should be pretty happy about, deep down inside me is the teenager who was bullied. That’s the one who grew up to be smart because this face used to be the reason I earned the nickname “Dog.”
Yep. Dog. You read it. And if you went to Bedford Junior High, you either heard it or you called me it yourself. Dog. In my ears, thirty-some years later, I can still hear the scrape of the desk on the classroom floor as the boy in the seat ahead of me moved his desk while yelling, “I’m not sitting near that dog.” And that was the nickname that stuck. Dog.
I was a target for bullies. Neglected by my family of origin. I never had breakfast and often went without lunch. I didn’t know to take regular showers and rarer still had clean clothes. I was a disinterested partner in my own life and was just trying to survive each day. I know now that the poor grades I got were because I was hungry and that the low self-esteem I had was from the many days I often went without seeing an adult at home. I didn’t know that then. I went to school and got the nickname, Dog. Mostly I thought I deserved it.
I have a vague memory of being thirteen or fourteen years old and going to the Bedford Days Parade. I sat on a wall watching the floats as they crawled down the Bedford Highway, the main road through town. Of no particular interest was the convertible car with the pageant girls sitting on the open back seat. I saw them with their coiffed hair and their shiny dresses as they waved to the crowd and giggled together with their shared secrets. I didn’t long to be one of them. Their life was too far out of reach of my reality. I didn’t aspire to be one of them one day. I just hoped I could walk home without being the target of bullies. I was rarely safe from them. If they saw me, they’d follow. Being called Dog was the least of my problems when they followed me.
So Dog went to school and advanced through each year until one day Dog graduated and headed out into the world to go crack into adulthood. Stuff happened. Lots of it was good. Some of it was even amazing. I honed my intelligence and leaned heavily on my blossoming debate skills to eventually become an activist.
And then one day just a few years ago (less than a decade), one of my coworkers commented on how pretty I was. That stopped me and I thought he was full of horse puckey and I told him so. He seemed to think I was being falsely modest and rolled his eyes at me. Eventually we both realized the other wasn’t kidding. He said a lot of women would love to have my face. I tried to digest this new information. Could it be that I was no longer a dog?
Slowly, I began to believe it to be true. God had given me a face that was pretty. I was no longer a dog – though the voices in my head warned me not to get too carried away. Looks are clearly fleeting. It’s best to focus on being smart. Still, I rather liked this whole concept of being pretty. It sure as heck beat being called dog.
And then along came the pageant. I entered. Ironically, my friend sponsored me, Self Worth Coaching and Counselling. In doing so, I became “Mrs. Self Worth” on stage. It was symbolic because it signified just how far I had come.
I didn’t win, but I was there. And no one, not one single person, seemed to think I didn’t belong there. I made friends and had a lot of fun. I’m not insecure about my face these days, but being in a pageant was a non-stop dig around to see what was lingering from the past. And what was lingering, to my surprise, was a little girl who didn’t aspire to be a pageant girl because it was too far out of reach. A little pageant girl whose nickname was Dog.
I wish I could go back in time to that younger version of me and let her know it turns out ok. I didn’t know there was a piece of me that needed to be healed and that felt lost. But in entering this pageant, in competing as an equal competitor, I have now been able to close a little door firmly and move on to the next stage of my life. The Miss BC Pageant changed my life. And I didn’t even know it needed to changed.
On a related note: the pageant was a ton of fun, too. I will definitely enter more pageants. And who knows? Maybe one day I will be that girl sitting on the open back of a convertible in a parade.
Note: Being bullied took a toll on my self-esteem that has lasted into my adulthood. Part of what allowed it to happen was that the adults around me didn’t stop it. Either they didn’t know how or they thought it would make me tougher. They were wrong. Bullying hurts people. In Canada, we have a program called, “Dare to Care.” It’s full of resources for help. Click here for their website.If you need some books on anti-bullying, or want to make sure your kids have them, start with these Anti-Bullying Books.