Confession: since I picked up my first book, I have been a nerd. Make-up or clothes shopping never interested me as much as the next Harry Potter book or the upcoming chess tournament.
So then why did I decide to participate in the Miss Kingman High School beauty pageant?
I ponder this personal contradiction as I nibble my nails backstage in a sequined purple evening gown.
One by one, graceful 17-year-olds saunter onto the stage with perfectly arranged smiles as they wave at proud parents and giddy friends.
Joe stands to my side in his tuxedo, fidgeting more than a kitten with a toy mouse, not at all adroit for this gala. My boyfriend and stage escort would much rather be playing Pokémon “HeartGold” on his Gameboy than accompanying me in front of a gaggle of adults and peers.
Nonetheless, we lock arms and stroll underneath the spotlights that shine into the deepest crevices of our faces. We await the judges’ decision.
I knew from the start I would lose. But I don’t care about winning — I care about showcasing my creativity.
It is my senior year of high school, and I absorb opportunity like dry soil after a rainstorm.
The day before Miss KHS I blasted the monologue from my lungs in my backyard. Words spouted like lava from my lips as I clutched the foam Nerf sword, slashing at an invisible foe and tumbling in the grass. My mom thought I was 10-years-old all over again, and I actually felt I was.
That morning at 4 a.m. I crouch in my living room, snipping a crescent moon from a piece of cloth. As I arrayed black, opaque stretches of the fabric along a wire frame, the image of a winged beast arises.
I was ready to face my foe—a judgmental audience.
After a long Friday I pace through the first two portions of Miss KHS: casual wear and water gear. While my entrance in street clothes draws no attention, in the water gear portion I commence my quirky schemes. Student council forbids bikinis in this section of the show, so all participants must compromise.
While some girls don scuba gear and others flaunt cutesy cover-ups, I twirl on stage as a shell. An opalescent material spirals around my torso as I transform into genuine beach material.
And finally comes the talent portion. My friend Kevan has agreed to assist me, and we await my entrance backstage. My lines splash through my head like upturned fish. I feebly reassure myself that I can do this. But can I?
The stage lights readjust to their standard blare and the crowd’s daunting silence courses through my nervous demeanor. One deep breath later, and I face them alone in my duct tape armor.
“TWAS BRILLING AND THE SLITHY TOOOOVES.”
The first line explodes from my lungs as I crouch and throw my arms toward the audience.
“DID GYRE AND GIMBLE IN THE WABE:”
Here I set the scene.
I speak with slow, annunciated words to tell the tale of Lewis Carroll’s “The Jabberwocky.” At first the crowd does not respond to my interpretation of Carroll’s nonsense diction, but then:
“THE JABBERWOCK, WITH EYES OF FLAME, CAME WHIFFLING THROUGH THE TULGEY WOOD,”
They erupt into laughter. Upon the escape of these words, Kevan bursts onto the stage with a shriek. He wears the opaque wings I constructed in the early morning and sports a painted demon face. As I violently strike at him with my foam sword, I recite the rest of “The Jabberwocky” in a flurry of focused histrionics.
In the last verse, after vanquishing Jabberwocky Kevan, I sing the beginning words of “The Jabberwocky” with all the coy triumph of the Cheshire Cat.
To some, this performance makes no sense. But literature lovers adore it; I receive compliments from English teachers for days thereafter.
For me, the performance says, “I am Harmony. I love books and stories and nonsense so take me or leave me.”
And apparently, they take me.
In those final glamorous moments before the judges, I am awarded Miss Congeniality. They place a sash over my head and hand me a bouquet of daisies (while the winner of the entire pageant receives roses). The other competitors voted me into this title, and I then realize my good fortune. Those beautiful girls with perfect appearances adore my nerdy personality even more than a well-groomed hairstyle.
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org and via Twitter @hhuskins