I have spent a few days thinking about these two things quite a bit. Not that on the surface they have much in common. But really, they do.
Sunday night I watched the Miss America pageant. You may or may not know that once upon a time, I was a pageant girl. I sort of stumbled into it with my neighbor. I was Miss Midvale, 2001. Big hair and all. My platform issue was Preventing Child Abuse. I worked with the Boys and Girls Club. I spoke at elementary and middle schools. I was active as an advisor for my local Youth Peer Court. I also was often confused as being an attendant to my 1st attendant, who was gorgeous. You see, I was the chubby one in the group. At 5’4″ and almost 130 lbs, I was “chubby” by beauty standards. At that time, the breakdown of scoring was 40% interview, 30% talent, 15% each for swimsuit and evening gown. I topped out the scores in interview and talent, which made up for my chubby thighs and the fact that I tripped walking in my evening gown. Yeah, I was that girl… though luckily it was just a stumble, and not a face plant.
Once upon a time, I was quite intelligent (that’s faded some after two kids. I tell you, pregnancy brain does not ever go away). I was still in college, majoring in nursing, I had a lot of life experience, and I played the piano (quite well) for my talent. I had played for years and I put in a lot of time making sure I had a legitimate talent. So here’s where we come back to the Miss America pageant a few nights ago. I watched, and at the end I ranted to my husband about how the girl with the solo cup had won. Really? The girl who sat on the ground, sang Happy and tapped a cup was the new Miss America?? I couldn’t believe it.
But then I slept on it. My husband read me what she said about her talent: “The reason why I chose to do that talent is I wanted every single little girl in America to be able to see that you can do that talent — you can do whatever talent you want on national television — even with a red cup — and still be Miss America and have the time of your life,” Kazantsev said. “I literally in that minute and 30 seconds had the most fun I’ve ever had, and that’s because I stayed true to myself and I did what I wanted to do for my talent, no matter what everybody else told me, and it paid off. I’m very happy about it.”
At first, that still made me mad. It made me think that she was telling girls they don’t have to spend the time it takes to properly develop a talent, they can still be Miss America. And that upset me. Why? … I can’t answer that. It shouldn’t have. Yes, I had a talent that took years to develop. And do you want to know how often I used that during my year representing my city? Not once. But how many times did I speak to groups? More than I can count. Now let’s look at everything else Kira Kazantsev has accomplished: She graduated with 3 majors. She speaks 3 languages. She has experienced an abusive relationship and risen above it to empower other women. In her onstage question she was asked by Lee Meriwether about women leaders in the Senate and what they should be taking a lead on. She answered, “I really believe that sexual assault in our military is an issue these women have got to fight for …”
So yeah, let’s bag on her for a decent singing voice and showing us that on top of all her accomplishments she can still have fun. Let’s do that… except, let’s not. The Miss America program is about building women up, not bringing them down. Sure, it’s fun to sit in your living room and make jokes about what people are wearing, or laugh when they stumble on words. But why on earth do we think that’s fun? We should be celebrating each and every one of them for getting up on that stage and giving it their all. Because that takes courage. And you don’t get that far if you’re not intelligent and active in supporting your community. This is a woman telling little girls that even if they come from a home where it’s not possible for them to be a classically trained artist, they can still achieve something great. She should be applauded.
Now, what could this possibly have to do with quilters? I’m so tired of the quilting community doing the same thing to each other. Instead of building each other up, we sometimes tear each other down. I have a friend who recently received multiple emails telling her that it’s despicable that she should try to pass off her quilts as her own work when all she did was piece the top. She used someone else’s pattern (gasp! the horror! those poor pattern designers who try to support themselves making patterns must be horrified that someone used it to make a quilt!). She sent it to a longarm quilter (again, with the horror! that poor longarm artist who supports herself quilting designs to enhance tops pieced by others!). And a friend bound it for her (oh my! how terrible that a person should do something they love for someone they love!). So obviously, this woman who took time to select fabrics and piece a top should not claim she made a quilt. I mean, she didn’t even have the decency to grow her own cotton plants, mill the cotton, weave it into fabric, design and print her own patterns and then sew something out of it. How dare she call herself a quilter!!
Some people make beautiful quilts that are simple. I’m dying to make a basic patchwork quilt. Not something that took me a lifetime of honing a skill. Sometimes I want a challenge, so I build up my skills to make a double wedding ring. Some people are happy making simple quilts that look a lot like other quilts. Some people love designing their own works. Some people sew quilts because they love to sew. Some people sew quilts because it’s the only way they have to get the art in their head to solid form.
We are all worthy of praise. How about, instead of taking the time to pull each other down we take the time to build each other up? How about, instead of sending someone a mean or nasty email about something we don’t like, we find something we do like and send an email about that. Why take the time to tear someone down when we could spend our time making each other better?
So I’m trying something new. Every person I talk to, I will say something positive. Anything positive. Something nice. Whether it’s “I hope you have a great day.” or “You have an amazing smile!” or “Nice … sweater.” (I’ve got Ice Capades. I know a guy.) or the ever-needed “Thank You.”
I’m going to take the time to build up, instead of tear down. Anyone read through all the ramblings this far who cares to join me?