"YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY....."
The little girl in me is thinking that....just maybe...this life is merely a "Rehearsal"....and our "next life" will be:
The Real Performance...........................................
Toward the end of my year as Miss Arkansas 1958, my mother applied a new pressure; she warned me to start looking for a husband or a job. When I reminded her of my plan to pursue a singing career, she countered “You’re not going to use my money to chase some childish dream. Just be happy to stay in Arkansas and sing for weddings and funerals and an occasional concert. That should satisfy your ego.”
Like a broken record, she repeated the same words, again and again. “You are almost twenty years old and it’s time for you to be on your own. You can get married or find a job but, you’re not living in my house anymore, spending my money. And, don’t try whining to your daddy because I manage the money and I make the rules!”
One day, after speaking to The Pine Bluff Rotary Club’s noontime meeting, a one-time neighbor approached me about being his date for a party. I had other plans and politely suggested he could ask me again. Unfortunately, he did.
A few days later we went to the movies and, later in the week, had dinner at the Country Club. That was enough for me; I had no interest in seeing him again. Nearly ten years older, Jack chain-smoked, had bad posture, and had a nervous (and nauseating) habit of picking his nose. Kissing him reminded me of the time I kissed a toilet seat (one of the Pollyanna Club’s initiation requirements.) But desperation can sometimes force compromise and, needing more time away from my mother (at the time, everyone my age was away at college) I finally agreed to a third date—then a fourth. When I wasn’t performing Miss Arkansas duties, I dated Jack.
My final night as Miss Arkansas could best be described as unremarkable. Pageant audiences have no interest in the outgoing queen; she’s history. The night was packed with excitement as the crowds anticipate the announcement of the next Miss Arkansas. Before crowning my successor, I delivered the traditional farewell speech, sang one last song , and in traditional beauty queen style, walked the runway for the last time. I was now, officially, a Has-Been.
Two hours later, Jack and I had dinner together. During the meal he placed a ring box beside my plate saying “Here’s your dessert.”
I accepted the engagement ring for one reason: It would keep my mother off-my-back for a few more weeks. Not once did I seriously think about getting married or ever wonder about breaking the engagement. I simply trusted that something magical would happen just as soon as I returned to the Miss America Pageant…this time... as a guest performer. I visualized myself making some serious connections while in Atlantic City---then moving to New York City and working while pursuing a singing career and--- living far from my mother.
Every night I said my prayers and added the same postscript: “And please God, help me break-free of my Mother—forever.”
BUT, as most of you probably know by now....my Mother controlled my life completely and..I never got my chance to "try" for a singing career. I had no choice but marry Jack Perdue.