Saturday, January 21, 2006

Running the world (with shiny white teeth)

Good afternoon. Melina here. Today I will be playing my favorite computer game, Civilization. My boyfriend Yankel bought me the latest version, Civilization 4, for Hannukah. I haven't played it much yet, because I have this problem that if I start I go the whole day long and Yankel gets annoyed. So in this way it was a very selfless gift for him to give me, but one not without its risks.

In Civilization, you are in charge of an entire people, from pre-history to the space age and beyond. You mastermind the movement of every peasant, horseman, and fighter jet (depending). This is a perfect game for reinforcing the psychological needs and beliefs of Type A's and control freaks such as myself. ("See? If I hadn't spent the last two hours building City Walls around all the cities on my western frontier, I *would* have been demolished by the Persians!")

When I was in college, I would always have trouble sleeping the first night I got home for winter or spring breaks. At home, there wasn't enough to worry about to wear me out during the day. So I'd always stay up until 3 or 4 AM that first night running a civilization. It wasn't fulfilling, exactly, but at least I could feel important while I was doing it.

This evening I will be enjoying a TV show that I have recently realized is also a control freaks' classic -- the Miss America pageant. As you may have heard, in recent years the pageant's overall stupidity and the rise of reality TV shows that give you better stupidity have caused viewership to drop off dramatically. Theoretically these girls are all competing for scholarships. But boy, is this the hardest way to get a scholarship ever. So you're going to med school! So get a freakin' loan already! What woman in her right mind would say, "well, let's see, how can I get money for med school -- I know! I'll diet and exercise for years, get my teeth bleached, develop a deep interest in the promotion of abstinence or diabetes awareness, learn to sing Celine Dion classics, and perform on stage for the approval of unqualified celebrity judges, all with a perky smile!"

I watch Miss America because I am in awe of these womens' chipper dedication to the cause of being Good At Everything (dieting, music-performance, ending poverty) and because it's like watching a train wreck watching all these people who have chosen a very difficult path for themselves, all for a grand prize scholarship that this year is worth a measly $30,000. Okay, so I wouldn't turn that down if someone offered it to me. But they cut it down from $50,000 last year, and I think this is the lowest blow at all - of all the millions that are being spent on putting this show on, does it really save the show's producers a lot of money to give the champ herself a 40% pay cut?

Clearly, the Misses are responsible for their own ridiculous choice to compete in this pageant - they're not anybody's victims. Judging by the careers of past Miss Americas, most of them will go on to lucrative careers in broadcasting or will start their own skin care/cosmetics lines. (I note that very few have gone on to professionally support their "Causes") However, I still have some sympathy for them, mostly because I, too, am always trying to be good at everything, and I understand what a hard job that is.

Increase wages for Miss America!


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