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The Flower Chairman
Editor's Note: The following column was originally published in 2007.
When I was at the absolute pinnacle of my professional career, I was the flower chairman for the Miss Kansas-Miss Missouri Beauty Pageant. I was 14 years old.
I had other friends with jobs, and maybe even jobs with titles like "assistant manager," but I'd never even met a "chairman." In my mind, I'd been vaulted to the top of the executive food chain - my next promotion would be "emperor."
I landed this plum yet critical position because my best friend's father ran the contest - he owned the franchise, like a hamburger stand, only instead of drive-thru windows he had women in bathing suits. His name was Morton, so we called him "Chairman Mo." Every day after school, I'd bicycle over to my buddy's house and we'd sit in his basement and handle the workload, which could run to as much as two orders a day, and then we'd go outside and throw mud balls at each other.
Odd as it sounds, I didn't even consider what impact it might have upon my undernourished male brain to be suddenly thrust into a festival of feminine beauty - from my young perspective, the 18-year-old women sounded like they were so over the hill they might as well have been 20.
On Contest Arrival Day, I was busy, handling frantic parents who wanted bouquets delivered to their daughters' dressing rooms so that their girls would not be the only flowerless beauty contestants in the two-state region. Fortunately, as chairman, I had the power. With a lordly expression, I would call the florist, collecting a last-minute premium from the customer as homage to my magnificence.
I didn't even see the women until the next morning, where 50 beauty semifinalists from each state gathered in the same room to eat eggs and send me into a palpitating swoon.
A young woman in beauty-contestant mode has programmed herself to shine her dazzling smile upon any individual within missile range.
They never know when someone might ask them a question about world peace (a favorite topic of beauty contestants).
Over the next 48 hours, I lived among these magnificent creatures, numbly in love with all of them. I lost my ability to speak, though if I tried I could croak a little. I completely abandoned my flower duties in favor of just hanging around, and running errands for the contestants, like going out for hairspray, and bobby pins, and toothpaste, toothpaste, toothpaste.
I knew intellectually that there were several practical roadblocks to my love. For one thing, I was too young to get married, even in Kansas. Also, there were 100 of them. Legally, you can't be wed to that many women at the same time, even if it would lead to world peace.
Oddly, my desire was lust-free. I was like a starving man who falls into a candy bin and emerges unable to contemplate eating another bite. There was just too much beauteousness wandering past my vision every minute, and they were just too nice (in their pursuit of the Miss Congeniality trophy) for me to fixate on any one of them in particular or with any specific fantasy other than wanting to serve them in whatever capacity they commanded for the rest of my mortal life.
Alas, the contest ended, and it doesn't matter who won - I lost. I lost my heart, completely and forever, and I lost the job since I had so thoroughly abandoned my chairman duties in favor of being a slave. This meant I couldn't return the next year, and my idea that the whole gang should get together for a reunion every so often fell on deaf ears.
Yet, despite the heartbreak, I consider it to be the best job I've ever had.
To write Bruce Cameron, visit his website at www.wbrucecameron.com. To find out more about Bruce Cameron and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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