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Babeland!; A skeptical father ventures deep inside the world of child beauty pageants -- and never makes it out
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Children & youth; Parents & parenting; Pageants
Author: Bartlett, Tom
Date: Jul 22, 2007
Start Page: W.16
Section: MAGAZINE

Then came the real stumper: hobbies. I didn't think [Henry Bartlett] had any, unless "looking around" or "grabbing" qualified. I was tempted to put down "knitting" or "motocross," but I restrained myself. The judges might deduct points for my attempt at humor. Besides, this wasn't about me. This was about Henry.

I turned in the paperwork and Henry's entry fees. Pageants are not cheap. We paid $45 just to get into the competition. That covered the "beauty" category, but there are also side contests: "prettiest eyes," "best smile," etc. By the time we entered Henry in everything, we were out $100. And that's before you count the $40 we spent on his suit. Judging by the volume of tulle and crystals draped on some of the girls, other parents had paid much more.

A word about dads and pageants: While the moms definitely outnumber the dads, there were more men at the contest than I would have thought. The half-dozen or so I talked to all gave me some version of "My wife made me do it." One guy, referring to his wife, told me that pageants were "her hobby" and that he was just along for the ride. "She has him until he's 5," the dad said. "Then he's mine." He listed some of the manly activities his son would later be encouraged to pursue, including karate and competitive paintball. "No more beauty stuff," he said. He paused. "Unless some modeling agency really wants him. But they have to call us."

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