I've been thinking about JonBenet Ramsey.
Now, I don't know what happened to JonBenet Ramsey, but what I did know as soon as I saw that six-year-old walking across a stage in sequins, was that there was something desperately wrong with that family.
The Ramsey murder provoked a number of interesting associations in my household. None of them were very cheerful, and all of them centered around turning women (or little girls) into things - objects to be looked at, evaluated, and judged - usually by men.
The first association, my husband's, was to the murdering cheerleader mom. You remember that woman who was so obsessed with her daughter's cheerleading career, she hired a hit man to kill the mother of her daughter's competition.
It's entirely possible that something like that happened in this case. The news stories said mothers of competing little beauty queens would often remove their daughters from competition if they found out that JonBenet would be present. Maybe one of them decided to remove JonBenet - for good.
The second association was to Nicole Brown Simpson. I walked around for days seeing that picture of JonBenet Ramsey in my mind and then those of Nicole Brown. It took me a while to figure out why. Then it came to me.
Except when she'd been beaten to a bloody pulp, I had never seen a picture of Nicole Brown in which she wasn't posing.
JonBenet and Nicole, posing and posturing, frozen in the presentation of an image.
But there was something different and infinitely sadder about the eyes of Nicole Brown. JonBenet Ramsey wasn't old enough to even question the fact that she was the most beautiful thing on earth. Nicole Brown, though, in those photographs always had that "deer in the headlights" look - a look of fear - fear that she wasn't good enough; that she wasn't a good enough sex object.
The final association the case provoked was to a woman who owned the corner minimart in Alabama where we lived for a while.
Every morning I would walk down to the corner to pick up our copy of the New York Times and have a chat with Mary, who owned the store, or her mother Francis who often worked there, or Mary's daughter Faye who visited.
One morning, a rack of fancy little dresses appeared in the MiniMart. The cheapest price tag was $150.00.
"Who would spend $150.00 for a little girl's dress." I asked Mary.
Mary explained that the dresses had only been worn once and were on sale for at least half price. A deal. Mary's granddaughter, it seems, was a beauty queen and she refused to wear the dresses more than once in a comeptition.
As I walked home, the New York Times underneath my arm, I shook my head as I thought: "All three of these women, Francis and Mary and Faye are all at least 50 pounds overweight. If genetics have anything to do with the tendency to be overweight, this little beauty queen was headed for heartbreak. She would probably be overweight by the time she was ten. The way I figured it, that left a lot of years of self-loathing to live through.
Like I said, I don't know what happened to JonBenet Ramsey, and I'm not sure I want to know, but I do know that we have got to stop encouraging little girls to think that the most important thing about them is how they look. Otherwise, we're just asking for trouble.