Advice for Surviving Lockdown from the Miss Congeniality Movies

by Leigh Anne Jasheway
Leigh Anne Jasheway

Sometimes binge-watching old movies for hours at a time without leaving the sofa even when there’s a pot-full of quinoa burning on the stove isn’t unadulterated laziness – it’s education pure and simple (with an emphasis on the simple). Besides, smoky quinoa is probably going to be the next trending food on Food Network.

Case in point: I just watched Miss Congeniality and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous back-to-back and I’ve applied lessons learned from these movies to getting through social distancing/self-quarantine/house arrest.

Just look at all these great tips:

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go unscrew my smile!”

Sandra Bullock’s character Gracie Hart teaches us that while sometimes you may have to put on a happy face to make sure the rest of the family (or your coworkers or the pack of wild hyenas you adopted right before everything went to shit) stays happy, it is just as important for you to stop pretending that everything is all right. It’s called “resting” bitch face for a reason. Rest it!

“Eyebrows – there should be two!”

In the original movie, Victor Melling (played by Michael Caine) tries to whip Gracie into shape for the beauty pageant, presenting her with lots of advice, including the above quote that can serve as a low bar standard in our approach to quarantine beauty regimens. It’s absolutely fine to go a week without showering (as long as no one in the family starts spraying you with Lysol every time you near them) or stop shaving your legs until we’ve voted in a new president and gotten a handle on everything, pandemic or otherwise. But when you reach unibrow, you’ve probably sunk too low.

 “You might consider a tic-tac.”

While there’s no real harm in neglecting a lot of personal hygiene activities, daily dental hygiene is vital. If you stop brushing and flossing for a week, you’re going to pay the price. And by “price,” I don’t mean your dental co-pay because who knows how long it will be before you trust someone in a mask to put their gloved hands in your mouth (calm down, kinksters). If you don’t take care of your teeth now, you’re going to find yourself doing your own drilling and filling with Phillips’ screwdriver  and a soldering iron. And who’s got laughing gas just lying around the house? (If you do, please tell me. These Margaritas are no longer doing the job!)

“Rule #1, no hitting. Rule #2, chew with your mouth closed. Rule #3, no snorting.”

Just as Joel Meyers, played by Diedrich Bader, lays down the rules in Miss Congeniality 2, it’s important to set boundaries for the people you are spending 24/7 with (even if those “people” are the voices in your head). If you keep pushing each other’s buttons while you’re stuck inside together for a few months, marriage counselors and divorce lawyers are gonna have a field day when we can all finally fly the coop. You know what they say, “Families that set boundaries together, stay together, at least until they’re allowed to take separate cars again.”

“Gracie: I’d also like one of those little muffins.”
“Sam: Where would you like it?”

Chances are, if you’re a woman with a spouse, boyfriend, children, pack of hyenas sharing your space, you may find yourself falling into the stereotypical role of “housewife,” what with the cooking, the serving, the cleaning, the wearing pearls and 5” stiletto heels while telling Alexis to tell Roomba to sweep the floors and bring you a martini. But if you listen to FBI agent Sam Fuller (played by Regina King in Miss Congeniality 2), you’ll hear an important message about putting your own needs first. And also, reminding others to stickg things where the sun don’t shine if  they get in the way of your self-care.

“I would so like to hurt you right now.”

During these troubling times (to use lingo of every commercial on TV right now reminding us that we need to stay home but also BUY ALL THE THINGS), it’s important to feel your feelings. But it’s also important to understand that you can’t act on all of them. This is where something like Dammit Dolls come in handy. These dolls are meant to get the stuffing whacked out of them, so you don’t end up in prison. You can find these online, including here If you’re crafty and tired of making face masks for your neighbors, you can also sew your own voodoo dolls, but I’m not sure having sharp pins readily at hand is advisable.

“Miss Rhode Island, please describe your idea of a perfect date.”
“That’s a tough one. I would have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.”

Thanks to Miss Rhode Island for reminding us that it’s okay to be confused, both about language and time. Without looking at a calendar, can you say with certainty what day it is? What month even? We’re all discombobulated (and yes, I’m totally having an extra Margarita for remembering a word that long) right now, so cut yourself a lot of slack.

“Whatever happened to World Peace?”
“It comes and goes.”

 Goals change. Sometimes you’re marching in the street with millions of women for peace and justice and sometimes you’re marching into the kitchen wondering how you’re going to be able to make dinner for four out of a half box of Cheerios, diet Dr. Pepper, and a tub of Sabra Hummus. Right now, most of us are probably doing the latter, but when you get a few minutes between slamming a Dammit Doll and flossing, consider doing something to help make the world a better place, no matter how small the effort seems right now.

 Last, but not least, don’t judge yourself for watching all the movies and TV you want. You’re not lazy; you’re earning your Ph.D. in Netflixology.

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