We met on the stage of The Miss America Pageant during the first rehearsal. He was one of six male escorts who walked each contestant down the decorative long staircase for Evening Gown
Competition. Of course these male escorts wore white tie and tails like the pageant’s famous host, Bert Parks….and they looked so young and handsome.
His name was Henry
Van Zandt Hyde, Jr. and he was from Bethesda, Maryland. His father, a medical doctor, apparently knew someone on the Board of the Miss America Pageant and that’s why Henry was chosen to be an escort.
We developed a friendship during the competition and several months after the Pageant was over, Henry flew to Arkansas to visit with me and my parents. Later, we corresponded for months---until my Mother insisted I stop communicating
with anyone except the man she’d selected for me to marry---as soon as my official year as Miss Arkansas ended. (My Book “The Beauty Queen” goes into details about My Mother and her sick control of my life.)
I liked Henry. In fact, I liked many guys but was only “in love” with a few. So Henry and I never saw or spoke with each other again----- from 1958 until------that surprising day in 2013--- when I received a Friend
Request-- on Facebook-- from a Henry Hyde. This particular Henry Hyde had been married since 1961, had no children, and lived in Arizona. I accepted the Friend Request and indeed it was my long-ago friend, Henry….from the Miss America Pageant!
From time to time, Henry would make a brief comment on my Timeline. He seemed to stay current on Politics and was definitely a conservative. Then, for nearly two years, I didn’t hear
from Henry but….between moving, publishing/selling my book, settling into another town, and writing my daily website- ---I didn’t have much time to miss anyone. About three months ago, my phone rang one morning. The call registered:
Arizona and when I answered it...it was Henry.
Henry, now 84 years old, called to let me know his wife had died two weeks earlier. He didn’t elaborate on how she died but announced
he was ready to visit me in Arkansas….again (it had been 61 years since his initial visit.) He’d checked the availability of flights, checked the costs, and was ready to book a flight in three days. Would I make plans to meet him at the
Little Rock Airport?
To say the least…..I was shocked. I was not ready to entertain anyone—especially someone I hadn’t seen or talked with in more than sixty
years. My house is older, outdated, and definitely a work “in progress”. And, like my house, my car is older and not prepared to operate as a shuttle service to and from the Little Rock Airport. But, most concerning of all....I
am older and reluctant to suddenly-turn a friendship from 61 years ago...into a seriously-intimate possibility.
When I suggested we spend a little-time talking by phone about
the“possibilities”--- I was surprised to hear: “I don’t have time to waste; I need to decide if I’m comfortable-enough with you and your present situation to move you to Arizona to live with me”.
He said--after all-- his house was paid for and…between the two of us… our combined incomes could probably allow us to live comfortably. Besides, he’d always believed that living
frugally was smart. Although he wasn’t sure about my animals-- since he and his wife never liked animals, especially in the house…he could assess my animals and their “value”…..once he met them.
I was dumbfounded. If you really know me….then you already know my reply to Henry. After the many-complicated events I’ve lived through--- all these years---does anyone actually believe I would
jump at the chance to move-in with someone I don’t know… just to have a “free” roof over my head?!?!?
When I suggested Henry could fly me to Arizona to
meet again, renew our friendship, and simply talk…he rejected that idea immediately. No.
He couldn’t bring me into his “tight” neighborhood---the
neighborhood where everyone had known him and his wife for so many years. It wouldn’t be “fair” to his dead wife’s memory. Only if he could introduce me as his long-time friend and future companion and maybe, someday—his
wife—BUT--he couldn’t do that until he had come to Arkansas to “check-out” our compatibility.
It didn’t take long for me to say “thanks but…no
thanks” to Henry Hyde. After hanging-up the phone, I immediately blocked Henry’s phone number-- then unfriended him on my Facebook Page.
My life is no-longer a Beauty
Pageant. I’m past competing for anything----including an 84 year-old man who-- I suspect--wears a wig and who just-might "choose me" as his live-in partner. Actually, Henry lost me---even as a friend---when he mentioned “assessing the value
of my animals.”