HUMOR: Interview with a Beauty Queen

Lyle Burkhead (
Wed, 22 Jan 1997 19:12:37 -0500 (EST)

On his infamous web page, Hugo de Garis writes,

> In the late 60s I found the feminist ideas incredibly exciting,
> because I grew up in Australia, in the 50s and 60s, where
> the women were suburban housewives and paralytically boring.

Natasha V. More gives a perfect illustration of this,

> Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?
> Answer: I would not live forever, because we should not
> live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever,
> then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever,
> which is why I would not live forever.
> -- Miss Alabama, in the 1994 Miss Universe contest

Yep. That's how it was, and apparently still is in some circles.
My anti-PC rants should not be taken as an endorsement of the
good old days.

But wait a minute... as I look over Miss Alabama's statement,
I'm not sure it's as nonsensical as it first appears. The impression of
silliness is partly due to the repetitious run-on sentence structure.
Since this was an oral statement, let's give her the benefit of the doubt
and rephrase it, putting in periods instead of commas, and deleting
some of the repetition, so the structure of her argument is more

> I would not live forever, because we shouldn't live forever.
> [Why shouldn't we? Because --] If we were supposed to
> live forever, then we would, but in fact we can't. Therefore
> we aren't supposed to.
> [Conclusion] That's why I wouldn't live forever.

Stated that way, her argument isn't so silly. What she is really trying
to say is: "It is impossible to accept the premise of the question,
i.e. that we could live forever but don't. We can't live forever.
Therefore we aren't supposed to live forever, so I wouldn't want
to try." This is actually a subtle and interesting point. She doesn't
have enough experience with argumentation to get this idea across,
but she is at least trying to be logical.

Consider the situation: (1) She's not a law student to begin with --
thinking in paragraphs is not something she has trained herself to do.
(2) She's nervous, and this question is sprung on her out of the blue --
this isn't the kind of question she expected to be asked. Given that,
I think her inarticulate reply is understandable.