“When I grow up, I want to be an Olympic figure skater,” I declared, not a drop of doubt or self-consciousness clouding my voice.
While I prefer to leave much of my childhood in the past, I would love to recapture the self-confidence and singularity of purpose I had as a young girl in 1976 when the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria brought me my first clear vision of the future and my first girl crush.
Dorothy Hamill was everything to me that year; my hero in every sense of the word. If Al Gore had already invented the internet, I would have qualified as a celebrity stalker. As it was, I scoured magazines and newspapers for photos, articles and tidbits about Dorothy, on every aspect of her life, neatly pressing each into a cloth-covered scrapbook.
I wanted to be Dorothy Hamill; to embody everything about her – her talent, grace, stamina and determination. Her sassy haircut.
I daydreamed and strategized, envisioning myself gliding confidently across the ice, hair glistening, spinning and jumping with perfected ease, soaking in the adoration of a cheering crowd.
Success was never a question in my mind. I would succeed. Self-doubt crept in to my psyche at some point in my life because I have it in spades as an adult, but in 1976, I would describe my goal and my self-designed, well-researched plan for success to anyone who’d listen.
Step One: The Lessons
My mom humored my infatuation throughout 1976 and drove me twice weekly, 30 minutes each way, to the nearest ice rink for figure skating lessons. I soared when I skated, at least in my mind, dancing, frolicking, willing my body to jump and glide on the ice. To me, I embodied the ideal blend of athleticism from countless gymnastics classes and grace from ongoing ballet lessons. The fact that I could barely skate backward without cracking my head on the ice did little to deter me. The Olympics were calling my name, and I was eager to answer.
Step Two: The Haircut
After weeks of begging my mom for a trip to her hair stylist, I arrived at the salon (“beauty shop” in 1976 vernacular) with my scrapbook of Dorothy photos and my long dark brown curls, neatly pulled back in a ponytail reaching halfway down my back. I left said salon with a short, frizzy do reminiscent of a battered Q-tip. I dreamed of swingy, glossy locks and mourned my signature curls, heartbroken yet convinced of the soundness of my plan.
Step Three: The Shampoo
Certain the only thing keeping me from Dorothy Hamill’s golden existence was the right hair product, I persuaded my mom to buy out the Short & Sassy shampoo and conditioner section of our local drugstore. Though neither made a difference on my fuzzy head, I felt closer to Dorothy knowing we both used the same shampoo.
Step Four: The Diet
In my research of all things Dorothy, I discovered she maintained a rigorous diet of healthy foods, fruits and vegetables and generous servings of chocolate ice cream. I demanded the same. Dorothy had a sweet tooth; I had a sweet tooth – Kismet!
Step Five: The Discipline
I’d read that Dorothy rose at 5:00 am daily to practice on a nearby outdoor ice rink. Inspired by her discipline and bolstered by serendipity – we lived down the block from an outdoor pond covered in ice! – I committed myself to daily practice, skating my little heart out. Though in reality I likely made this sacrifice all of twice, in my head I was a dedicated skater.
While my five-step plan did not deliver the promised results, I feel enduring fondness for myself as a little girl and for the heady time I spent in Dorothy Hamill’s shadow.
With both of my children in school and questions about the next phase of my career foremost in my mind, I long for a taste of the self-confidence and determination I had in abundance as a little girl. Perhaps it’s time for another girl crush …