Dorothy Hamill had the best hair in the 1976 Winter Olympic Games. Maybe of all time.
It was shiny, it was silky, it fanned out during her “Hamill-Camel” signature move, it bounced back into place, all pert and sassy. Confident. Strong. And, though it was not yet a common word, that hair was just flat-out empowered.
I was 15, and although I did not actually want to be Dorothy Hamill or learn to ice skate, I did need a new ‘do. The shag hairstyle that had ended the era of my long locks in 1973, just before I entered junior high, had grown out. The two barrettes pinned on either side of my head to keep the flyaway bangs out of my eyes were less than flattering. In fact, I was just plain shaggy.
My mother, bless her, offered to pay for a visit to a real beauty salon, one of the most popular in town. Just going to this place meant something. It’s where the rich kids went, where the “in” people went — neither of which were terms that anyone would apply to my family.
When the stylist finished and curls of brown carpeted the floor beneath the chair, I had a perfect wedge/bob in my natural color brown — just like Dorothy Hamill. It was amazing. I could see my face. I thought I actually looked cute. I swelled with confidence. The stylist told me I had to get a round brush so I could blow dry it to look like this every day. I dutifully watched and listened to how to achieve this effect.
And then came the next day, and I had to blow dry it myself. Mom helped me with the plastic round brush we had bought at the grocery store — an inexpensive knock-off of the style at the salon. We tried to roll and pull and dry and shape all at the same time. The effect was not good.
I no longer looked like Dorothy Hamill. I looked like Nancy, from the comic strip. My wedge had gone bulbous. I cried. I gnashed my teeth. I blamed my mother. I felt cheated. I felt wretched. I would never amount to much. I was clearly a loser. For one, 24-hour period, I had amazing hair. Now I was back to looking unkempt and ragged.
Eventually I got used to the fact that 1) my hair was wavy and would not naturally fan out and bounce back like Dorothy Hamill’s striaght locks and 2) I was hopeless and would always be hopeless with a brush and a blow dryer.
When it came time for my senior portrait to be taken, Mom paid for me to go to the hairdresser and get it done all over again. In my senior class photo, I am wearing my best Annie Hall plaid shirt and brown velvet vest and a perfect Dorothy Hamill wedge/bob. On my hand you can see the tan lines from my bicycling gloves (I had just come back from a week-long bike tour). I wore a huge grin. I and my hair looked just as strong, confident and as empowered as Dorothy Hamill any day.