It was my father who entered me in the "Farrah Fawcett Look-Alike Contest." But it was me who paraded around the Phillies baseball diamond with thousands of other young blondish women sporting skimpy outfits and flowing manes. It was the summer of 1977, and I was 25, with a 1-year-old son in a stroller wheeled by my husband, who felt that the whole thing was absurd.
At the start, I couldn't believe I was part of this spectacle. But in time, the event grew less ludicrous, more paradoxical to me. Back then, with voluminous, tousled hair and a well-toned body, and sporting short shorts and a tight black T-shirt, I did so want to be a part of this pop-culture experience. Though my husband had grudgingly gone along with it, he grew furious when a brown-haired woman won, since she didn't even look like Farrah! We still have a framed photo of me at the event.
The deaths have come often in recent days. First, Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Their passing has touched so many of us. But only Farrah's death made me realize the importance of carpe diem. Over the years, her determination and will to live had sparked my desire as well.
I purposely refused, though, to follow her very public battle with cancer; I didn't want that terrible reality to conflict with my "inner Farrah."
Since I'd worked in the fashion industry since my teen years -- modeling for Bonwits and other local boutiques -- I followed Farrah's appearances on "Charlie's Angels" with visits to Loehmann's to find that special jumpsuit, that three-piece pant suit or the slinky dress she'd worn so well on TV. Now, more than 30 years later and 30 pounds heavier, I still have a few wardrobe remnants that I've enjoyed passing on to my daughter.
In my struggle to grow as an independent person, I wanted, like Farrah, to be more than my looks. I enjoyed being physically fit, and back in the 1970s and '80s was in top form. I was strong and more than competent enough to run my own business.
I've always loved the Clairol slogan, "You're not getting older, you're getting better!" If only it were true. I want to believe that 60 is the new 40; and, of course, plastic surgeons and dermatologists long to sell us this idea.
Ultimately, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and other autoimmune illnesses have robbed me of my career.
I have struggled ever since to find a healthy balance. I go to body workers, energy healers and hypnotherapists, searching to regain that state of wellness I so desire. I want that healthy "Farrah glow" I once had, and the ability to stretch beyond conventional limits -- to do it all. For me, Farrah epitomized the healthy American female.
In recent years, I admit that I was dismayed that she had resorted to face lifts and collagen treatments. She was gorgeous even as her face aged. In recent years, she began to become a caricature of Hollywood glamour, although, for me, the "core Farrah" shined through.
Farrah's death left many of us unnerved. She was a woman adored by both men and women -- an icon of our early adult life. I was in awe of how she constantly reinvented herself. Only Madonna has done it better, although she personally never did it for me. So while we may have to say farewell to Farrah now, when I look deep inside myself, I can still find her.
Meryl Harrison Joblin is a freelancer based in Wellington, Fla.