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Outofshapeworthlessloser

A Memoir of Figure Skating, F*cking Up, and Figuring It Out

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Hardcover
$28.99 US
5.79"W x 8.61"H x 1.22"D   | 16 oz | 12 per carton
On sale Feb 06, 2024 | 352 Pages | 9780593444047
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A “piercing account” (The Wall Street Journal) of surviving as a young woman in a society that rewards appearances more than anything and demands perfection at all costs—especially if you’re an Olympic figure skater.

“A riveting memoir, which details her experience with an eating disorder, depression and her high-stakes career.”—People (Best Books to Read in February 2024)
 
When Gracie Gold stepped onto center stage (or ice, rather) as America’s sweetheart at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, she instantly became the face of America’s most beloved winter sport. Beautiful, blonde, Midwestern, and media-trained, she was suddenly being written up everywhere from The New Yorker to Teen Vogue to People and baking cookies with Taylor Swift.

But little did the public know what Gold was facing when the cameras were off, driven by the self-destructive voice inside that she calls “outofshapeworthlessloser.” In 2017, she entered treatment for what was publicly announced as an eating disorder and anxiety treatment but was, in reality, suicidal ideation. While Gold’s public star was rising, her private life was falling apart: Cracks within her family were widening, her bulimia was getting worse, and she became a survivor of sexual assault. The pressure of training for years with demanding coaches and growing up in a household that accepted nothing less than gold had finally taken its toll.

Now Gold reveals the exclusive and harrowing story of her struggles in and out of the pressure-packed world of elite figure skating: the battles with her family, her coaches, the powers-that-be at her federation, and her deteriorating mental health.

Outofshapeworthlessloser is not only a forceful reckoning from a world-class athlete but also an intimate memoir, told with unflinching honesty and stirring defiance.
“Stunningly candid . . . The depth and breadth of the problems Gold reveals in the memoir stunned me. And the way she has been putting her life back together continues to impress.”—Phil Hersh
© Tara Modlin
Gracie Gold is a two-time U.S. figure-skating champion and an Olympic bronze medalist, and she holds the record for the highest short-program score ever recorded by an American woman. Her writing has been published in The Cut. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware, and trains in suburban Philadelphia. View titles by Gracie Gold
1

Perfect Obsession


My compulsion for order revealed itself early. As soon as I was old enough to reach the hangers in my closet, I arranged my clothing by color. Strangely, red and white mixed together in any other context forms my favorite color, pink. But in my bedroom, their careless converging created meltdown-level angst.

Which made me an ideal mark for skating. I’m a big believer that sports choose you rather than the other way around. I dabbled in enough of them to know: soccer, swimming, gymnastics, dance. None suited my temperament as well as skating did, but my time spent in the other activities wasn’t wasted. Along the way I developed strength, flexibility, self-confidence, and spatial awareness, all of which would facilitate my success in skating. The discomfort I had felt on the ice as a toddler was long gone by age eight, replaced by an athleticism that made me feel all-powerful in my body and convinced there was nothing I couldn’t do.

Perfection seemed not just possible but, with enough practice, a reasonable goal. That was reassuring because from as far back as I can remember, I hated to make a mistake. Could. Not. Stand. It. If I misspelled one word on a homework assignment, I’d furiously erase the whole sentence and start over. You don’t want to know how many times I’ve reworked this chapter.

Skating, with its emphasis on precision and perfection, was the ideal obsession for me. It held my attention much more than swimming, with its black-lined sensory deprivation tank. And it didn’t scare me like gymnastics. I loved running full speed toward the vault and launching myself skyward, but I feared the balance beam. My discomfort at being suspended like a tightrope walker was acute. I wanted to feel more grounded before flinging myself in the air (it didn’t help that the leotards were so itchy they made me want to jump out of my skin). Of course, there were times when skating scared me, too, but the difficulty of the skills increased so gradually, like water coming to a slow boil, that I was never really conscious of it until the spills that were once no big deal were suddenly resulting in bone bruises and fractures. The anxiety, the apprehension, the pain—they rose in lockstep with my skill level and expectations.

Nobody expected much of me when I participated in an ice show at the end of my introductory lessons. It was 2003 and skating was riding a wave of popularity in the United States. Sarah Hughes and Michelle Kwan had made the podium at the last Olympics (with Sasha Cohen behind Michelle in fourth), and Michelle was the reigning women’s world champion. Skating was near the height of its appeal in the United States, but in Springfield it had yet to catch fire. As I recall, there were fewer than six students, all girls, in my group lessons. Its lack of a coolness factor in Springfield matched my own nerdiness, which was part of its initial appeal. I liked that I was doing something that most people couldn’t or wouldn’t try. It suited me just fine that I didn’t have to share the ice with a lot of people—including, at first, my fraternal twin sister, Carly.

My sister and I did most things together, but figure skating was the first endeavor that was mine alone. I was very possessive about it, referring to it as “my Saturday activity.” That would change after Carly gave up riding horses, which had been her Saturday activity, to join me at the rink. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind sharing skating with Carly as much as I thought I would, because from day one she’s been my main source of comfort and security. Ten years later, our father would tell a New York Post reporter that he and Mom were torn about how much to push us, saying there was “a lot of wailing and gnashing our teeth.” But in the beginning skating was bliss. Twice a week, Mom dropped us off at the rink, waved goodbye, and said, “Have fun!”

An unexpected perk of skating was that it—at least at first—brought me closer to my mom, a girly-girl gifted with twin tomboys whom she loved and supported even though we often must have seemed inscrutable to her. Denise Gold grew up near San Diego, California. She liked to skateboard and roller-skate and would later play recreational tennis, but sunbathing was my mom’s main jam as a kid.

The female-centric sport of skating opened a whole new world to me. It was my initiation into a sparkly culture of shiny stones—skating-speak for beads—and glamorous dresses. Mom was thrilled to serve as my guide. We bonded over the outfits that she helped me pick out for lessons and then competitions. I can remember us pawing through the clothes racks and Mom’s face lighting up: “Isn’t this cute? This is so cute! I love this!” I became a dress-up doll that my mom loved to clothe in pretty costumes, including many that she sewed herself.

I was proud to have the cool mom, someone who found a way to feed her artistic side while carrying out the prosaic duties of parenting. She’d make many of our clothes because of her love of design, rather than out of necessity. Her attitude was, basically, why buy something new when you can make something unique? She applied the same approach to furnishing our homes, filling them with thrift-store furniture that she artistically restored.

I still have vivid pictures in my head of some of the dresses she made for me. They were pieced together with such care and creativity. I remember an outfit that Mom made from scratch using yellow and white bugle beads that she individually stitched by hand onto the dress (because I was skating to the instrumental song “Popcorn,” duh!). Despite the labor involved, she did not skimp on the bugle beads. It was so cute. There was one problem she hadn’t anticipated. All those beads made the costume incredibly heavy. It bent the metal hanger that held it, which should have been our first clue that it was going to be less than ideal to skate in. I might as well have been skating in a wet fur coat. I have no idea what happened to that dress. I wish I’d kept it. It rivaled any of the beautiful pieces that designer Brad Griffies and Josiane Lamond, she of my famous Firebird costume, would create for me in the future.

At the time, though, I probably expressed ambivalence about it. With the benefit of time and distance, I can see how lucky I was to wear Mom’s unique creations. But my elementary and middle school selves gravitated toward conformity. Especially in the conservative Midwest, where I spent those years, happiness was equated with maintaining appearances; of coming across as pious and picture-perfect.

Everything about our family’s existence, from the tidy neighborhood and the backyard pool to the riding and skating lessons, screamed respectability. My dad, an anesthesiologist, and my mother, a retired emergency room nurse, were self-made successes, The Official Preppy Handbook–toting believers in the American dream. In an interview with the Springfield, Illinois, State Journal-Register, my dad painted this family portrait: “I challenge anyone to imagine a Midwest family, very humble beginnings, small-town, rural Missouri, small-town Illinois, just doing something on a daily basis, day in, day out, working hard.”

The skating world reinforced conventional norms. I quickly picked up on how Mom’s costumes, no matter how clever and well-constructed, were met by disapproving looks from coaches and judges. I intuited their judgment and pushed back on Mom’s inventions. I wanted my outfits to look like everyone else’s. I remember begging her for the costumes hanging on the racks. I was such a shit. Bless my mom for not taking it personally. In fact, I think she was secretly relieved: You don’t like all that hand-beading that took me hours to complete? Fine!

I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed playing dress-up. Who knew that a budding femininity was buried beneath the flannel shirts and oversized hoodies and baggy sweatpants that made up my day-to-day wardrobe? But going glamorous had its downsides, too. I struggled with the body-hugging contours of costumes and the accompanying tights, which exacerbated an extreme sensory sensitivity that my loose-fitting clothing helped me manage. I’d never be caught dead wearing Mickey Mouse ears, but I’d find them far more tolerable than anything with seams, socks included. I’ve skated sockless on and off over the years because I couldn’t find a pair of socks that didn’t make my skin feel like it was covered in mosquito bites. (I.T.C.H.: It’s the cross-stitching, honey.) Same with denim jeans, which were a nonstarter for me because the seams felt like knives on my skin. Whoever came up with the idea for jeggings deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for stopping the fighting in our house. Jeggings allowed my mom and me to establish a truce in our wardrobe wars. I could wear them without wanting to scratch my skin till it bled.

Discussion Guide for Outofshapeworthlessloser

Provides questions, discussion topics, suggested reading lists, introductions and/or author Q&As, which are intended to enhance reading groups’ experiences.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

About

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A “piercing account” (The Wall Street Journal) of surviving as a young woman in a society that rewards appearances more than anything and demands perfection at all costs—especially if you’re an Olympic figure skater.

“A riveting memoir, which details her experience with an eating disorder, depression and her high-stakes career.”—People (Best Books to Read in February 2024)
 
When Gracie Gold stepped onto center stage (or ice, rather) as America’s sweetheart at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, she instantly became the face of America’s most beloved winter sport. Beautiful, blonde, Midwestern, and media-trained, she was suddenly being written up everywhere from The New Yorker to Teen Vogue to People and baking cookies with Taylor Swift.

But little did the public know what Gold was facing when the cameras were off, driven by the self-destructive voice inside that she calls “outofshapeworthlessloser.” In 2017, she entered treatment for what was publicly announced as an eating disorder and anxiety treatment but was, in reality, suicidal ideation. While Gold’s public star was rising, her private life was falling apart: Cracks within her family were widening, her bulimia was getting worse, and she became a survivor of sexual assault. The pressure of training for years with demanding coaches and growing up in a household that accepted nothing less than gold had finally taken its toll.

Now Gold reveals the exclusive and harrowing story of her struggles in and out of the pressure-packed world of elite figure skating: the battles with her family, her coaches, the powers-that-be at her federation, and her deteriorating mental health.

Outofshapeworthlessloser is not only a forceful reckoning from a world-class athlete but also an intimate memoir, told with unflinching honesty and stirring defiance.

Praise

“Stunningly candid . . . The depth and breadth of the problems Gold reveals in the memoir stunned me. And the way she has been putting her life back together continues to impress.”—Phil Hersh

Author

© Tara Modlin
Gracie Gold is a two-time U.S. figure-skating champion and an Olympic bronze medalist, and she holds the record for the highest short-program score ever recorded by an American woman. Her writing has been published in The Cut. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware, and trains in suburban Philadelphia. View titles by Gracie Gold

Excerpt

1

Perfect Obsession


My compulsion for order revealed itself early. As soon as I was old enough to reach the hangers in my closet, I arranged my clothing by color. Strangely, red and white mixed together in any other context forms my favorite color, pink. But in my bedroom, their careless converging created meltdown-level angst.

Which made me an ideal mark for skating. I’m a big believer that sports choose you rather than the other way around. I dabbled in enough of them to know: soccer, swimming, gymnastics, dance. None suited my temperament as well as skating did, but my time spent in the other activities wasn’t wasted. Along the way I developed strength, flexibility, self-confidence, and spatial awareness, all of which would facilitate my success in skating. The discomfort I had felt on the ice as a toddler was long gone by age eight, replaced by an athleticism that made me feel all-powerful in my body and convinced there was nothing I couldn’t do.

Perfection seemed not just possible but, with enough practice, a reasonable goal. That was reassuring because from as far back as I can remember, I hated to make a mistake. Could. Not. Stand. It. If I misspelled one word on a homework assignment, I’d furiously erase the whole sentence and start over. You don’t want to know how many times I’ve reworked this chapter.

Skating, with its emphasis on precision and perfection, was the ideal obsession for me. It held my attention much more than swimming, with its black-lined sensory deprivation tank. And it didn’t scare me like gymnastics. I loved running full speed toward the vault and launching myself skyward, but I feared the balance beam. My discomfort at being suspended like a tightrope walker was acute. I wanted to feel more grounded before flinging myself in the air (it didn’t help that the leotards were so itchy they made me want to jump out of my skin). Of course, there were times when skating scared me, too, but the difficulty of the skills increased so gradually, like water coming to a slow boil, that I was never really conscious of it until the spills that were once no big deal were suddenly resulting in bone bruises and fractures. The anxiety, the apprehension, the pain—they rose in lockstep with my skill level and expectations.

Nobody expected much of me when I participated in an ice show at the end of my introductory lessons. It was 2003 and skating was riding a wave of popularity in the United States. Sarah Hughes and Michelle Kwan had made the podium at the last Olympics (with Sasha Cohen behind Michelle in fourth), and Michelle was the reigning women’s world champion. Skating was near the height of its appeal in the United States, but in Springfield it had yet to catch fire. As I recall, there were fewer than six students, all girls, in my group lessons. Its lack of a coolness factor in Springfield matched my own nerdiness, which was part of its initial appeal. I liked that I was doing something that most people couldn’t or wouldn’t try. It suited me just fine that I didn’t have to share the ice with a lot of people—including, at first, my fraternal twin sister, Carly.

My sister and I did most things together, but figure skating was the first endeavor that was mine alone. I was very possessive about it, referring to it as “my Saturday activity.” That would change after Carly gave up riding horses, which had been her Saturday activity, to join me at the rink. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind sharing skating with Carly as much as I thought I would, because from day one she’s been my main source of comfort and security. Ten years later, our father would tell a New York Post reporter that he and Mom were torn about how much to push us, saying there was “a lot of wailing and gnashing our teeth.” But in the beginning skating was bliss. Twice a week, Mom dropped us off at the rink, waved goodbye, and said, “Have fun!”

An unexpected perk of skating was that it—at least at first—brought me closer to my mom, a girly-girl gifted with twin tomboys whom she loved and supported even though we often must have seemed inscrutable to her. Denise Gold grew up near San Diego, California. She liked to skateboard and roller-skate and would later play recreational tennis, but sunbathing was my mom’s main jam as a kid.

The female-centric sport of skating opened a whole new world to me. It was my initiation into a sparkly culture of shiny stones—skating-speak for beads—and glamorous dresses. Mom was thrilled to serve as my guide. We bonded over the outfits that she helped me pick out for lessons and then competitions. I can remember us pawing through the clothes racks and Mom’s face lighting up: “Isn’t this cute? This is so cute! I love this!” I became a dress-up doll that my mom loved to clothe in pretty costumes, including many that she sewed herself.

I was proud to have the cool mom, someone who found a way to feed her artistic side while carrying out the prosaic duties of parenting. She’d make many of our clothes because of her love of design, rather than out of necessity. Her attitude was, basically, why buy something new when you can make something unique? She applied the same approach to furnishing our homes, filling them with thrift-store furniture that she artistically restored.

I still have vivid pictures in my head of some of the dresses she made for me. They were pieced together with such care and creativity. I remember an outfit that Mom made from scratch using yellow and white bugle beads that she individually stitched by hand onto the dress (because I was skating to the instrumental song “Popcorn,” duh!). Despite the labor involved, she did not skimp on the bugle beads. It was so cute. There was one problem she hadn’t anticipated. All those beads made the costume incredibly heavy. It bent the metal hanger that held it, which should have been our first clue that it was going to be less than ideal to skate in. I might as well have been skating in a wet fur coat. I have no idea what happened to that dress. I wish I’d kept it. It rivaled any of the beautiful pieces that designer Brad Griffies and Josiane Lamond, she of my famous Firebird costume, would create for me in the future.

At the time, though, I probably expressed ambivalence about it. With the benefit of time and distance, I can see how lucky I was to wear Mom’s unique creations. But my elementary and middle school selves gravitated toward conformity. Especially in the conservative Midwest, where I spent those years, happiness was equated with maintaining appearances; of coming across as pious and picture-perfect.

Everything about our family’s existence, from the tidy neighborhood and the backyard pool to the riding and skating lessons, screamed respectability. My dad, an anesthesiologist, and my mother, a retired emergency room nurse, were self-made successes, The Official Preppy Handbook–toting believers in the American dream. In an interview with the Springfield, Illinois, State Journal-Register, my dad painted this family portrait: “I challenge anyone to imagine a Midwest family, very humble beginnings, small-town, rural Missouri, small-town Illinois, just doing something on a daily basis, day in, day out, working hard.”

The skating world reinforced conventional norms. I quickly picked up on how Mom’s costumes, no matter how clever and well-constructed, were met by disapproving looks from coaches and judges. I intuited their judgment and pushed back on Mom’s inventions. I wanted my outfits to look like everyone else’s. I remember begging her for the costumes hanging on the racks. I was such a shit. Bless my mom for not taking it personally. In fact, I think she was secretly relieved: You don’t like all that hand-beading that took me hours to complete? Fine!

I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed playing dress-up. Who knew that a budding femininity was buried beneath the flannel shirts and oversized hoodies and baggy sweatpants that made up my day-to-day wardrobe? But going glamorous had its downsides, too. I struggled with the body-hugging contours of costumes and the accompanying tights, which exacerbated an extreme sensory sensitivity that my loose-fitting clothing helped me manage. I’d never be caught dead wearing Mickey Mouse ears, but I’d find them far more tolerable than anything with seams, socks included. I’ve skated sockless on and off over the years because I couldn’t find a pair of socks that didn’t make my skin feel like it was covered in mosquito bites. (I.T.C.H.: It’s the cross-stitching, honey.) Same with denim jeans, which were a nonstarter for me because the seams felt like knives on my skin. Whoever came up with the idea for jeggings deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for stopping the fighting in our house. Jeggings allowed my mom and me to establish a truce in our wardrobe wars. I could wear them without wanting to scratch my skin till it bled.

Additional Materials

Discussion Guide for Outofshapeworthlessloser

Provides questions, discussion topics, suggested reading lists, introductions and/or author Q&As, which are intended to enhance reading groups’ experiences.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)