Heads swivel and catcalls rain down as the sultry redhead — call her “Kali” — sashays down a crowded Manhattan boulevard. Trailing discreetly behind is another young woman who is carefully documenting every stare and every come-on.
This is not New York street theatre. It’s the fascinating, touching, often funny and utterly revealing story of one woman’s outrageous attempt at coping with lifelong introversion and bipolar disorder.
Author Stacy Harshman goes over the top in this smart, candid account of how she ordered four different wigs and, following a carefully thought-out schedule, cruised the city’s various locales, seeking to determine if, in fact, blondes — as well as brunettes and redheads– truly have more fun.
Stacy advertises on Craigslist for a companion to keep track of the social experiment. Good-natured Bonnie applies and quickly falls in with the quirky assignment. She shadows Stacy through tony restaurants and chic nightspots, recording the extraordinary number of head turns and tongue-tied would-be suitors. It’s only week one, and she is ravishing in the luxuriant red wig, and relishing the amount of attention — so diametrically different from reactions to her real persona.
“Bonnie noted several wistful looks from women with ‘unfortunate hair,’ ” Stacy writes. “I sympathized. For most of my life, I’d looked longingly at women with Kali-like hair, and I had secretly or openly hated them. Now, I indulged in feeling superior.”
But Stacy must constantly fight nearly overwhelming panic attacks in between these sessions of smugness. Her therapist, after initially wrinkling his nose at the “experiment,” finally endorses the unusual scheme.
“This is good,” the therapist opines. “You’re doing this because you need to learn something about yourself.”
Indeed, Stacy elevates soul-searching to a whole new level by conducting the outré exercise. We learn much about the painful reasons for it — and her — in the process. Often, her recollections about life as an untreated bipolar six years earlier, and her barely successful attempts to cope with the disorder bring stabs of sympathy and heartrending resonance to her plight.
Week Two showcases a black, Morticia Addams-style wig and Stacy’s popularity plummets. Her Goth-like appearance serves only to depress her, and she quiickly retreats into herself.
“As we spent the hours strolling around and drinking coffee, I felt increasingly lonely, and my foghorn of existential angst was becoming too loud to ignore.”
Week Three and Stacy is back in business as a blonde bombshell hottie. But a tentative sexual romp with boyfriend Tim, while wearing Victoria’s Secret garters and fishnet stockings, quickly goes south when Tim hides under a protective shield of sheets up to his chin. The blonde chapter of Stacy’s experiment is officially logged as a nonevent.
Week Four finds Stacy stalking a “Hot or Not” man on the Internet, eventually agreeing to meet him for drinks in her newest persona as a raven-haired brunette. After a couple of fortifying gin and tonics, she confesses her past unpredictability and the evening ends on a bittersweet note. But an earlier vignette involving stuck zippers and wardrobe malfunctions in Times Square is hilarious.
Week Five is all about Stacy facing the world in her real hair — no wigs to hide behind. How does it turn out? You’ll just have to buy the book and find out. Revealing the final scores on which hairdo turned the most heads in this space would suspend the mystery — and the outright fun of reading this delightful memoir.
Five-plus stars to Crowning Glory, an incredibly well-written and painfully honest account of a courageous young lady with tons of self-deprecating humor and wry insights. She will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.
This new author has a wonderful way with her writing style and keen insights. We hope many other books — on just about any topic she chooses — will be forthcoming.