"The Cinderella of Sunset Park"


Tonight, I have the perfect venue to show off a new drop-dead gorgeous me – my sister-in-law’s brother’s wedding party. The happy couple got married at Brooklyn Borough Hall three months ago before she was showing and the family is throwing a big bash to celebrate everybody doing the right thing. The buzz on the block says Johnny, the bride’s brother, is coming all the way from sunny LA. Hard to believe Francie’s family is paying for such a big gala to show everybody she’s a married lady now.

I have a to-die-for dress I snagged at H&M. It’s short and sassy with a billion silvery sequins. I have fire engine red stilettos and a statement necklace with matching earrings. I’ll tinkle like wind chimes and twinkle like the stars above tonight. No one will notice the bride and her bulging tummy, just yours truly. I’ve been starving myself thin for weeks.

I spotted the perfect place for my ‘do’ when I was on jury duty last month and I went on a walkabout to shake the boring off me. You can tell it’s a classy place and that’s exactly what I need for my big night. If they throw me out because I got no appointment, so what. I’ll just spit on the floor and disappear. But, I’m feeling totally badass, so I take the subway over and jog in about noon.

The owner nods and smiles when I ask him about doing my hair up to match the magazine page I found at the gyno’s office months ago. It’s a retro-forties upswept style, a boogie-woogie bugle boys’ kind of look with swoops and curls all over.

“I am Boris and this is my salon. Your name, miss?”

“Darlene DiAngelo, but everybody calls me Dolly,” I say.

The thing is, you can’t change yourself up on my street without every freaking busybody butting in, making spiteful comments, and giving you the hairy eyeball, but for a big celebration or a wedding, you could get away with it. You, sure as hell, better be back to the same ol’ same ol’ by the next day.

“You have a special affair this evening?”

“Yeah, a blowout at the Grand Prospect Hall.”

“Nice,” he says.

I’ve never been there, as yet, but I know all about it from the TV commercial where the owners, a lumpy old couple with heavy accents, show you the elegant curved staircases and sparkly chandeliers and promise, ‘All your dreams will come true at the Grand Prospect Hall.’

Boris calls over one of those skinny malinks like my Aunt Carla, who’ll look like a raisin in a few years. He introduces Anna who becomes my torturer over the next few hours. My fairy godmother too since she transformed me like magic.

“Anna will wash your hair now. She is very good at following the pictures. Would you like some green tea?”

Anna sure as hell better be good at pictures because she can’t understand much English. Everyone has some kind of heavy accent here at the Elite Salon in Brooklyn Heights. They might be Russians or Israelis. I saw one of those medusa things nailed on the door jamb. But these folks are very nice, real accommodating.

The shop is on a quiet tree-lined street in an upscale section no more than four miles from mine, but it might as well be on a different planet. That’s Brooklyn for you. It's one borough, but it’s got fifty neighborhoods at fifty price points, rich and poor, every color, tone, and accent you can think of.

There’re plenty of people walking around the Heights, but no smart-ass punks with attitude hanging out on stoops. And no toddlers in droopy drawers splashing in wading pools set out on the sidewalk, just babies in Humvee strollers grabbing power naps on their way to yoga. Different from my hood, that’s for damn sure.

“Your hair color is very unusual. It is very…uh,” stutters Anna.

“Red? Dry? Sister, I’ve lived with this horsehair my whole life. It’s really bad since I colored it Paprika Red. Do you have a hot oil treatment or something? That’ll help. You need to blow dry it straight and then use a curling iron and hair spray.”

I lose Anna somewhere in the middle of my spiel. A big hulky guy, named Noah, whose English skills are decent, listens and tells her something I can’t catch. He sounds like he’s yelling at her, but she doesn’t seem upset, so I guess it’s just their way.

We toddle off to the hair washing chairs with leg lifts like mini-Barker Loungers. La-di-da. Boris recommends the Moroccan oil treatment. Anna applies it and parks me under a heat lamp and I start drifting off.

I stay awake, I text my BFF, Krystal with a play by play. She knows all about my ultimate secret motive, named Johnny. We’ve been buds since second grade when I thought she dissed my little brother and I had to get her mind right. Her black eye faded pretty fast and we’ve been soul sisters ever since.

It’s very spacious and elegant here. You could easy get twice as many chairs in and still have plenty of room. On my block, you’d get a family of six living in the back and run the shop out the front. Boris must be raking in the cash with four girls on hair, a massage lady and Noah, they’re cranking it out making beautiful people more beautiful t