"Hilarious...deliciously entertaining." - Sarah Mlynowsi, author of Monkey Business "Kristin Harmel dishes with disarming honesty and delivers a sparkling, delightful story." - Laura Caldwell, author of The Year of Living Famously
Harper Roberts is a corporate attorney in Manhattan. She's smart, attractive, and funny. So why can't she find a date? Men flock to her at parties when they think she's a dumb blonde. But, as soon as they realize she's a Harvard-educated lawyer, they flee. Harper's best friend is a magazine editor who suggests Harper go on assignment for a month as a 'dumb blonde' and see if it changes her dating perspective. So, for two weeks, Harper goes undercover. She changes her wardrobe, her conversation, her body language. The result is a series of comical encounters. Soon, Harper must take a good look in the mirror and realize that it's not just men who judge people on their looks.
|Publisher:||Grand Central Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
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The Blonde TheoryA Novel
Chapter OneI didn't know when it happened that it would be my last chance at finding love. I mean, who thinks like that? Sure, we agonize over breakups, cry with our girlfriends, drown our sorrows in too many pints of mint chocolate chip or too many martinis. But in the back of our minds, even as our hearts are breaking, we know there will be someone else. Maybe not right away, but eventually. There's always someone else just around the corner.
At least that's what I thought then. Sure, I was devastated when Peter left. It broke my heart when I came home one evening after a long deposition three years ago and found him in the final stages of packing his old suitcases. Another half an hour and I think I would have missed him entirely. I think he would have left without saying good-bye.
"Harper, I can't do this anymore," he said while I stared at him blankly, trying my best to formulate some sort of rebuttal. But I didn't know what to say. My brain was too busy trying to wrap itself around the fact that he was leaving.
I hadn't had even the slightest clue that anything was wrong. After all, we had just celebrated our two-year anniversary two weeks before with champagne, strawberries, a night of cuddling up, and drunken mumblings about spending forever together. He had introduced me to his parents less than six months earlier. We had been talking about moving into a bigger apartment when our lease was up in the spring.
"What ... what ... why?" I finally stammered, hoping that it was something along the lines of an appropriate response. I stared at his broad back, which was turned to me as he bent over the battered brown leather suitcase he had placed on the bed we'd shared for the last two years. I tried not to think about the last time we'd made love there, but that was awfully difficult, since it had been just four days ago, the day before my law firm announced I'd made partner-the youngest partner the old-school Booth, Fitzpatrick & McMahon had ever had. Thirty-two-year-old women weren't supposed to make partner. Not at one of the most prestigious firms in the Northeast. But in the last two years, I had quadrupled their patent business and brought in more than two million dollars' worth on my own. I'd finally had the courage to approach the partners and threaten to leave the firm if I wasn't made a junior partner by year's end. They had conferenced about it and agreed, a move that had made news all over New York's legal community. I should have been the happiest I'd ever been in my life. Peter should have been happy for me.
Instead, he was packing. To leave. To leave me.
"Why?" I repeated, this time my voice a mere whisper. He turned to me finally and sighed in what sounded like exasperation, as if I was simply supposed to know exactly why he was leaving. As if me asking him was simply some tedious formality that he had to be subjected to on his way out the door. His dark brown hair, I noticed as I stared at him, was still wet, as if he'd just emerged from the shower, and its little ends, which sorely needed a trip to the barber, were starting to curl up, the way they always did when they dried. He was fresh-shaven, so his square jaw was missing that day-old-stubble look I always found so sexy. His hazel eyes looked bright, brighter than they would have been had he any regrets about leaving. Apparently, he didn't. His posture was just as relaxed and comfortable as usual, which, in my opinion, wasn't how one should look if he was walking out on the woman to whom he'd been proclaiming his undying love less than a week earlier.
"I just can't do this anymore," he repeated, shrugging as if the situation were beyond his control, as if forces greater than he were making him decide to leave, making him pack his suitcase, making him coldly turn his back to me. "I just can't."
"I don't understand," I said, finally able to control my voice again. He turned his back again, returning to his packing as if I weren't there. I crossed the room and stood beside him, trying my best to refrain from throwing myself at his feet and hanging on to his ankles so that he'd have to take me with him wherever he was going. Because that would just be pathetic, wouldn't it? Instead, I just stood beside him, breathing hard, waiting for him to look at me. Finally he did. "Why?" I repeated.
He didn't meet my eyes. He wouldn't. But he stopped packing long enough to mumble the answer that has been ringing in my ears ever since.
"I just can't be with a woman who puts her career before our relationship," he had said, gazing straight down at his toes. All the air went out of me in a whoosh, and suddenly I felt like I couldn't breathe. I didn't understand. When had I put my career before our relationship? He worked just as hard as I did. And if he really felt that way, why hadn't he said so before? In fact, I had tried in every way I could to let him know that he was at the center of my universe. I probably could have made partner even sooner if I hadn't been so worried about making Peter feel wanted. But I had wanted to be a good girlfriend as much as I'd wanted to be a successful attorney. Until that moment, I thought I had juggled both roles just fine.
Evidently, I was mistaken.
"What do you mean?" I asked weakly, feeling more bewildered than I ever had before. Peter paused before going back to his packing. "I don't do that," I whispered. Surely I didn't, did I?
"Yes, you do," Peter said slowly, folding the last of his crisp button-up shirts, which he wore to work at Sullivan & Foley-a law firm that had once been nearly as prestigious as mine but had filed for bankruptcy last year and fired half its staff. Peter had stayed on, but he'd been forced to take a pay cut. "Besides," he added with a quick glance in my direction, snapping his suitcase shut with a resounding bang that sounded ominous and final, "we agreed when we started dating that we would never compete with each other. And now you seem determined to beat me at whatever you do. I'm just tired of it."
There were no words left. After all, I knew I had never purposely tried to compete with him or beat him. It wasn't my fault that I'd had an easier time climbing the ladder at my firm. It wasn't my fault that his firm had screwed up a few major cases, come under investigation by the SEC, and been forced into its drastic measures. Peter's career had once looked even more promising than mine, but things had changed. I just stared at him, bewildered, while tears rolled down my cheeks. So that was it. I had made partner, and it had come with a sizable raise. It apparently also came with a surprise breakup. No one at Booth, Fitzpatrick & McMahon had warned me about this.
Finally, Peter turned to look at me. Not out of respect for me, but because I was standing between him and the doorway. And he was on his way out.
"Listen, Harper," he said, the overstuffed suitcase he held in his right hand weighing down the right side of his body almost comically. "I care about you. But I'm a man. And men like to be providers. I should be the one who makes partner first. Besides," he added archly, "I thought we had agreed that you'd quit after a while and stay home so we could have kids."
"I ... I never agreed to that," I said shakily, staring at him in shock. Besides, I was only thirty-two. What, I was supposed to have quit by thirty-two so I could bear his children? Was he delusional? I had another good ten years or so of childbearing ability left, and I couldn't exactly impress the other partners with my legal aplomb with a nursing newborn hanging from my breast, now, could I? It wasn't that I didn't want kids someday. It was just that I wasn't ready for them yet. And Peter sure as hell had never indicated that he was.
"I just thought we were on the same page, Harper," Peter said sadly, shaking his head at me as if I were a child and he was disappointed in my behavior. "But you just had to be better than me at everything, didn't you?"
I was aghast. I couldn't think of another thing to say as he walked past me toward the door. I followed him mutely out of the apartment and watched him as he made his way down the stairway to the ground floor.
He didn't look back.
AFTER EVERY BREAKUP, there's a period of mourning. Sometimes it comes in the form of a rebound fling or two. Sometimes it comes in form of a lingering semi-depression. Sometimes it comes in the form of a Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey carton. Or two. Or thirty-seven.
I mourned Peter. As angry as I should have been with him for leaving me just like that, with no warning, no real explanation, I was filled instead entirely with sadness and hurt. I didn't get out of bed for the next three days. My three best friends, Meg, Emmie, and Jill, sat with me in shifts. My secretary dropped by all the patent paperwork I had to do that week and canceled all my appointments and court appearances. I told her I was sick, but I think the Reese's wrappers, Pringles canisters, Bacardi Limón bottles, cigarette butts, and empty ice cream cartons scattered all over my room gave me away. As did the fact that I had Courtney Jaye's girl-power "Can't Behave" playing on repeat and was angrily singing along with the words time after time after time, inserting Peter's name in unflattering locations throughout the song.
On the fourth day, I sucked it up and went back to work, telling myself that I was better off without him. I was, obviously. Who needed a guy who walked away the moment he felt overshadowed? Certainly not me. Who wanted a guy who felt so emasculated if his girlfriend made a little more money than he did? I sure didn't.
But knowing those things didn't help much. Logic is no match for heartbreak.
It took me awhile to want to date again. I'm not the rebound type. And I just knew that Peter would change his mind and come back. But four months later, I hadn't heard one word from him. He had sent his friends Carlos and David to pick up the rest of his belongings-including the beautiful Italian leather sofa we'd bought two months before he left that he'd insisted on putting on his credit card-and then he had seemingly disappeared off the face of the planet while I moped around in a living room with no furniture.
But when I was finally ready to get out there again, to dive back into the dating pool, I found I was swimming alone.
Sure, I had dates here and there. I wasn't unattractive; at five foot six with shoulder-length light blonde hair, green eyes, a tiny nose, girlishly freckled pink cheeks, and a body that would be considered average for a woman in the vicinity of thirty, I still turned my share of heads.
But the problem wasn't in attracting the guys. The problem was that the moment they found out I was an attorney-and even worse, a partner in one of Manhattan's most prestigious firms-they ran. Far and fast. They couldn't get away from me quickly enough. A few of the braver ones hung in until date three or four, but they always jumped ship eventually.
And it wasn't that I didn't get asked on dates. I did. Men were intrigued by me. They knew they were supposed to like the trifecta of beauty, charm, and brains (okay, in my case, moderately average attractiveness, a sarcastic sense of humor, and brains). But apparently, in reality the total package-so to speak-was totally horrifying. Who knew?
I'd been so sure I'd find someone. It wasn't because I needed a man by my side; I wasn't that kind of girl. I was perfectly content being by myself. It was just that I had known that after Peter, I'd eventually find someone else, someone who would love me and whom I would love, someone who was a stronger man than Peter and who appreciated what I did for a living without feeling threatened by me, someone who understood that my job didn't define who I was.
I was thirty-two then, when Peter left. Young enough to be hopefully optimistic. Foolish enough to believe in love.
Now I was thirty-five. I hadn't had more than four dates with the same man-other than Peter-since my twenties. And my twenties were a long time ago.
Tomorrow was the third anniversary of Peter leaving me, the third anniversary of me being alone, the third anniversary of the day that I began to realize that being successful and being desirable are evidently mutually exclusive.
It was becoming increasingly obvious that as long as I kept climbing the corporate ladder, I was destined to be alone.
Excerpted from The Blonde Theory by Kristin Harmel Copyright © 2007 by Kristin Harmel. Excerpted by permission.
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