A Searching Look


“Are you here doing long term research?” said a librarian to me in the Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress. I had gone up to her desk to ask about co65b2461d7df3b9c17479e46d2aaee643py cards. Before I had a chance to say anything, she answered her own question, peering down at me with a benevolent smile, “You look like you’re doing long term research.”

I do? And what might that look be? Aside from my frazzled squint, what other visual indicators of long-term-researcher (LTR) ness was I giving off? I took a close look at myself, real close. Based on close self-study, I have discovered that the LTR…

…has her hair cut short because that’s the only way to keep it out of the pages and, no matter how often she fiddles with it while lost in thought, not have it end up looking like a teased cotton ball. It looks just a tad skewed and that’s okay because the cut is supposed to be slightly angled at the front anyway.

She wears Birks, in a sensible brown colour because, being a couple of years old, they have hit their peak of comfiness and are really the best footwear for trolling the aisles. As well, they keep her arches lifted even while sitting for long periods, maintaining ideal skeletal alignment for the wearer. Please note that the LTR also has nicely pedicured feet, painted a burgundy shade, to offset the possible fuddy-duddy-ness of appearance that results from wearing Birks.

Naturally, the LTR wears blue jeans, stretchy and roomy. They aren’t exactly fashionable because they are a desperate I-don’t-care-anymore purchase after a long exhausting day. To offset the slightly mom-jeans effect that results, especially when the LTR foregoes a belt, she folds up the bottoms in a style that may or may not be so-early-2000s.

On top, the LTR wears one of the dozen or so spaghetti-strap tank tops she scooped up from a pile on the way to the cashier at Old Navy after picking out the jeans at random. As she did so, she had known at the back of her head that she could never wear these snug tank tops without supervision. Supervision, that is, of the (to her) Michelin Man rolls that would be blindingly visible to the unsuspecting world if she were to wear them by themselves. For that reason, over the figure-hugging tank top, the LTR wears…

…a sheer black shirt from her friend’s maternity days. Possibly from H&M, but could also be Zara. It shows just enough of the LTR’s figure, might even be considered sexy, while keeping the (to her) horrifying lumps and bumps (not to mention insanely obvious bra outline) under a mysterious shadow.

Speaking of bras, since the librarian had no way of seeing the LTR’s delicates through her clothes, we assume that there is no need to mention the colour or style of LTR’s bra and undies. Suffice it to say that they are an intriguing mix of sensible & sizzling.

But because the Main Reading Room tends to get rather chilly, the LTR has brought a black cardigan (also Old Navy, and also a hand-me-down) and is wearing this over the tank top, over the sheer shirt. The effect is a little “stuffed suitcase”, or scruffily hip, depending on the eye of the beholder.

The LTR is one of those oddballs who wears a watch, not as a fashion item but for knowing what time it is, to make plans, anticipate the sunset, and so on. This wearing of watches is the most visible manifestation of deep-rooted parental influence, eighteen years after having left home, that LTR has yet to shake off. LTR wonders if their insistence on wristwatches is a coded message about the passage of time.

The ring that has not left the LTR’s right ring finger since a few years ago, when she bought it on a whim from a since-closed shop on Queen West, is special in that it is three bands around one solid band. The LTR has recently discovered that these are called “prayer rings”, apparently because one can twirl the outer bands for minutes/hours/days on end while in prayer. And here the LTR thought she just looked charmingly distracted while contemplating whether to go to whatever floor to buy a copy card or just scan the whole damn book.

The LTR’s favourite earrings are medium-sized gold hoops. She is fond of them because they remind her of a pair she saw in a photo of her mom from her days of foxy mini-skirted, platform-heeled youth.

Because the lady at Nordstrom looked at the LTR like she was looking at a fashion-relic when the LTR asked about Chanel No.5, (Said the lady, “Dear, that is not for your generation.”) the LTR is wearing a powdery-soft single squirt of the Allure she slunk off with instead.

The LTR has low tolerance for makeup, believing that less is more…alluring. Therefore she wears one sweep each of MAC brow liner and mascara on her brows and lashes. And a burgundy lipstick (new enough that it hasn’t started to make her lips peel yet) to match the pedicured toes, and also because she’s been wearing burgundy since she was about fifteen, much to the sorrow of her fashion-forward friends and family. To appease them, but really because someone once told her that a light shade of eyeshadow brightens the face, she wears a generous sweep of a beige and sparkly shade that matches her large purse.

What doesn’t brighten her beige purse, however, is those Old Navy desperation-jeans, which the LTR has discovered rub off their blue colour on any light coloured fabric they come in contact with, including the beige leather of her purse. Since the LTR likes to wear her purse close to her side, and wears the Old Navy jeans week-in week-out, this is a problem.

The LTR’s purse has a lot of character. Aside from the main beige, it also has other colours (brown, blue) and three straps (short, medium, long) in two of those colours, plus the LTR’s required minimum of three compartments, not to mention the innumerable nooks and crannies. The LTR likes to think of it as her ‘manuscript’ purse, the one she can see herself going to a meeting with her future publisher in, fishing out a pen from the many in her pencil case just as she steps off the elevator and onto the sparkly, paper-scented floor. On second thought, perhaps a bit of blue jeans rubbing onto purse leather isn’t so bad. What kind of self-respecting LTR wouldn’t have noticeable ink stains on their person?

Finally, the Long Term Researcher realizes that instead of all this blabla she could have just posted a picture of herself from that day and been done with it a thousand words ago, but such a shortcut wouldn’t be on brand.

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