Of Libraries and Leggings

When it comes to writing a thesis, dress for survival, not success

There was once a brilliantly happy time in my life: the halcyon days before my thesis. In those days I wore makeup and tried to get people to go to absinthe bars. Now I watch old Britney Spears videos and cry in the library at 2 a .m.

I am wretchedly altered, I must admit. If I had an engagement to a sailor who returned after years at sea and saw me now, he would probably say the same.

I ritualistically avoid public places. I guzzle three cups of coffee a day. My paleness could inspire 16th-century poetry.

I always used to think that seniors were being babies or lying when they complained about their theses. “Give me a break,” I would think as I listened to them complain listlessly about how their lives were being consumed by Tocqueville or Moroccan Dance Theatre. “You people are boring freaks. I will never wear a ragged Harvard sweatshirt every day as a symbol of my inner pain.”

When my thesis on the beloved topic of Edwardian drama first started to get intense, I was excited for the wardrobe possibilities.

I went to Lamont cafe every day and sashayed around in thigh-high boots and mini skirts. I imagined myself as a sort of Twiggy among the stacks. I listened to The Kinks. I learned, through the powers of Wikipedia, how all of the Coppolas are interrelated.

I turned in the first draft of my thesis and my advisor asked me why there were no periods at the end of any of the sentences.

Undaunted and having learned some lessons along the way (apparently dressing like you are in Swinging London makes you categorically unable to put periods in any of your sentences), I decided to dress like Blair Waldorf from “Gossip Girl.” I wore white tights and gigantic turban headbands with tie-neck blouses. It was amazing. I went to the Widener reading room every day. I listened to Prince. I read Perez Hilton like a normal person. My thesis advisor then told me that I had a penchant for “windy philosophizing.”

After that, I sort of went into a freefall. There were extreme highs and frightening lows. I started listening to Miley Cyrus, then habitually wore a leopard print nightie to the Kirkland Dining Hall. I became obsessed with HUDS’ country fried steak and started to have dreams about it. I would talk about my thesis constantly, even when people’s eyes would glaze over and they would start staring out into a nameless abyss. Now, even I am sick of hearing about Edwardian drama, to say nothing of my poor, beleaguered roommate, who is writing her thesis on far more practical things, like Heidegger’s girlfriend.

My thesis will be done in a week, at which point I will return to railing against the evils of leggings. Until then, I’m no better than the rest of you, so instead I offer:


1) Brush your hair. You don’t want to end up looking like Jodie Foster in “Nell.”

2) Crest White Strips. Coffee stains your teeth and ruins your mind.

3) Stop talking about your thesis with the excited furor of John Nash in “A Beautiful Mind,” because pretty soon you will think that you have met a really fun-loving English guy who really enjoys your love of Edwardian drama but is actually imaginary and you have been writing letters to the CIA. It seems fun now, but will only lead to unfulfilling dreams of Ed Harris in the future. Quit while you’re still ahead.

­­­–Rebecca M. Harrington can be reached at