Sorry to my current significant other, but this 30-year veteran private investigator who lives in a re-created medieval chamber where she stores her hundreds of disguises is most likely the love of my life.
After reading this New York Times profile of Marie Schembri, the feminist private dick who helps women figure out if their boyfriends are creeps, I have abandoned my life in Los Angeles to skulk around her offices in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, just waiting for her to notice and fall in love with me. Schembri’s story sounds like if the plot of an Oscar-bait movie had a female character with agency and was good. She started her career in the ’80s as a tax investigator, decided one day to help out a friend who had been hired by a congressional committee to look into Ferdinand Marcos’s American real estate holdings. She then proceeded to simply walk into a room filled with a bunch of loose papers and walk out a week later having cracked the case:
“‘They had all these documents, but they didn’t know what they were looking for,’ Ms. Schembri said. So she took a week’s vacation, went to Washington and locked herself in a room with the boxes. She said she came out with proof that the Marcoses owned four high-rises in New York, and with a new career.”
When the Times first profiled her in 1995, she was a private investigator in New York City, mostly tailing women suspected of cheating by their husbands. In order to inconspicuously follow her subjects, she dressed in disguises ranging from “dowdy schoolteacher” to someone she calls “Queens woman,” a punk-scene holdover with a black pageboy and sapphire-colored shades. I would marry each and every one of these women.
However, Schembri had a hard time reconciling her feminism with the fact that she was often hired by jealous husbands who lorded their finances over their wives:
“For Ms. Schembri, a married mother of two and a professed feminist, the clientele shift was a welcome change. ‘It used to be the men had all the money, and they hired all the lawyers and picked on the women and went after them,’ she said. It ate at her, especially when she was starting out. ‘I wondered, ‘Would I be on the right side of the fight?’ Ms. Schembri recalled. ‘That haunted me. Because you’re a hired hand. You work for who hires you.’”
But these days, Schembri finds herself mostly working for women who hire her to protect themselves, not just from men who may be lying about being single, but guys who might turn out to be scammers or even stalkers. And tiny cameras, which Schembri places on light poles or coffee cups, along with the ability to perform exhaustive internet searches, have mostly replaced those old disguises. However, just in case you were worried her job is no longer badass, her office is located inside a goddamn studiolo like an Edgar Allan Poe detective:
“From ‘The Batcave’ — the third-floor office in her Boerum Hill brownstone, which was made to look like a medieval chamber, its sky-blue walls dotted with gold fleurs-de-lis around a mural of a 15th-century French countryside — Ms. Schembri trawls the internet looking for that telltale Venmo charge, the contract of sale for that secret apartment in the city, the great-uncle’s obituary that lists a wife and children.”
Listen, I will respect the bonds of Schembri’s marriage for as long as they remain tethered, but if she is reading this and is in need of a hapless yet devoted assistant, I am right outside the Batcave.