7 February 2000
Seduced by the high street savvy of Arthur Andersen, the Lawyer's firm introduced a trial "Get Casual!" policy last week. It has managed to shoehorn the policy into the "Family Friendly" part of the firm's heinous Mission Statement, viz: "We encourage our employees to see the office as supporting the home, rather than the home supporting the office."
This doesn't mean, as you might think, free dry-cleaning and the office cleaner nipping round on Sunday afternoons to do the ironing. It generally means that the firm allows the Lawyer to go home at weekends to spend more time with his paperwork, and to see his children for a few hours if they can be trusted not to eat the documents.
Some men wouldn't recognise the hot bit of an iron if they were trussed-up by a band of angry housewives intent on branding them with the new design Morphy Richards. It must be these same men who think that liberating employees from the suit makes them feel more at ease in the office, and that this will blur that distressing gulf between work and home. But those of us for whom the words "home" and "work" are interchangeable, would kill for a gulf like that. And getting rid of the suit more or less closes it forever.
You see, a suit - and if you're sensible you'll buy dark ones - only needs to be cleaned once in a blue moon, and then you can get someone else to do it for you, which is bliss in itself. Five shirts-a-week to wash and iron, and you're home and dry. Or at least free to start on the duvet covers.
But oh no, they had to introduce "Get Casual!", which means virtually doubling the washing and ironing, because you just can't get away with coffee stains on chinos like you can on a good wool suit. It also adds around a quarter of an hour to the morning routine when the Lawyer stands by the open wardrobe plaintively asking: "But what can I wear?" There follows a flurry of socks, ties and shirts as I reassure him that yes, he suits red very well, but perhaps not with the green corduroys, and definitely not with the best blue silk tie.
He is worse than Liability, who has decided she hates all her clothes and will only wear swimsuits from now on, "like the models do in mummy's magazine". It is final proof, I think, that I am a Bad Mother.
Of course, we have had to buy a whole new wardrobe for the Lawyer, which was extremely painful. My mother-in-law Lydia failed to turn up to look after the children on the Saturday afternoon we had scheduled for the great shopping trek - some extraordinary story about an injured swan on the motorway and a mercy dash to the RSPCA - and so we all had to go round the trendy men's shops together.
I will pass swiftly over Liability throwing-up in the shoe department, Subjudice terrifying all the half-naked men in the communal changing room by running in and shouting "Fire!", and Deminimus crying because he wasn't used to seeing Daddy without a tie on. We had a bruising time, but came home with new trousers, shirts and socks and a pair of extraordinarily aggressive, thick-soled, square-toed shoes. All of the Lawyer's mincing work shoes, with their thin soles and pointy toes, immediately ran to the back of the cupboard in fright.
But the Lawyer likes the effect of his macho new footwear. "It's the dawning of a new age, darling," he tells me.