29 January 2001
This is the week the Lawyer hopes to inflict his new suit on an unsuspecting world. He bought it during a weak moment in the sales, the time around 3pm when bargain blindness sets in and the pinstripes don't look quite so wide or prominent as in the cold light of morning.
I heard the Lawyer shrieking from the bedroom at 7am last Friday. I rushed in, fearing he had trodden on Liability, who had slithered, snake-like, away from the breakfast table. I found him staring in the mirror, wearing a suit so loud he had his hands over his ears; so flashy he was but a blur of light in the glass before him, so… "Yes, enough with the analogies, thank you," he said, unbuttoning the jacket so the eye had a rest from the fabric, which was actually reflecting light, something I have never seen in a suit just starting out in life. (It will actually fit right in with his other suits, which do have a certain sheen round the backside and under the armpits.)
"Is it really hideous?" he asked, as if a spirited rebuttal from me would transform it into the suit of a sober, respectable businessman.
"Yes, it's awful. They'll all laugh when you walk in the room. They'll think you're hoping to transfer to litigation. They'll tell you that security is down the corridor. They'll all think you've blighted your promotion chances. But it was a sale suit, right?"
Then he told me how much it cost.
"I must admit, it's bold. It's a bold statement. It'll get you noticed. It shows those young Turks a thing or two about suit wearing. Life in the old dog yet, eh?" I said, making a quick exit and scooping up Liability from the floor. I bumped into Subbie on the way. "That's a terrible suit, daddy," she said. "Is it Halloween already?"
"I don't suppose you could advise me on this shirt, darling?" the Lawyer quavered.
I turned, smaller daughter clasped firmly under one arm. At moments like these I try to remember what having an opinion of my own was like, in the days before my judgement was annexed to the needs of my family. Now if I have an opinion, it is about how wonderfully Deminimus has done his lettering when he still can't work out which way round the s goes; or that Arabella having stuck-up manners is no reason to steal her lunch, whereas it patently is; or that yes, if the managing partner says hello to your husband in the lunch queue, it means he was really impressed by his last deal, when actually I suspect he'd mistaken him for somebody else.
Actually, wearing this suit means he never will be mistaken for anybody else ever again, so with a bright smile I said: "The shirt looks absolutely fine to me. Very flattering. Don't you like it?"
"But it's stripes. Shouldn't it be checks?"
"I don't know. What's everyone else wearing to meetings nowadays?" "Well, it's mostly checks, but then I get down to London and I find they've changed again and it's all plains. Oh, it's so hard."
By this time Subbie is looking aghast at her father, and I realise that it is time to shore up her declining confidence in the head of the family.
"You look," I said firmly, "10 times the man you were when I married you. Go out and give them hell." And he set off for work, beaming, not grasping that my words, if I were so inclined, could have an equal bearing on his waistline.