Ode to a square
I never felt like a real lawyer.
I don’t mean that I wasn’t admitted as a solicitor (I was) or that I felt I was particularly bad at it (no negligence suits here). I mean more that I always felt like I was playing pretend. You know when you were a little kid and you used to hold tea parties for your dolls? Or elaborate pirate wars for your action figures? Or, like me, host council meetings where you would give pointed and acerbic briefings to Lord Mayor Frank?
Ok so it was only me doing that last one. (In my defence, I was an only child who was very influenced by her mother’s role as a city council alderman. Perhaps I’m also a bit odd).
But for me law was like that. Playing house in an unreal scape. Pouring imaginary tea into miniature cups for stuffed guests to pretend to consume.
My disconnection was illustrated in part by my refusal to adhere to the conventions of lawyer costuming. I say costuming because that’s how it always felt to me but sadly there was less gold and velvet than the word connotes. As you probably know, lawyers generally wear exclusively black or dark blue (excepting a white or, if a man, pink collared shirt). If you’ve seen harried haggard people hurrying in Sydney's Martin Place, wearing black shoes and metres of matching tailored fabric, chances are they were lawyers - or maybe investment bankers (but you know, same same really).
As a lawyer I never bought a suit. That was a line into the imaginary tea-game I just couldn’t cross. And so I teamed floral pants with hounds-tooth patterned jackets and bright lips and no heels because, had I wanted to be painfully constrained 10-(or 12 or 14)-hours-a-day, I’d have chosen a profession with a higher hourly take home.
My attitude to dress so was a three-way mix; a reaction against acute creative under-stimulation, a conscious challenge to my conservative workplaces, and an acknowledgement that we all knew I didn’t fit in.
Or perhaps a slightly more combative declaration that fitting in was something about which I didn’t give a hoot.
To be fair, no one ever commented on my attire (except that one time when I was dressed head-to-toe in patterned blue and white and my law firm partner noted in passing that I looked like a Ming porcelain vase - but I felt that was intended as a compliment.)
My point with all this isn’t that lawyers are sartorially boring (that fact is undisputed by the profession) but that – to steal yet another element of childhood for analogy – my lawyer self always felt like a square peg being pushed into a round hole.
It simply wasn’t going to work unless I lost all my edges – and this I’d known since pre-school, when I tried (actually quite hard) to break the square to make it fit.
But that’s what’s funny. Because I left precisely because of that square peg reality… and I’ve ended up somewhere where it seems generally assumed that I am a square. As in ‘un-hip’. Or, as that beacon of enlightenment Urban Dictionary puts it:
On the hunt for marijuana, Tim asked the guy if he knew where he could find some "herbal refreshment" but the guy was such a square he thought Tim was looking for tea.
Look to be honest if someone asked me for herbal refreshment I probably would be confused. (My flatmate does drink an exorbitant amount of green tea.)
So I’m not necessarily protesting the label (though I find the assumption that lawyers have no exposure to illicit pharmaceuticals strange as I always thought the profession was seen to be dipped in - or dipping into - white powder) but I find it amusing. Too creative for law; too straight for art?
That’s funny, right?