Ed. note: This post is written by Will Meyerhofer, a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist. A former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney, he holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work. He blogs at The People’s Therapist.
Gator, poor thing, refuses, which sends Ida into pleading desperation. Here’s the dialogue:
Gator: Ain’t no way; I’m straight. I like a lot of queers, but I don’t dig their equipment, you know? I like women!
Ida: But you could change! Queers are just better. I’d be so happy if you was a fag, and had a nice beautician boyfriend… I’d never have to worry.
Gator: There ain’t nothing to worry about.
Ida: I worry that you’ll work in an office! Have children! Celebrate wedding anniversaries! The world of the heterosexual is a sick and boring life!
Sometimes I feel this way about the world of law….
For the record, I’m not trying to change anyone’s sexual orientation here, or even suggest that it could be changed; that’s not what this scene is about. The absurd humor in Gator and Ida’s exchange derives from Waters’s inversion of the normal situation: parents are supposed to nag you to be straight, not to be gay. Just like they’re supposed to nag you to get a job and work hard and act like an adult and get serious about your life and go to law school.
But a lot of the time I feel like Aunt Ida, pleading with lawyers not to get serious and buckle down, but precisely the opposite: to give something — anything — wacky and fun and subversive — or merely indecorous — a chance. That’s because, if you’re not careful, slaving away at a big law firm can drain all the spark out of life, leaving things looking… well… sick and boring.
Now and then, after I receive a new referral, I succumb to the temptation to Google that person’s name. The first few times I did this, it was to find out whether he or she was male or female. That happens sometimes — you get an email from “Pat” or “Jamie” or “Oyedele,” and set up an appointment, then aren’t sure what to expect.
The inevitable result of an online search, in the case of a lawyer, is a page from a law firm directory. You get a passport-size photo capturing the flannel-suited subject with a slightly shocked deer-in-the-headlight expression, then the inevitable list of schools attended, bar admissions and a capsule summary of obscure “practice areas,” all rendered in lawfirm-ese: “General Practice Group,” “Corporate Capital Markets Restructuring,” “Derivatives Litigation and Regulation.”
There’s no sense of an actual person in those pages — only a scary apparition from the world of the serious and very grown-up.
I still recoil, looking at those bland, comically formal law firm directory pages – just as I wince looking at my old photo in the Sullivan & Cromwell facebook.
In the case of a new client referral, that passport photo comes to life a few days later in my office, in the form of an unhappy person confessing his loathing for his firm, bemoaning the steady stream of abuse, the sterile, alienating culture, crippling hours — the usual lawyer misery.
I wonder how ordinary people can be split in two like that, transformed simultaneously into the miserable, suffering human being sitting in my office, while the outward appearance is meticulously maintained – that official law firm image of a ring wraith from the world of the humorless.
Then I remember how S&C worked its magic on me, embalming me in its parallel dimension of un-fun.