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Ask Bayla #2: My son, the lawyer

August 18, 2009 – 8:19 pm2 Comments

Dear Tante Bayla,

We have been blessed with three intelligent, sensitive, creative, independent-minded children. But the fourth, our youngest, is turning into a conservative little son-of-a-neo-con. We don’t know where we went wrong. Normal teenagers have posters of Ben Harper on their walls; Mark* has a picture of Joseph and Hadassah Lieberman’s 2008 Channukah card. Instead of spending half of Sunday sleeping, he reads the Fin Review and works on developing his online business model. Whatever that means.

Look, we love Mark, he’s a good kid, studies hard, respects us, etc. But the problem is that he wants to study LAW, then go into FINANCE and make (quote): “shitloads of money”. He keeps threatening to vote for the Coalition in the next election. We just want him to play guitar, wear t-shirts with slogans and study something fun, like literature or art or surfboard making. In short, we want him to be more like us.

Ageing Hippies, East Malvern, VIC

Tante Bayla

Tante Bayla

Dear Ageing Hippies,

So your son wants to be a lawyer and make money. My condolences.

I totally get where you’re coming from: of COURSE you want your son to be just like you. Ultimately, all parents do. They’re not meant to admit it, but all that unconditional love is really just code for “please be like me”. This shouldn’t be the case, of course. It is bad and selfish and parents should not be bad and selfish; they should embrace diversity in all its beautiful diversity, especially when it comes to their children.

Great. Now that we’ve established your political incorrectness (tick!), let’s move on to the actual advice:

I have to admit my limitations in advising you on this matter. I am, after all, a tante – not a mameh. My knowledge of child rearing is derived mainly from popular culture. In fact, all of what I know about anything is derived from popular culture. (This is because I studied something ‘fun’ at university. I now earn about $8 an hour working in retail. But I’m really fulfilled, you know?)

Therefore, allow me to dip into the venerable pool of wisdom that is popular culture. Fortunately, there’s a movie that explores exactly the predicament you find yourselves in: The Rage in Placid Lake (2003). (‘Rage’ is a memorable film, mainly because every time I remember it I think, “Must remember to not see Ben Lee act ever, ever again.”) Basically, what happens is this: Ben Lee’s character, Placid, is raised by hippie parents. He rebels and goes to work for an insurance company. Meanwhile, he’s got a lovely best friend, played by Rose Byrne, whose father expects her to become a great scientist and she’s not sure she wants to. Of course, Placid’s in love with Rose Byrne but he doesn’t realise it. Can’t quite remember the rest, but they end up together and I think Placid gets over wanting to be a capitalist because he’s got Rose Byrne.

Ooh! And actually there’s another movie worth mentioning: Everyone Says I Love You (1996). (Everyone Says I Love You is memorable too, mainly for the fact that Drew Barrymore appears to not be wearing a bra in most scenes, and also because we’re supposed to believe that Julia Roberts would fall in love with Woody Allen.) Anyway, there’s a minor subplot involving Alan Alda’s son, Scott, who, despite being born into a sickeningly-sweetly-neurotic uber-liberal Upper East Side pseudo-intellectual family, starts talking about the right to bear arms and voting for the GOP and other awful non-liberal values. Happily, it turns out Scott has a benign brain tumour (or maybe it’s his thyroid, not sure), and once it’s removed he reverts to family type and presumably ends up writing a thesis on post-colonial paradigms of off-Broadway masculinity at Berkeley. Or making surfboards.

To conclude:

There are two distinct possibilities for you to explore here: either young Mark has some sort of not-too-serious undiagnosed medical condition, which, once resolved, will return him to you in his full, prodigal glory. We can only hope. Make some appointments at Cabrini.

Another possibility is that he just needs a girlfriend. In which case he’s much like any other adolescent male – too many hormones and not enough sex.  I’d suggest sitting tight for the next couple of scenes, as the problem may be resolved in a neat cinematic arc, a la Placid and Scott.

If not, you’ll just have to don suits, become lawyers and start working in finance. For the rest of your lives. (Reverse psychology is nothing if not a commitment.) It’s the least you could do for Mark, really. Hopefully the thought of his parents muscling in on his territory will be enough to turn him towards something more… fun.


Tante Bayle

* Name has been changed.

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  • frosh says:

    Hi Bayla,

    Your great advice not withstanding, I think you were way off on your appraisal of Ben Lee’s acting. Yes, I know you have a background in Yiddish theatre, but nevertheless…

  • ariel says:

    This family sounds like the Keatons in the TV show Family Ties!

    Jackie Mason says that every Jewish parent wants their son to become a doctor.
    Unless he’s a bit slow, then a lawyer.
    If he’s completely braindead: an accountant.

    These are the only professions which Jewish kids should aspire towards. The proliferation of Arts, Commerce and Economics degrees in our community is an abomination which must be corrected forthwith if we are to regain our status as the most intelligent and wealthy people on Earth, as believed by North Korean and Chinese doctoral students of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    I am reminded of a piece of graffiti in the bathroom of the Mathematics building at my university. Above the toilet paper roll in one of the cubicles, someone had drawn an arrow pointing down with the instruction: “ARTS DEGREES, PLEASE TAKE ONE”…

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