Column JN issue March 27 2020 by Jenni Frazer
I don’t know about you, but I take my smiles where I can get them these days, and I think you might agree that laughter is a bit thin on the ground at the moment.
So hooray, then, for the always reliable French who gave me the best (well, go on then, the only) laugh I’ve had in this last depressing week.
Turns out that Les Chic — particularly in Paris, but also elsewhere in the big cities in France — are torn on the whole working-from- home thing. There are two camps: those who are sworn never-to-face-even-the-monitor without full slap and every item of designer gear that beckons from the wardrobe; the other camp is pretty much the rest of us, the trackie bottoms, the pyjama wearers, those wedded to the elasticated waist.
I worked for many years in an office and am used to the whole concept of dressing professionally — indeed, my first editor told all us junior reporters that we had to dress as though we were going to meet a rabbi that very day. This exhortation scared the life out of me, but I tried my best. (True story — it over-encouraged someone from Neturei Karta to propose, proving that you can’t judge a book by its cover, or in my case, a stroppy Jewish girl by her pinafore dress).
Still, I must admit that even before this self-isolation took hold, I had been working from home for quite a time, and once startled my regular postman into exclaiming: “You’re dressed!” because I was actually poised to Go Out.
Now that nobody at all is Going Out, the hot debate among the French seems slightly ludicrous. According to The Times, it was a male reporter who sparked off the argument, by writing in Elle magazine that he had “dressed with a total absence of style… do we not have the right to stay in that most comfortable of garments, the tracksuit bottom? We do.”
But over at an online women’s magazine, “Ohmymag”, there was a strict frown. Jeans and a satin blouse were just about acceptable for its readers, it declared, adding that if trackie bottoms were even considered, they should either be leather or suede.
I must say I think it’s doubtful that France will be claiming the title of Top Slob Nation any time soon — that title, proudly, but sad to admit, belongs to we Brits. But I have to admit that I feel better if I partially dress as if I were going out to work — I have a better mindset and perhaps a more professional attitude. (For the avoidance of doubt I do mean fully clothed, just no make-up. The postman is used to these sights).
With all that in mind, I hope that you, like me, had the warmest of smiles for the pioneering Arden family of Borehamwood this week, as son Naftali took to the webcam with aplomb to recite his hard-learned haftorah, after it became clear that his long-planned shul barmitzvah was yet another victim of coronavirus.
Naftali, addressing his unseen audience before his haftorah, made sure everyone knew what was what. “I can’t see you, but I hope you are all wearing the smartest party clothes,” he said. “No fluffy slippers and absolutely no Arsenal dressing gowns.”
There you go. Get your act together. You may not be Going Out, but you will one day. Ditch the Uggs and stay safe.