Is Ironing a Form of Elder Abuse?

>> Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Recently, I made some confessions on Facebook about laundry. I was annoyed because even though I had started Monday morning with diligence, the laundry had multiplied faster than muddy footprints and I was still doing it on Thursday afternoon. Given that we only have three humans and three cats in the house in an average week, I thought four days of laundry was a bit ... extreme. To me, laundry is singularly annoying because it keeps recurring like a bad fungus. I believe I can tolerate most any chore, but only if I can cross it off my list with at least a few days to spare before I have to write it back on. Four days of laundry was not doing it for me.

Then I made a confession that seemed to shock some people.

I gave up ironing in 1999 when my office went to Business Casual dress. Now, I only iron if the alternative of buying a new outfit is not available and failing to be de-wrinkled might mean someone loses a job. I buy "wash and wear" only.

I do have friends that continue to iron, and seem to enjoy it, but I honestly cannot understand where they are coming from. To me, ironing is a mundane chore that always takes way longer than it should, is never good enough, and if you blink or drift your concentration for one second, the garment is worse than if you had just left it alone. I have ironed new collar creases into stiff-collar shirts and new pants creases into dress pants that already had one. I could never iron a straight edge unless I wasn't supposed to, and I burned so many things my old iron developed a permanent smoke colored ring on the flat surface.

Even before the invention of Business Casual and wrinkle-free Dockers, I tried hard to find ways to not spend all my spare moments ironing. I said goodbye to cotton unless someone gave it to me, and I developed a relationship with the drycleaner down the street. Before the days when I could afford a drycleaner, and when I was too proud to wear polyester, I had another weapon.

I had my mother.

Mother would help me move in and out of law school dorms, or across 5 states for a summer job, and she would always say, "What do you want me to do?" I'd hand her an iron and three boxes of clothes. One June morning in a sublet in Pittsburgh, I handed her a suitcases of linen jackets and skirts. My mother is a perfectionist.

Some of you are so far from the ironing culture that you don't even know why that is funny.

That poor woman stood in that apartment for 6 hours trying to iron 6 outfits.

The worst part is that she agreed to do the same thing when I moved back at the end of the summer and when I moved to another apartment the following spring.

She was such a fan of a wrinkle-free garment that she couldn't bear the thought of what it would look like if I had to do it myself. Sometimes she would come and take the iron from me when I was living at home and just finish my blouse after I ironed in another monstrous wrinkle near the collar. I would like to say she took the iron "gently and silently" from me and eased my frustrated burden with warm understanding.

I would say that, but then I wouldn't be talking about my mother. More likely, she would muscle me out of the way and say something like, "Oh for heaven's sake you've already been working on this pile all day and we're supposed to go meet your sister for pizza. How hard is it to iron one white interview blouse? Can't you see you are ironing in creases? What do you have this iron set on? Is there any water in it? This isn't my good iron that looks like this, is it?"

You might think that my mom is some kind of domestic superstar with a vengeance, but that isn't quite true either. Rather, I would call her a perfectionist with little patience for re-doing someone's mistakes, who hates ironing but can't stand to see her youngest daughter leave the house in something that looks "that bad." Someone might think she never taught me to iron.

Anyway, after about 3 years of this ironing fiasco, she went on strike. She swore the next time I moved, she would not be trapped the entire day in front of an ironing board, no matter how much pizza, beer, and videos I offered her. (Of course, on move-in day, there is no cable in any apartment, so she had to make do with tapes of edited-for-tv movies and the occasional Star Trek cassette. DVDs had not yet been invented.) Thank goodness that business casual was only a few months away from taking over the legal profession.

I haven't thought about my ironing board for years. It was a hand-me-down from a friend of my sister's and the cover never quite stayed on right. I still have it ... somewhere. Darling Husband used to use it from time to time, but then he found the miracle of wrinkle-free Docker's shirts (which is a good thing, because his ironing skills were better than mine, but his idea of "wrinkle-free" would never live up to my mother's standard.)

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if mother came to visit and I mentioned I needed something ironed. Would she agree? I have FiOS TV now, with video on demand. Or, perhaps, would she suddenly develop a case of arthritis? Would the woman who just helped me paint and entire bedroom refuse one ... little ... blouse?

I suspect so.


saywhatyouwill March 19, 2010 at 5:14 PM  

i don't iron, either. :-D i pile up the few items that are unwearable without ironing and then deal with them every 3 months or so.

my mum has a pile of ironing to do every single week. (not my stuff, though :) )

thing is, ironing is a really tricky skill to master and i suck at it.

Karin Kysilka March 28, 2010 at 5:53 PM  

Well, I am somewhat relieved to know that I am not the only one to find ironing a bit beyond her skill range. I wonder if it's a lawyer thing? Perhaps we should investigate this. Is it part of the genetic makeup of lawyers to be incompetent ironers?

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