Here’s the thing about my domesticity: it has limits. Well, one limit really. That limit is drawn around this evil little contraption gathering dust in our closet, the iron.
It’s not like I don’t do chores I hate. I really do. For example, the porcelain finish on our apartment bathtub is still the original finish. It’s at least twenty years old, dull, pitted, and collects dirt and stains like my son’s neck rolls collect baby food. The tub is also very wide. Cleaning it is a herculean task, involving the strongest bleach known to mankind, an awkward but merciless stiff-bristled brush, multiple wash cloths, searing hot water, and usually ends with me covered in water, bleach, grime and frustration. But to my mind there are few things as revolting as a dirty bathtub, so I clean it weekly. Bathtub cleaning day is synonymous with “stay out of Mom’s way day,” because I loathe the task so much that it turns me into a frumpier version of Katie Ka-Boom.
The day after bathtub cleaning day, however, is full of sunshine and happiness. All is right with the world when the bathtub gleams. I’ll even walk into the bathroom for no real reason and switch on the light, just to see it glimmer across the surface of the bright, fresh, shiny porcelain.
I’m no stranger to doing household tasks I hate. But ironing? Forget about it. I refuse to iron.
The reasons for this refusal are manifold. First, I’m terrible at it. In my early married days, I gave ironing a shot for about a week. In that week I managed to burn a hole in one of my husband’s shirts, put a rust-colored stain in another, hold the iron in such a position that the steaming water came pouring out all over my bare feet, and put a large chip in our tile floor when I reflexively dropped the iron after attempting to grab the metal part, with my hand, while it was on.
Second, ironing takes forever. Generally speaking, it takes me about as long to iron a skirt as it takes to put on said skirt, go to Mass/go out to dinner/attend any other “nice” occasion wherein I would wear a skirt, come home, throw skirt in crumpled heap on floor and slip gratefully into yoga pants.
Third, ironing is completely overrated. I mean come on. Who really notices? Sure, if your shirt or skirt has been sitting in a crumpled heap for a few days it’s going to have some horrible wrinkles. But doesn’t ironing usually take place after washing clothes? Don’t you usually let clothes dry and then iron them? How many wrinkles can something possibly develop while hanging from a hanger?
Fourth, life creates wrinkles. In five seconds a seatbelt can undo an hour’s worth of persistent, heroic ironing. A child’s fist can turn that carefully pressed sleeve into a passable imitation of a broomstick skirt. An even mildly warm Texas day can turn that crisp Oxford button-down into a limp, languid and pathetic mess.
Last, but certainly not least, I think it’s a stupid task. The iron does exactly what a dryer does, only it requires four times the effort and affords the user one hundred thousand times as many opportunities for disaster and death. My dryer has never leaked boiling water all over my freshly polished toes. My dryer has never burned my hand so badly that I walked around swigging tequila like one of those gunshot victims in old westerns. My dryer has never dented my kitchen floor, burned a hole in a shirt, or taken more than ten minutes to fluff up a wrinkled skirt. The worst thing my dryer has ever done is shrunk things.
But there’s the rub. My dryer shrinks things. Lots of things. Pretty much everything. With most clothes, it’s not a big deal. I can hang up sweaters and dresses to dry and they look just the same as they’d look if they’d been tumbled dry. They’re a little stiffer, but visually identical. My husband asked me, after that first infamous week of ironing, to please never iron anything of his again, so I hang his clothes and if he needs to iron them, he takes care of it. And my clothes, the ones that need to hung-dry and ironed?
For years, my solution to this was simple. I didn’t own those types of clothes. I would literally check labels, and if a filmy-looking, easily wrinkled shirt said “line dry” I’d stick it back on the rack without another thought.
No way. Those have to be ironed.
No, thank you.
Cuffed, tailored trousers?
But recently, I’ve begun trying to expand my wardrobe to include things other than jeans and sweatshirts. On a recent trip to Kohl’s, I purchased a few shirts that are frilly, feminine, must be dried flat and…gulp…must be ironed. I’ve worn each shirt twice, reveling in my newfound girliness, before carefully washing them and hanging them to dry. They’re currently dangling listlessly in my closet, taunting me with their potential cuteness. Meanwhile the ruffles are creased, the collars are curling awkwardly, the hems are turning up, and the sheer fabric has begun to remind me of the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. Instead of “Feed Me!” it demands in a guttural scream, “Iron Me! Iron Me so that you can once again be pretty, if only for the space of an afternoon! Iron Me, dammit!”
What the pretty shirts don’t understand is that I love them too much to subject them to my terrible ironing non-skills. In the battle of Me vs. The Iron, I will always lose.
So now I have three beautiful, frilly shirts to give up for adoption. I pray they find a better home with a woman who can give them the ironing they need.