Iron Man

I’m a big fan of digging holes.

You need a hole for some reason — maybe to plant a tree, or put in a post, bury some incriminating evidence, or any old reason — grab a shovel and get diggin’. Burn off some calories, build a little upper body strength, relieve some of those unsavory antisocial aggressive tendencies, and when you’re done, look! There’s a hole. You don’t have to allow three weeks for delivery, you don’t have to wait for the check to clear. It’s more or less instant gratification. You wanted a hole, you got a hole. Toss in that recently fired .45 and cover it up. Satisfying.

Same with doing the dishes, or mopping the kitchen floor. These are tasks with clearly defined goals that you can achieve in a known amount of time, and when they’re done, they’re done. I’m not saying it’s fun doing these things. I’m saying it’s satisfying, actually being able to complete something in this world that’s grown so complex. Now that I’ve made these counterintuitive statements, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find out that I also consider ironing a satisfying enterprise.

Which brings us, inexorably, to women’s clothes.

Most of the time I wear low-maintenance clothes. Zero-maintenance, even. T-shirts and Levi’s, mostly, but my work shirts must be ironed. I’m probably the only guy at HugeCorp who irons his own shirts, and as soon as they start paying me The Big Bucks I’ll start sending my shirts out for cleaning and pressing, light starch in the collars, please. In the meantime I have the pleasure of a weekly task that has a clearly defined and totally attainable goal: flat shirts. Instant gratification. Until Mrs. Jones brings me a few of her things to iron.

What is the deal with these blouses? Ruffles, pleats, darts, plackets, stays, lining, appliqués, facings, lacy decorations… The care instructions always tell you to “…use warm iron, if necessary…” (emphasis mine — I’m sure they mean that ironically). And the fabrics: rayon, satin, acrylic, polyester, microfiber — what is microfiber, anyway? Of course, everything has a little dollop of spandex in it, too.

First of all, I need broad expanses of wrinkled cotton in front of my iron. Wrinkled, perhaps, but, you know, simple. Ironable. These little ladies’ tops rarely have enough acreage anywhere on them even to accommodate the footprint of the iron, much less room to move it around. As soon as I move it I run into a flap of something on a different plane of existence, something that gets wrinkled even as the original surface is getting unwrinkled. And how do you iron a ruffle? Answer: One square millimeter at a time.

So I mince around on these dainty little patches of fabric with my big East German steam iron. Have you ever ironed anything with a “warm” iron? I use steam on my work shirts, show ’em who’s boss. They start to flatten out as soon as they so much as hear the big Rowenta snarling and hissing. But on the “warm” setting there can be no steam, and I am defeated by the delicate little things. No matter how many times I go over the same space, and no matter how hard I press down, I can’t get that crisp, like-new look and feel. I believe this is proof that designers don’t iron.

When I’m done with Mrs. Jones’ blouses, I hang them up in the doorway and look at them, and they just don’t look very good. I don’t mind doing the work, but I don’t get much satisfaction. Well, that’s not entirely true, because eventually I’ll get to see one of them on the beautiful Mrs. Jones, and then I remember that not all gratification is instant.

In the meantime I think I’ll go plant a tree.

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11 Replies to “Iron Man”

  1. I have the pleasure of a weekly task that has a clearly defined and totally attainable goal:

    Thank you.

    It’s not really that I keep forgetting that, though. It’s just that I got nothing (read No One) motivating me to do it for m’self. People I admire reminding me of such is always appreciated.

    (An ironically warm iron??? niiiiiice…)

  2. Your domestic chore(s) posts are so memorable to me. I still remember the one where you talked about how making your bed is such a grown up thing to do. A great way to start your day.

    Nice post, Mr. Jones.

  3. I HATE ironing. Loathe it. Learned how to do it a million years ago, on my dad’s work shirts (which were grey–he was a sheet metal worker, after all) and pillow cases, but I cannot remember the last time I ironed anything.

    And women’s clothes–being tools of the patriarchy–suck. And not in a good way.

    As someone who earns her living doing a well-defined, finite task . . . which then must be repeated, because people actually EAT my work . . . I am less enthusiastic than you are about these things.

    Also: Molly Ivins’ First Rule of Holes is worth remembering (as is Molly): When you’re in one, stop digging.

    On the other hand, I would never consider being intimately involved with a man who didn’t know how to iron. I might consider a seven-year-affair with a man who sent his shirts out (but didn’t expect anyone else to do it for him), but I regard knowing how to iron as up there with knowing how to sew a button back on to one’s clothing.

  4. Bains – Ha ha. I admit I didn’t plan the pun, but I saw it as I typed it, and decided to let it ride. Smart man for spotting it.

    Blue Girl – You’re right: We must see the beauty and serenity in the everyday chores.

    Ron – Holes, burn, toasted. Got it.

    Narya – You want me, don’t you? I’ve rarely seen such a lengthy come-on. I can tell you want me to put on my patriarch costume, and you your frilly little girlie things as I force you to make your bed. Come and get it, baby.

  5. Umm, actually, if I wanted you, it would be because you DIDN’T wear a patriarchal costume (which you don’t much). As for the frilly girly? Don’t have any. And let’s not get started on the bed-making thing (or the “making me” thing; that doesn’t work so well). You might be amused to know that my bedmaking has actually declined, insofar as the covers on top aren’t tucked in AT ALL or arranged in precise layers. I have this little nestlike area into which I climb at night and more or less pull the covers over me. Sometimes I spread things out a bit to accommodate a friend, but, hey, usually we disarrange the covers even more first. (See why making a bed is just useless?)

  6. You may be interested to know that Jilleyn has an obsession with ironing. She thinks it helps her solve problems. She believes, generally speaking, that laundry is her superpower. She comes to my house and does mine when there’s none in her own home. Which is fine with me…..because it is my kryptonite.

  7. Yup. elsewhere, too, because why limit myself?

    Holly–can you please send your friend to my house? No need to iron, but laundry is the household task I hate the most.

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