Iron Man

My mom always considered ironing to be a kind of hobby, something that helped her to relax, something that made her happy.

Ironing leads to happiness? It’s a difficult concept to wrap one’s brain around – until I tell you that my mom is German. If Mom’s side of the family taught me anything, it’s that Germans don’t know how to stop working. Instead they find ways to combine work with leisure.

Mom would set up her ironing board in the kitchen. The kitchen in our house adjoined the family room, the location of the house’s only color TV. While she waited for the iron to begin angrily sputtering steam (and that iron could spit with the ferocity of a pit viper) Mom would slam Psycho into the VCR. Then, for the next hour and a half, she would make pants creases so sharp and starchy that Norman Bates could’ve used them to slice open Marion Crane.

Mom loved cans of spray starch and used them with gusto. While it made our shirts, pants and hankies crisp, clean and perfect, her liberal starch application meant that some spray mist ended up on the kitchen’s linoleum floor. This created a permanent slick spot that would send passersby skidding into the dishwasher.

I was usually that passerby. The bruises on my knees and ankles didn’t entirely heal until I moved out.

This is why I hate ironing, I think; it’s just too easy for me to associate it with leg injuries and serial killers.

This is a problem, for I am a fully-fledged house husband. I am the designated iron-er.

I try to avoid it when I can. When I glance into the clothes drier and discover a garment that is sort of wrinkled, I hear myself say, “It’s not that wrinkled.”

I then fold it up and put it in a drawer.

On the rare occasion I find a garment too wrinkled for me to say, “it’s not that wrinkled,” I hear myself say, “I’m gonna donate this shirt to a homeless person!”

This strategy works just fine for my clothes. When the wrinkled garment in question is Ellen’s, however, things get more complicated.

Ellen’s eyesight is bad, so bad that without her glasses she is almost legally blind. Yet, by some horrible miracle, she can spot a clothes wrinkle at 30 paces. I don’t know how she does this, but I’d wish she’d stop. I also wish she’d start wearing more cotton. That stuff never needs ironing – and on the rare occasion it does – zip zip zip – I can touch it up before a Psycho VCR tape makes it past the FBI warning.

But Ellen dresses professionally. Well-dressed professionals do not wear cotton. They wear weird fabrics that are created in laboratories by brilliant, sadistic Germans who dedicate their lives to creating new and exciting ironing challenges; something that’s delicate, shiny, ruffled, layered, pleated and susceptible scorch marks; something that can miraculously manufacture new wrinkles while you’re ironing out old ones.

Despite these hardships, I give ironing my best effort. I am a house husband. Ironing is my job. And, when I can’t avoid it, I take that job seriously.

One day last week as Ellen stumbled though our front door hunched under the weight of her take-home work, she found me waiting for her in the foyer.

“I ironed your ruffled blouse thing!” I announced. I held the blouse up for inspection and awaited kudos.

Ellen squinted for a moment.

Ellen does not have what one might describe as a poker face. At any given moment I can tell what she is thinking. In that particular moment she was thinking, “Oh, that’s sucky.”

She didn’t say that, of course, because my wife makes an effort to be thoughtful. Instead she said, “It’s good, but I think I need to touch it up a little.”

I was aggrieved by the suggestion. I had set up the ironing board in the family room and labored over that stupid, shiny, ruffle-y, wrinkly blouse half the morning. I invested way too much time and effort and starch on this stupid thing. And now Ellen was going to tell me that she’d “touch it up?” Oh, I don’t think so.

Besides, I knew Ellen wouldn’t touch it up. She’d be too busy to touch it up. For weeks and weeks that awful blouse would sit by its lonesome in the ironing basket. Every day it would mock me and remind me of my ironing failure.

So, to save face, I said, “No, I’ll take care if it.”

“I think it looks good,” she lied. “I can just touch it…”

“I’ll take care of it,” I said again.

“It’s really no tr–”

“I. Will. Take care of it.”

Sensing that the German part of my heritage was flooding my brain, Ellen let the matter drop.

And I am pleased to report that, after many trials and tribulations, I finally did get that awful blouse perfectly ironed.

It was quite simple really.

I invited my mom over, revved up the DVD player, rented Psycho from the library, uncapped the starch can, and resolved to live the rest of my life with black and blue ankles.

93 thoughts on “Iron Man

  1. I hate ironing too, and very rarely do it, I particularly choose clothes on the basis of them being the type of clothes that won’t need ironing. I also find that even clothes which should need ironing, can be put on and have the creases eased out from body warmth just by wearing.

    The only thing I am inclined to disagree with you over is cotton – in my experience cotton is often more likely to need ironing than some of the man-made fabrics, unless you’re not talking about 100% cotton, in which case it is the other incorporated fibres that make it wrinkle free!

  2. As Bruce says, Ironing is an Art Form. I’m a writer, not an artist. Therefore, I hang my need-to-iron clothes in the bathroom, turn the shower on the hottest water setting, and leave. Five minutes later, my blouse is steamed smooth. Try it!
    (P.S. Wonderfully written, fun and funny piece. You are a writer – and you’re a great artist of doodles. Ferggit the ironing artistry.)

  3. Only you could make ironing hilarious. And I would never give over the ironing of my crinkly blouses to my house husband (he’s my MEPA: most excellent personal assistant–you need to work out a better title than house husband, which is so Donna Reed).

  4. Laughed out loud at the end! Great writing!

    Vanessa is right, cotton is the worst, especially men’s shirts. By the time you have one sleeve done and flip it over to do the other, there is already a crease in it from hanging off the board.

    And those pleats and frills in women’s clothing, why do dress designers make these? They obviously don’t iron! Save yourself from torment and bloodied knees…invest in a steamer. A good one is between $100-150 and will be your best defense against women’s fashion industry. 😉

  5. Ironing. Ugh. The first thing I do when I buy clothes (which isn’t often as I have no problem wearing the same thing for years, as long as there are no shoulder pads or leg warmers involved) is check the material and gauge how much ironing it will need. If the meter is in the red zone–even the yellow zone–I don’t buy it. That’s how much I enjoy ironing.

    Fun story as always!

  6. Fun story! I don’t like it but I get the impression I do more than other Canadians. The British iron a lot or at least my mum did. I think the trick is catching the dryer as soon as it stops. I am always amazed how creased our stuff is so I check the dryer all the time.

  7. Mike, you are hilarious! My mother was German, French, and Irish, quite the combo. When it came to ironing, the German part took over. She ironed sheets, pillow cases, underwear…ouch! But she didn’t believe in entertaining herself while doing so. The ironing board was in the basement, far away from any electronic device. And when she told to me take over the ironing because she got a paying job, I did so with far less gusto. Thank goodness, she was too busy working to complain. But I wasn’t. I told my friends that my mother had no time to make cookies. Oh, woe! But I never told them that I had to iron underwear. Today, I rarely iron anything. I will not die thinking that I should have ironed more.

  8. I didn’t know people still ironed. It must be a German thing. We live by, “Quick, get it out of the dryer before it wrinkles!” That’s about as good as it gets, and if we miss the wrinkle-free window, we grin and wear it. I heard there are actually people who iron sheets and underwear, though I think that bad habit has faded into history. Fun post, Mike. You owe your mom big time 🙂

  9. Starch is a tricky thing. I try to avoid it most of the time and have utmost respect for those who can use it professionally. I also avoid ironing. Mostly in the summer. Wintertime ironing isn’t as bad because I’m not hotter than a 4 alarm fire to start with. My husband likes to wear cotton shirts in the summer and they do need ironing. I like a nice polyester blend myself. His knit golf shirts are awesome! The thing I hate most about ironing are sleeves. I just about bought myself a “ham” a couple weeks ago when I was browsing in JoAnn’s. I was sure that would solve all my ironing woes.
    What is your mom’s number?

  10. Haha, so funny! My mother used to iron my dad’s underwear, and I had to iron the sheets!. I own an iron, don’t know why, cause I rarely use it. I wonder if your mom has seen Psycho II, it has a really good kitchen scene.

  11. love it – most insightful and funniest post I’ve read in a while. Thank you!. I’m so with you on your views of ironing – I remember my mum always ironing on a Sunday evening, shirts, pants, undies (yes really) and even hankies!

    • You are the fourth person to tell me about a mother who ironed underwear! This bewilders me.

      My mom also ironed hankies, and that bewilders me, too. Did she not realize that hankies are for collecting snot? Does a snot collection device really warrant such ironing attention?

  12. hi i read a few of the blogs you published. would you be willing to give me an interview? can i get an email id where i can personally contact you? the interview is for an internship project for a website INDshare.com. it is as an inspiration to the new generation to follow their passion. thank you for your valuable time.

  13. I hate ironing and make an effort not to buy anything 100% cotton. My mom had my older sisters iron, but luckily I was too young and then mom took it over. Mr. Mom or not, I feel sorry for ya’. Ironing had to have started as a punishment–to keep the warriors neat and crisp before entering the coliseum to take on a lion. Why it was adopted as a normal chore is beyond me. I say steam it or find a good, but cheap, cleaner. Schlep the iron to the trash.

  14. Nice. I have done our laundry for 15 years. Four kids later and I’m still convinced that if I use the right amount of clothes in the machine and empty the dryer 5 minutes before it ends I can get all our professional clothes out as “passible.”
    Good luck to you.

  15. I absolutely despise, hate, loath, can’t stand ironing! I will clean an entire house (including the bathrooms), do ALL the laundry (that doesn’t need ironing), vacuum and dust! to avoid ironing! my hubby wore dress shirts and pants to work for years and we couldn’t afford to send them to the cleaners, so I would stand for HOURS ironing! It was not relaxing in the least! Ugh! But NOW, everything goes to the cleaners! (that needs ironing) but part of that was because I cannot get a crease in a shirt the way the hubby likes it! SO, I let someone ELSE do it now! The cleaning bill is in my budget and will stay there as long as I can afford it!! HA HA! 😉

  16. I always love stories about your mother. Ironing while watching Psycho. She’s my kind of woman. I love both. Never thought of combining them but next time I iron, I will move the ironing board in front of the tv.

  17. Hey, Mike 🙂 Well, I can’t say I hate ironing (just the time it takes, as in any “interfering” household chore, or showering, for that matter), except for certain items that are just plain annoying, BUT I can possibly help you, you can leave your mother be and your ankles can stay a healthy caucasian hue.

    Nearly nine years ago (I know this because the document I saved has the original post date on a forum I used to frequent), someone who wanted to find safe dryer sheets (she’s chemically sensitive as am I) asked about what to do for static cling. Anyway, the way to handle drying laundry to avoid static cling is very similar to avoiding excess wrinkles. Not all wrinkles can be avoided (static can be comPLETEly avoided though), but they can be minimized.

    Before I go on, the first thing I wanted to sort of correct you on is that it is cotton that actually tends to wrinkle. Those are the shirts I always have to iron to some degree. T-shirts and jeans I just “hand” press. Synthetics and permanent press (note the name) usually need little-to-no ironing when handled properly.

    First of all, in addressing static—dryer sheets are completely unnecessary! What makes that so is how someone dries their clothes. All you need to do is change your process. Natural fibers, particularly cotton, don’t lend to static; it’s the synthetic materials that get staticky and only if they are over-dried.

    After washing laundry and before putting anything in the dryer, separate the synthetics (generally lighter weight too) from the cottons, etc. The items that are very lightweight (ex: nylon or polyester shorts or underwear) should be dried on the “Low” setting. Depending on the machine you have determines the settings, but they are basically the same and so is the process. On my old dryer the settings were “Fine Delicates/Extra Low”, “Delicates/Low”, “Knits/Perm Press/Medium”, and “Cottons/Towels/High”. The Low setting is still fairly hot and dries these lightweight synthetics VERY quickly, usually within 3-5 minutes. I would throw them in the dryer and set the timer for 3 min. and stay in/near the room and wait those few minutes to be sure I wouldn’t let them over dry. On the newer Samsung, with all the bells and whistles, I now set it on “Perm Press” and “Damp Dry” which eliminates me having to actually time it ’cause it will automatically stop while the clothes are still damp.

    A common mistake made is on lightweight, synthetic articles with heavy elastic bands. You don’t dry them until the bands are dry because you will then over-dry the item itself and THAT is what creates the static. I also dry the heavier synthetics or blends separately because they generally dry more quickly than the heavier, all-cotton items. Also, if I’m doing several loads of laundry (whites/lights/darks), I will separate the synthetic/lightweight pieces from each wash load to dry them at the same time after all the loads are done, rather than doing the “3-5 min. timing thing” more than once if I can avoid it. It’s best to remove the slightly damp from the dryer right away and air-dry them at that point. I drape most things over the backs of chairs, scattered on table tops or hung on hangers (like your wife’s ruffly blouse). It is the quick removal while damp and draping or hanging items properly that will minimize wrinkles. That, along with NOT over-stuffing the dryer. Many people, thinking they’re saving time, FILL the dryer, not allowing the clothes to “breathe.” There needs to be room for proper hot air-flow, plus cramming clothes doesn’t allow them to open so you’re essentially “ironing” in the creases and wrinkles. By cramming, it increases wrinkles and drying time, which saves NO time and gives more work in having to iron more.

    So there you have it, buddy. You save time and money on electricity/gas, you have no static, and usually fewer wrinkles too 😀

    You know, I should probably post this on my Creativity Cookbook blog! lol

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