Wednesday, 23 January 2008

I = Ironing

Why is it that ironing seems to be a uniquely female chore? Men cook, they clean, they care for children, they take out the rubbish, maintain the house and car etc. But few of the men I know will voluntarily do the ironing. Including my beloved.

When we were first married we divided up certain household duties. We shared the cooking, cleaning and shopping, but my husband organised and took the rubbish out and maintained our beaten up car, and I of course got the ironing. Oh joy.

Then we moved to Thailand. Found Gorn our maid. What a joy it was coming home from work every day to clean, ironed clothes hanging in my closet. Ah, bliss. But all good things come to an end, and after three years we returned home. I found the ironing much harder to tolerate after that. In fact I hated it. With a passion.

I noticed though that gradually I was doing more of the cooking, and decided that ironing should no longer be one of my duties. So I went on strike. My husband eventually noticed when he ran out of business shirts. His reaction was one of disbelief. “You’ve stopped ironing?” Yes! He adapted. Got by without ironing as much as possible, and managed to iron a business shirt every morning before work.

My sister-in-law was newly married. I discovered her doing the ironing. In fact, I witnessed her husband yelling at her annoyed that he didn’t have enough ironed shirts for a business trip. Like us, they were both working and equally busy. He did little else around the house unlike my husband). So I shared my philosophy. “Withdraw your services. Go on strike” I urged her. She did. He resents me to this day.

Gradually over the years our incomes improved, and once again we managed to find and afford cleaners who ironed. Happy years.

Then I decided to leave full-time employment and enter the uncertain world of the self-employed. Guilty about having downtime and less income in my first year, we dispensed with our cleaners. And for the first time in years, I began ironing.

But …

shhhhhhh …

I discovered that when I wasn’t tired or in a rush, doing the ironing was a wonderful time for contemplating life, for listening to music turned up really loud, and even for learning languages. My Spanish grew to an acceptable level thanks to time spent ironing. I hate to admit that these days I almost find it therapeutic. When I have time. Almost.

But if I ever get given an iron as a gift … it (or the gift giver) is going on Ebay.


  1. What a great closing line. I always said that if I were ever to get married, I would make sure to put in the marriage contract that I was never going to iron any shirts.

    When I was looking at houses, I remember the real estate agent (who was a man) getting very, very excited one time because in one of the houses there was an old-fashioned ironing board cupboard in the kitchen (I'm not sure if this is the right term, but it's where you open the cabinet door and out pops an ironing board). To him that was the selling point of the house.

  2. My clothes have that comfortable slept-in look. Think Columbo.

  3. I love the idea of activities becoming contemplative when there is actually time in which to do them (time that doesn't feel stolen from something else).

    I do have a male friend who often says "I was watching that while I was ironing..." I can seldom believe my ears. He insists he's not gay.

    I am not good at it and will put it off as long as possible. Luckily, working from home for the most part, I'm seldom dressed in anything that needs to be ironed.

  4. H: You are a wise woman, and
    D: A sensible man (not an oxymoron after all?)
    IB: Working from home is fantastic for reducing ironing. I also find winter helps.

    Opened my local newspaper this morning to see an article on a woman who runs a new ironing service. I'm tempted ...

  5. I don't know that life will ever be so easy that ironing becomes a pleasure. Sewing on buttons, sure. Ironing .... can't see it. I'll leave that for better people than me.


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