Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why I Like Ironing

I rarely look forward to ironing.  But as I get going, I quite enjoy it.

As I ironed a new shirt today, I wondered why this was.  Here's what I came up with:

1. It offers a chance to literally smooth out wrinkles.  I'm given untidiness, and I transform it into crisp neatness.  Life isn't always this easy to simplify.  Ironing offers it on an easy, intimate scale.

2. It's rhythmic.  As philosopher John Dewey argues, we naturally enjoy work that entails cadence - particularly when it has some climax (see 1.).  In this case, the culmination is a wearable shirt.

3. Washing and drying are fairly alienated processes: in a machine, or on the line, they're left to themselves.  Ironing affords me an opportunity to appreciate the clothing: its texture, lines, colours.  

4. It gives me a chance to daydream. As Herbert Marcuse suggests, modern life can be quite mechanical: regimented clock-time, wedded to shrinking possibilities of thought and action.  Ironing offers time for reverie or reflection. (As long as I don't fry my shirt.)

5. It's freely done.  If I were forced to do it every day, I'd hate it.  But independently chosen, it's quite rewarding.


Elisabeth said...

Have you read Tillie Olsens's short story, 'I Stand Here Ironing'? It puts a whole new slant on ironing, not as a necessary but somewhat pleasurable pursuit, if as you say it's voluntary. Rather it reflects the powerless of a woman who at 19 years of age has a daughter for whom she cannot care as she would like. The woman is forced during the Depression to go out to work in order to survive. Her baby is traumatized by the separation but there is little her mother can do. This mother at her ironing board shifts between the present and past in a monologue to someone who sounds like her daughter's social worker and reflects on what may have contributed to her daughter's difficulties now that the daughter, Emily, is herself nineteen years old. It's a beautifully written story and heartbreaking in its authenticity.

Damon said...

Sounds fascinating - thanks, Elisabeth.

I'll hunt it out.