I haven't used my iron in years and don't plan to lift it ever again. As the wrinkles on my face increase, so do those in my clothing. Ask me if I care.
My brother came to stay with me last month for a long weekend. Sunday night, he asked to borrow my iron so that he could give a quick once-over to a dress shirt he planned to wear to a meeting the next morning.
"My iron?" I asked, as if he was speaking in a foreign language and I hadn't quite understood his request.
"Yes, your iron," he replied. "And your ironing board too, please."
He might as well have asked to use my buttonhook or wall-mounted can opener. In my household, the iron gets as much use as either of those antiquated implements.
I managed to dig out my iron—a long-ago gift from my mother—from deep in a cabinet, where it had been resting undisturbed for at least the past decade. Miracle of miracles, it still worked when plugged in. I also found a still-functioning ironing board buried nearby.
My brother proceeded to iron his shirt and, indeed, he looked fabulously dapper as he marched off, all pressed and shiny, to his meeting the next morning.
He must have inherited the ironing gene from our mother. She didn't pass it on to me, though not for lack of effort.
My mother loved to iron. When I picture her in my mind, it's often at an ironing board, happily hefting her electric iron to smooth out wrinkles in cotton or linen clothes and tablecloths. Where she found the time, in between raising six kids and working full-time while earning a second master's degree and a PhD, I will never know, but she did.
Mom claimed that she found ironing both relaxing and therapeutic. At least once a week, she'd spend a couple hours ironing her way through a plastic basket filled with clean laundry while either watching TV or listening to old Billie Holiday records.
When I was 10 years old, she deemed me old enough to learn to iron. She began by teaching me how to iron a shirt, explaining that it was a careful, step-by-step process. First you sprayed the shirt with water to slightly dampen the material. Then you attacked with the iron in a specific order: sleeves first, then the shoulders, body of the shirt and tails, and finally press the cuffs and collar.
I mastered these lessons but they never took. As an adult, during my working years, I occasionally ironed but only when absolutely necessary. Mostly, I relied on my neighborhood laundry and dry cleaner to keep my wardrobe looking spiffy. Eventually, I discovered silk knits and no-iron cotton shirts, both low-maintenance options.
Then, four years ago, I developed a nasty allergy to formaldehyde. What does this have to do with ironing? It means that I can no longer wear no-iron shirts; formaldehyde is used in the process that renders the garments permanently wrinkleless.
When that happened, I said the hell with caring about whether my clothing was wrinkled. I'd embrace the wrinkles just the way I'm doing with the ones starting to show up on my face and elsewhere. C'est wrinkles, c'est moi!
It helped that I'd quit my job and was semi-retired. When you sit around at home most days with a computer on your lap, and you call that work, it doesn't really matter what you're wearing.
Sure, a freshly ironed outfit can make you feel like you're looking sharp and ready to take on the world. But I'm not looking to take on the world these days. Been there, done that.
Now I just want the world to let me be to do my own thing — and mostly leave me alone. And if I do that while wrinkled, well, there are worse problems in the world.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not slovenly or a slob. My clothes are clean and they match. Some are even semi-stylish. And that's good enough. I'm neatly rumpled, a look that I'm sure Anna Wintour will be featuring in Vogue soon.
My mother would be horrified. But she's not around anymore. It's enough that I've kept the iron she gave me—I just don't have to use it.