Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pressing Matters

It’s one of those rare weekends when I’m home alone. CB is off camping. I have plans with the grand kids, but that is hours away. I start a load of laundry and pull out the ironing board. 

Ironing used to be a chore I detested, but as I have gotten older I find it can be relaxing.

My mom never seemed to mind ironing either. There is something therapeutic about getting rid of wrinkles without a facelift.

But I remember mom seemed to enjoy pressing clothes even when she was younger. I can still imagine her in the kitchen sprinkling water on a mountain of laundry. These were the days before steam irons. She filled an empty 7-up bottle with water, placed a little gizmo on the top, shook the bottle, and dampened the clothes with it. But rather than ironing right then and there, she would put the clothes in a bag and stick them in the refrigerator. Later she would pull them out and iron away. I remember wondering why she did this. It always seemed a little odd to me, but I knew if I challenged her wisdom, or complained that my blouses smelled like cauliflower, I would be pressing my own clothing. So I kept my mouth shut. 

But I was still cynical. I thought ironing was a big waste of time. Who cared about a few wrinkles, or whether or not your pleated skirt had perfect creases? But when I complained about it, my friend Maria was unsympathetic. She was the youngest of six kids and her job was to iron the clothing for all the family members who still lived at home. That included Maria, her mom, dad and brother, Joey. Mrs. Hernandez thought everything should be pressed – from doilies to sheets. Imagine my horror when I learned Maria was even expected to iron her brother’s blue jeans. Now mind you, this was decades before designer jeans, and Joey worked in construction. But that didn’t matter. Maria ironed his jeans and Joey went off to his job looking clean, fresh and pressed. 

My disdain of ironing was shared by a cousin in the Hernandez family, who ironically, was also named Sally. She would hang out her clothes (few people had clothes dryers in those days – at least in sunny Arizona). But Sally laundered with a twist. After the clothes were on the line she would get out the hose,  squirt the wrinkles out of the clothing, and let them dry (and stiffen) in the sun. I think this story was relayed to me as a cautionary tale, but I thought the idea was ingenious. 

The next time I took my clothes out to hang on the line, I gave them a hose bath. The water is so hard in Arizona that it also acted as a type of starch. When the clothes dried, they were so rigid they could practically stand on their own. I did this for a year. But all good things must come to an end.

After high school I married a Navy sailor. When he reported for work, even in dungarees, he had to report looking spiffy. An improperly pressed pair of dungarees could result in ramifications in the wrinkle-free Navy, so I did my best to make sure John would pass inspection. He always did. But when the Navy introduced cotton/polyester blend clothing that resisted wrinkles – let’s just say that was a happy day for a lot of sailors and their spouses.

After John was honorably discharged, my iron got a well-earned rest. Clothes were easier to care for. More people (myself included) had a clothes dryer. And as long as you didn’t leave your clothes in the washer or dryer overnight (oops) chances were good your clothing would not be a big crumpled mess. Three cheers for polyester!

Fast forward a few decades. I divorced, held a few different jobs, and then started my own company, Marks Public Relations. In an effort to save money and be more environmentally responsible, I went back to hanging my clothes out to dry. I admit it, if you hang your clothes on a clothesline, chances are they are going to look more crumpled. But that didn’t matter to me. Except when I had to go to a meeting or needed to accompany a client for an appearance at the TV station, I didn’t have to look nice and crisp. In fact, I mostly sat barefoot in front of my home computer churning out press releases, media pitches, and scripts looking a bit rumpled. But things changed. 

I learned of a great public relations position at Royal Neighbors of America. I wrote a good cover letter, successfully made it past the pre-screening process and three additional interviews, and was offered the position!  I was (and am) very happy.

But working in a professional environment again means I had to make a wardrobe adjustment. I have traded my craggy attire for a more professional look. Even on business casual days (Thursday and Friday) I make sure my shirts – and yes even my blue jeans – are pressed. A little ironing is a small price to pay to work at a job I love. I don’t regret my decision one iota. And I bet Maria and Mrs. Hernandez would be happy to know I launder without the hose. It took more than 40 years, but I’ve finally mended my wrinkled ways.

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