a word about ironing

I was ironing a tablecloth today.

OBVIOUSLY not for my own table.

OBVIOUSLY not for my own use.

does this look
like a table
that has been clothed
this table is never clothed
and not because of ironing
it's because nobody has yet invented
a food that my children can eat
without requiring a full clothing change
and shampoo

even crackers

Don't worry, you guys. It's still me.

But I was thinking about ironing.

There's no way to win at ironing.

Think about it: if you're great at ironing, that means the following things are true:

1. you have spent many moments of your one wild and precious life learning how to iron
2. you now have to iron more because use it or lose it, baby
3. are you a feminist? really?

But then think about THIS: if you're terrible at ironing, that means the following things are true:

1. you are wrinkly
2. you have spent many thousands of dollars on dry cleaning
3. are you a woman? really?

Listen, I'm not one to say that one quality or another defines womanhood - there are lots of ways to be a woman.

I just noticed, as I was ironing a tablecloth today (badly) that I associate my (in)ability to iron a tablecloth with three stay-at-home mothers in my life - my mother, my sister, and my friend Whitney.

The two women in many ways could not be more different - my mother is a fastidious neat-as-a-pin sort, and thanks to her I never feel like my kitchen is clean until the counters and sink are damp from a final wipe, gleaming softly in the dim stove-hood light that we leave on every night. Which is to say, my kitchen is never clean.

My sister, on the other hand, is a creative prodigy. Her degree in interior design means she is as likely to build a spice rack as she is to create a headboard out of river rock and wire. Equal parts practical and fantastical, her home is warm and stylish even when messy.

But both those b's can iron the shit out of a tablecloth. I mean you could fucking forge a Monet on a tablecloth my girls ironed. And SELL it. At CHRISTIE'S. Chris Christie's. Chris Christie's Table Cloth Art Bizarre and Pawn Shop. It's in Jersey.

Whitney, on the other hand, would probably do just fine at ironing a table cloth, but she'd be the first person to tell you that she's terrified of ironing. Whitney is smart, hilarious, talented, self-aware, and the perfect balance of nice and mean. "I'm scared to cook a side dish for this party. Why do people assume I can cook just because I'm a mom now? I'll tell you why, because people are stupid assholes. SORRY, my theater degree didn't include a course in make-ahead dinners, but it did cover Strong Opinions and How To Sing Them."

She made us a super-tasty one-pot veggie pasta when Buster was born, but the way she remembers it, she opened a can of Alpo and dumped it in a foil pan for us. Her self-image is of a person who can't do anything right, yet she does so much right every day. I can just imagine what she'd say if tasked with ironing a table cloth. She'd say "fuck," or one of its conjugations, at least a dozen times. And then she'd be like, "I'm not even a real woman."

Even as I ironed this tablecloth (badly) (really quite badly) (at least the original wrinkles were squarish) (you're just making it worse), I forgot to preempt the inevitable "what kind of wife and mother and hostess are you?" voice that pipes up whenever I (or Whitney) have to iron or attempt to sew something or sign up for an entree at a potluck like an AMATEUR. Everyone knows you always sign up for BREAD or DESSERT or DRINKS, dum-dum.

Then I decided to not feel bad anymore.

I know lots of womanly, thoughtful, nurturing wives and mothers and hostesses who probably don't give a fucking shit about tablecloths. And I know lots of powerful, creative, successful women who can iron the fucking shit out of a tablecloth, like my mom and my sister.

Moral of the story?

Sometimes it's just a tablecloth that somebody needed help with, and sometimes you're just the person who said, "I'll help."

And when I think about my mom, my sister, my friend, and me, the thing we all have in common is we all say, "I'll help."

Which is so much more fucking important that stupid ironing anyway.


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