July 31, 2017

My wife and I argue about laundry. I guess that’s okay. It’s better than arguing over money or sex or that weird kid who dates our teenage daughter and never smiles.

I think it all started with T-shirts. I like my T’s ironed. Now to be clear, I’m talking about the T’s worn under your work shirt, not the kind with a collar, pocket, and an embroidered alligator or a guy on a horse swinging a club. Everyone irons those.  I have one of each. Which reminds me—what’s the alligator all about anyway?

Some believe it’s dumb to iron a shirt that’s going to be covered up with another shirt and get wrinkled right away. But there’s something civilized about an ironed T. I bet guys in third-world countries don’t iron their T-shirts. I know the guys down at Mikey’s Gym don’t iron theirs. I look and feel great during breakfast before it’s covered up. Sorta like handkerchiefs. Those are always ironed and yet they get stuffed in your back pocket before breakfast. Nevertheless, I like ironed handkerchiefs.

When we were first married, my wonderful wife ironed all my T-shirts. On summer weekends when I only wore a T, my buddies would complement me on my civilized, manly appearance. They were jealous because their wives crammed their T’s in the dresser drawer along with their shorts and socks. This was necessary, however, because they were only allowed one drawer in the dresser— there was no room for ironed T’s. Well, after a couple years, I noticed that only the front of my T’s were ironed. I didn’t say anything then, but maybe I should have because a year after that she stopped ironing them all together. Period. Cold turkey. That’s when the arguments began and I started doing my own laundry and ironing.

She kept lecturing me on how to do the laundry. To her, laundry was this mystical science handed down by her mother on stone tablets, and if you didn’t follow the commandments all sorts of horrible things would happen. The problem was in the details—they weren’t streamlined for a modern, fast-paced guy like me. She’d follow me around and point out all the things I was doing wrong. It got so bad that I thought of getting up early in the morning just to do my laundry alone. I didn’t, but I thought about it.

Well, I’m kind of a renaissance guy, so I figured I’d experiment and find the truth-or-fiction of her ritualistic laundering. With hard evidence to back me up, I’d win her over. When I explained the virtues of my quest, we had eggplant Parmesan for dinner three nights in a row. I hate eggplant.

Turns out I got lucky because we just bought a new Whirlpool washer to replace the one with a seized motor. I predicted the failure; it had been making grinding noises for several months. Probably bearings. We didn’t need a new dryer, but got one anyway because my wife said they had to match. I didn’t argue because I suspected the motor bearings in the old dryer were on their way out also. The new dryer was color-coordinated with the washer, and had all kinds of settings, buttons, and lights that control the laundry parameters. Engineers who designed washers and dryers must be very smart.

I thought the washer would be perfect for my experiments, but it soon became confusing. It cleaned well, but no matter what setting I used, I got the same results (I didn’t try the “Delicate” setting). My final conclusion was that the really smart washer guys were in marketing, not engineering. The knobs and buttons probably weren’t connected to anything—they just made the operator feel needed. I finally settled on one button for everything: Heavy Duty. This conclusion also made the dryer setting easy: Heavy Duty.

I presented the evidence to my wife one day while she surfed the web on her laptop. She’s good at multi-tasking.

“Want to know how Martha Stewart does her washing?” she asked.

“Where’d she learn?” I replied. “In prison?” I saw her roll her eyes.

“She does it the same way my mother did.”

“I wonder how John Madden does his laundry,” I said. “Or Chuck Norris or Arnold Schwarzenegger?”

“They don’t do their own laundry.”

“I bet their T-shirts are ironed though.”

“We haven’t had eggplant Parmesan in a long time,” she said.

The biggest arguments are over sorting. My wife makes a dozen little piles for her stuff and washes each one in a new tiny load. I think tiny loads are bad for washer maintenance. If I ever find the instructions, I’ll look it up. I don’t think she takes my advice on the best washer setting either. I should watch some day to see. I have only two piles: one that needs ironing and one that doesn’t. If I did it her way, I’d have to set up the ironing board a dozen different times. But I only need two loads. If the washer looks too full, I throw in some extra detergent. These modern washers were designed for big loads. The biggest load is for ironed things: work shirts, Levis, handkerchiefs, and of course T-shirts. In the other load go socks and boxer shorts. Oh . . . and sweat shirts . . . don’t iron those.

Socks, however, require added attention before washing. They all go in the kitchen sink full of water with a cup of detergent for soaking. It’s best if you think about it before you go to work so they can soak all day. That works great.

I really don’t mind ironing. In the winter, I’ll have a beer and watch football on TV. NFL football was programmed for guys who do their own laundry. I can wash on Sunday, but wait till Monday night to do the ironing. If it’s a close game, I can finish up on Thursday night. In the summer, I stick a DVD in the player. Lonesome Dove, MASH (movie, not the series), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are best for ironing. Any night is okay.

Levis need special treatment to keep a good crease while ironing. I tried making my own starch and brushing it on, but it left white streaks, so now I use four coats of the spray-on stuff you get at the super market. That leaves streaks on the iron, but they come off easy with steel wool.

My experiments have taught me a lot about laundry. Sadly, I haven’t convinced my wife to accept my proven techniques. Nevertheless, I’m sure she recognizes their superiority as I often notice her smiling envious glances while I’m ironing. Along the way, I’ve also learned to manage her eggplant Parmesan hunger by taken her out for dinner when she gets a craving. She smiles then too.

And next washday I plan one more experiment—ironing my boxer shorts. Now that would be civilized.


Dick Yaeger lives in Sunnyvale, California, is a retired physicist, former Marine, and active rower, much of which percolates into his novels. He’s a self-taught student of Latin, a 49er and Sharks fan, plays the bagpipes, and the proud admirer of five exciting grandsons. For more of his work, visit his Amazon author page here.


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