Men of the Iron

Here’s a piece I wrote some time ago, but thought I’d revisit it after meeting a chap who loves to iron. And do housework. What a man!

I’m not alone. There are other men like me. Men who love ironing.

We meet, surreptitiously, suspiciously and sometimes out in the open. We talk in quiet, subdued tones, not because we are embarrassed, or afraid of a community backlash, no, because that’s one of the side effects of a man ironing, a kind of peace.

I can’t remember the first time I ironed, it certainly wasn’t at home. My country town home was a place of men, real men, men with guns and axes, men who wore footy shorts to barbecues.

The only person at home who wasn’t a man, was mum, and it was obvious. She shone out like Sharon Stone umpiring a state of origin rugby league game and, boy, could she iron.

Mum seemed born to iron. She ironed everything: sheets, pillow case, underpants, handkerchiefs, table napkins, placemats, socks, towels, wash clothes, hair, carpet, curtains, lawn, skin.

All right, maybe the list is longer than I remember it, but she certainly ironed hair. Dad’s hair. Dad had the curliest hair this side of the Blackwood River and it was a never ending source of embarrassment for Mum.

Mum was a neat person and she believed that when one went out into the world, one should be neat, tidy, well ironed and curly hair was an abomination organised by Our Maker to try us, test us and to see if we could fix it because Mum believed that the Maker himself had the same problem.

Poor old dad would come home for lunch, eat it, then long for a long, flat, lie down before he hit the shop-floor for the afternoon of retail madness. And he could, as long as his hair was straight. If it wasn’t, he was looking at 30 minutes with his head on the ironing board.

As a consequence, all my brothers grew to hate ironing and not one of them has curly hair. Neither do I, in fact, I long for curly hair. No one has done more for curly hair than yours truly.

Someone told me that if you ate bread crusts your hair would curl. I saved bread crusts, roamed the city seeking restaurant tables laden with uneaten bread crusts, stole them, stored them and ate them until my teeth ached.

Not a single hair on my head has ever curled. Some days they look curled, but that is because I love sticking my head out the car window while driving at a reasonable speed from Yakamia to Beenalup for an early morning swim.

You’ve probably herd of the Extreme Ironers, those mad people who iron naked while skydiving, who take their irons on roof tops, up rock faces, on marathons, deep sea diving and into lifts in busy city buildings.

These people give ironing a bad name and their behaviour defeats the sole purpose of running hot smooth-metal over vulnerable, passive, clothe. The main purpose of the task is to seek the attainment of a kind of peace, a oneness with the flatness, a Zen of ironing.

The other purpose is, of course, a practical exercise related to the look of the garment and it is only through practise that one can begin to explore the mythic beauty of the ebb and flow, the back and forth, the neat corner entry and the often difficult shoulder thrust.

I’m a two handed ironer myself, none of that one hand moving this way and then having to turn back the other, shift the board, or stand the other side, no, not for me, when I’m ironing I use two hands in a seamless flow: first the left along the left sleeve from behind, then the left along the right from front on, then a change of hands and a change of sleeves.

As a boy I loved the harp and the highlight of a Marx Brothers’ movie was not Groucho tossing insults at the toffs, but Harpo playing his sharp.

I’ll never play the harp but when I’m ironing, I’m thinking harp, I’m playing harp, I’m harping.

There’s another meeting tonight, of Men Who Iron. I’m excited. There are only two items on the agenda.

1. Will Peter Dutton come out and admit to the Australian people that he is one of us?

2. If he does, will the shame force him to resign? (I mean, look at those suits he wears. I’ll bet he irons them at least five times a day. Someone should offer to do one for him and offer to iron him out at the same time!)

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