LAST LOOK

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View - JANE FRASER

IN my old age I’ve taken up iron­ing; there are only the two of us at home now, and the sim­ple truth is that I do it bet­ter and faster than the cleaner, who takes short cuts with knife- edge pleats. I’ve been throw­ing private lit­tle hissy fits on a reg­u­lar ba­sis as a re­sult of dis­ap­pear­ing knife- edges, which is not good for my al­ready un­steady dis­po­si­tion.

Of all the house­hold chores, iron­ing is by far the most pleas­ant; there’s some­thing about the smell of freshly laun­dered clothes that makes you want to do a small haka; it’s a bit like stick­ing your nose right into the medicine cabi­net and get­ting a good whiff of all the soaps, unguents and shav­ing stuff, which I do fre­quently. So I’m more than happy; some­times I hum un­der my breath as I ply the hiss­ing iron, but I’m try­ing to kick the habit be­cause it makes the dogs whim­per and put their heads be­tween their paws.

But I’m not nearly as happy as my hus­band. On the first day of the iron­ing regime he un­folded him­self from the low- slung car, burst forth from the garage and saw me stand­ing un­der the wash­ing line, peg­ging things. A broad grin spread across his face and kept cross­ing. He stopped in his tracks. Ob­vi­ously I’d re­minded him of a 1950s wife; all I lacked, I re­marked later, was a frilly apron and a ‘‘ hello, dear’’.

Can you imag­ine his huge ex­cite­ment if he saw me with the vac­uum cleaner in one hand and a duster in the other?

In the ’ 70s, I think it was, there were th­ese peo­ple who did world tours, telling women how to put the ex­cite­ment back into mar­riages; oh, please. Some of them wrote books on the sub­ject and made for­tunes. One of the brain­waves was that you should put a lit­tle note in his lunch­box say­ing how much you loved him, so that when he got to work and got stuck into his peanut but­ter sand­wich, he’d sali­vate, and not over the food.

One par­tic­u­larly de­mented love- guru sug­gested that you greet your hus­band, when he came home with the ba­con, wear­ing noth­ing but a frilly lit­tle apron. You’d clearly have to be com­pletely off your trol­ley. As you shaped up at the front door, your chil­dren would be ship­ping out of the back.

A re­cent sur­vey ( who ex­actly are th­ese sur­vey­ees? I’ve never met one) says to­day’s women don’t want to be known as fem­i­nists; it’s a term that makes men ner­vous, smack­ing of fe­male bel­liger­ence. I got into trou­ble from the head of the sis­ter­hood a while back by sug­gest­ing a wo­man could have a job, but not a ca­reer and chil­dren, and suc­ceed at both. I was wrong. Any­thing is pos­si­ble if you play it right. Ca­reer, strong opin­ion, what­ever. As long as you re­mem­ber ev­ery now and then to pull out the trusty old apron and at­tend to other press­ing mat­ters.

fraserj@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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