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