Friday, November 12, 2010

Is That a Wrinkle In Your Jeans?

I mentioned last week how my home appliances look like doll’s toys when compared to the big guns you guys have in the U.S.  My washer, dryer, fridge, and stove are half the size of what’s found back home. 

What I didn’t mention, however, is how lucky I am to even have a dryer or dishwasher. 

Truth is, electricity in France is REALLY expensive.   This fact, paired with the lack of space means many people living in the city or suburbs don’t own a washer or a dryer.  Instead, they take their loads to the laundry mat once a week.

When I first arrived here seven years ago, we lived with my in-laws for a few months. And although they did own a washer, my mother in-law explained that we 1. Washed the clothes.  2.  Hung them out to dry come hell or high water  3.  Ironed everything to get rid of the wrinkles and fabric stiffness.

My twenty-one-year old spoiled American self stood there with my mouth open, stunned.  “There must be some mistake...”  I stuttered, imagining (hoping) my French was faulty.  “We have to what?” 

She repeated it.

I looked helplessly at the iron wire contraption for hanging clothes outdoors and thought ‘Holy Shit.  I’ve just arrived back in the 1950’s.’

Truth is, many French women I know take pride in the perfectly ironed piles of clothes shoved into their teensy French closets.  One woman at work even bragged that she ironed everyone in her family’s underwear.  We all stared at her in shamed silence.  Ironing is one of those make or break deals here.  You do it, and do it well? - You win House-Wife-of-the-Frickin-Year.   You don’t?  -You’re of the ‘new generation’ who lets your house slide in favor of work outside the home and deserves a down-turned nose from your foremothers.

SO for almost five years, I’d wash our clothes, hang them up to dry, and then...*ahem* fold them as neatly as I could.  Despite the pressure to iron, I couldn’t do it.  As in...really couldn’t.  I tried.   But honest to God (and this is hard for me to even admit) I sucked at it.  After trying to iron my husband shirts a couple times we finally agreed it would be better if he did it himself.

What can I say?  I never learned to iron properly!!  We have dryers in America!  D-R-Y-E-R-S… that turn out clothes so perfectly tumbled and warm, there’s barely a wrinkle in sight and all that needs to be done is a crisp folding.  Whenever I did have to iron a rare wrinkled dress or shirt back in the day, it was with one of those dinky hand held irons and not with the massive industrial sized steam irons the French like to use.  I swear the thing looks like it could grow legs and walk.  My mother in-law has to iron on her kitchen table just to fit the monstrosity in the same proximity as her clothes. 

Between hanging up clothes and washing dishes by hand, I had little time for anything else.  Finally, when we moved into our spacious-by-French-standards bottom level apartment, my husband took pitty on me and bought me a dishwasher and dryer, freeing up my time for more important activities…like blogging:)

42 comments:

salarsenッ said...

Wow, hun. I would not have survived that. I would have been What? just like you. With four kiddos, I stinkin' do at least 4 loads of wash a day. No doubt. I can't imagine having to do any of that by hand or take it all to a laundry mat. Ugh...

Alesa Warcan said...

Huh... I guess my fore mothers look down on me. I don't iron either. That said, my mother owned a dryer... And my french grandmother too.

And I will happily laugh at people who iron underwear, in friendly kind of way.

It's only a specific section of french ladies who are nutsoid about the ironing thing.

Jessica Bell said...

Ha! I never iron either, and as you can imagine, here in Greece, being a good housewife is as impotant as staying alive. LOL. I CAN't iron. I tried a couple of times, but my hubbie's shirts didn't turn out wuite right. So now he lets his shirts accumilate and asks the cleaner that comes every fortnight to do them. LOL!

And another thing. I was once complaing that he doesn't do anything. and he said, what do you do? And I said I cook for you every night! and he said, You don't cook! You cut!

Pam Torres said...

Your blog brought back memories of hanging wet diapers to dry all over racks by my wood stove back in the 1980's, not the 1800's, when my dryer broke and I had 3 kid-lets in diapers. I was in the U.S. Ironing? Haven't really done that since grandma taught me to iron pillow cases. Let's see that was 19 blah, blah...

Laura Pauling said...

Okay, that's hilarious! I'm a terrible ironer too! I would totally fail! We take so much for granted, but if you live in France it's just part of life and you don't think twice - unless you've lived in America!

Janet Johnson said...

I had 2 months of washing my clothes in the bathtub with yucky powder detergent, then hanging them up to dry. Yup, I'm SO grateful for my washer and dryer! In fact, that was one of my "must haves" when looking for a place to rent here in DC.

I'm so impressed by your FIVE years of it!

Vicki Rocho said...

I'm laughing...everything is smaller except the irons? hahaha. I have to confess I NEVER iron either. I toss it back in the dryer (sometimes with a damp washcloth to help steam things up) and if that doesn't work, I find something else to wear.

Renae said...

Though I do iron a lot of things, I can't imagine ironing everything! Especially with kids!

Joanna St. James said...

I don't have a dryer either and my washer is skinnier than me, that said I have a humongo iron but that is all for the husband's pleasure. Ironing is not in my repertoire and i wisely buy clothes that stretch out on my body so it can't wrinkle.

Meredith said...

Ugh, I hate ironing. Absolutely hate it. I'm just not any good at it. So cute that your husband bought you a dishwasher and a dryer!

Tamara Narayan said...

My iron has been in storage for almost seven years. It finally saw the light of day to melt a set of plastic beads together arranged in various animal shapes--some kid craft i've forgotten the name of. I can iron, but choose not too. Thankfully, casual wrinkles on a math professor's duds are par for the course, so my husband doesn't expect ironing from me. And after the fourth exploding pen incident, he's not allowed in the laundry room.

Laura Maylene said...

I never learned to iron, either. I view ironing a dress shirt as an art form....an art form I will NEVER understand or embrace.

I do iron occasionally if I end up with a major wrinkle problem, usually when I travel for business, but it always goes the same: I start out all hyped up that this time, I'm totally going to iron properly, for real, and get those wrinkles out!

Flash forward five minutes. I've gotten a couple of wrinkles out but I've also added some new ones. I've arranged the garment in crazy positions on the ironing board and came close to burning myself at least three times. I'm clearly still doing it wrong. So I say "meh, good enough" and call it a day.

Who has time to notice if someone's clothes are wrinkly anyway?

Summer Ross said...

Wowness. I hate ironing. LOl

Honestly it matches what I know of their culture though. I guess it doesn't surprise me that they would be that upturned towards such small things like this, they have a lot of pride in themselves I think.

I want to visit there, not live there. Props to you for handling it sop well!
You could so pull off a comedy story about going America to France and living.

Colene Murphy said...

Oh...Wow! I don't even buy cloths that have to be washed by hand (cute or not...or just risk ruining them) I couldn't imagine ironing them all. I love the outside smell cloths get when hung up to dry but I couldn't do ALL of them! Your hubs is a very nice man to get those for you haha.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Oh wow! I can't imagine having to dry everything outside and then have to iron them. No way. I guess I really am pampered! My in-laws don't have a dishwasher. When hubby and I got married, he was so excited about having a dishwasher that he did all of the dishes.

For about a week until the novelty wore off, lol

Bekah said...

I'm terrible at ironing. I find that the steam function works better when I need it-especially for curtains and stuff

Kate said...

I hate ironing - I hang everything out on the line and let the wind blow the creases away.

Unfortunately today it's all been rained on :-(

Matthew Rush said...

This is why I wear baggy clothes and work at a company that lets us wear khakis and polos.

Ellen aka Ella said...

Whoah, culture time warp...
I'm in my 40's and still struggle with ironing. When I was first married, hubby wanted me to iron his uniforms. This practice didn't last long. He went into great detail, no it needs a seam here,this there. I took one look at him. You were trained in bootcamp how to do it; I was not. YOU DO IT! I do iron on occasion, his pants and cloth for sewing and once in a blue moon a shirt. I went home last summer, we were going to a wedding. My daughter needed her linen top pressed. My Mom looked at me and said, she would do it. I can't iron either~
xXx
Your hubby is a great man to recognize your time and the convenience of today!!!

Tina Lynn said...

Um...yeah...I think I'll just vacation there :D

Carolyn Abiad said...

Lol. I remember being so exited when we got a washer/dryer combo. The same front loading machine washed and then heated (I guess that's what Germans think we mean by dry?) my clothes so that in the end, the clothes came out cooked. As in steaming and hot and STILL needing an iron. So I'm extra thankful for my full size GE dryer now!

Old Kitty said...

Awwwww!! I am so so so so glad you've got a dryer now. I mean I'm all for washing and hanging out and all that but ironing... that's just the devil's tool. LOL!!

But I doff my cap to these magnificent women who do all these marvellous wonderful things. Me - I always head for the "no-iron" clothes rack when shopping!!

Take care
x

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wow. It sounds to me like your hubby is one fantastic man - maybe he should be French-husband-of-the-year! LOL. :-)

notesfromnadir said...

It does seem like you journeyed back into the 1950s w/ having to hang up your clothing outside! & ironing it w/ a heavy iron?! Wow, you are so lucky your husband bought you a dryer. Ironing clothing is no fun, not that I'd know, but I can imagine it's a lot of hard work. My grandmother had to do it & she had an ironing board & while the iron was heavy, it wasn't about to grow legs & walk! :)

Jodi Henry said...

This is a hilarious post. Sorry you had to experiance it thought, really. Ironing sucks. Not having a washer and dryer sucks more.

Thanks for sharing you 1950's experiance with us. Lucky you have a husband who likes wrinkle free jeans.

J

Joy Tamsin David said...

I find your France stories fascinating, keep 'em coming! I've always wanted to visit that country.

Iris Blobel said...

Hi there ... just wanted to stop by and say thanks for following me.!

I've read your blog above and had a bit of a mental head-scratch - I'm either VERY old or very European, I don't know it any other way than hanging out the washing and then do the ironing - AND I LOVE IT, yes I admit it, give me a good movie and I iron literally everything! But I had a good giggle as well, because having moved from Europe to Australia I sometimes thought I had gone back to the 1950s ... it was quite an eyeopener ...

Anyway - hope you've had some success with your book.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Guess what? I don't let my wife iron either because she sucks at it as well. So don't feel bad!

Susan Fields said...

My forty-two year old spoiled American self can't even imagine that! I iron only when absolutely necessary, and that's not very often, let me tell you. :)

Elle Strauss said...

I salute you for living in Europe for so long--I only survived 2 years. And yes, it's quite a cultural adaptation!

Jade said...

I find this fascinating. I live in Australia, and while most people have dryers, EVERYONE has a clothesline and they get used. Every day.
Even in the depths of winter, I'll hang my stuff out on inside drying racks. The dryer is for emergencies only.

Kelly Dexter said...

I'd heard that refrigerators were smaller in France, but I had no idea all the appliance were. This was quite an informative post. The whole time I was reading I couldn't help thinking about how much I actually like to iron. Then, you reached the part about the giant irons and I understood. I don't think I'd enjoy that as much.

Anne Gallagher said...

Well now I know I'll get along well in France. I iron everything, including my daughter's underwear and socks on cold days. (Yeah, I know, sap.)

I haven't used a dryer in almost 20 years.

But I'll tell you what, now that I have my dishwasher, I'm never letting that bad boy go.

Tracy said...

Is this why people are typically more free with being naked in Europe? Because I know I sure as heck would be going commando more often if I had to iron. Heck, here in the States we even create clothes that have the "wrinkled" look. I love those kind the best.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss katie! this post got me laughing for what you said about that french iron being soooo big. ha ha. i didnt ever iron anything in my whole life. i think we got a iron board and a iron somewhere but only my one brother irons a shirt sometimes. we got a washer and dryer and thats good cause theres 6 of us living in our house. theres me and i got 4 more older brothers and one sister. i could hate to think how much clothes that we could have to hang outside. ack! i love your posts on living in france.
...hugs from lenny

Clara said...

Woa! I'd freak out, for sure. I still do, because in my building, we share a washing machine and I hate it. I kindda declarated war on my neighbour, since she always uses the machine on MY washing day. ARGH!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I am SO bad with an iron that my husband bought me a steamer a few years back. I hang up my clothes and steam them before wearing them.

If the steam doesn't get the wrinkles out -- I either wear it as is, or hang it back in the closet and pick something else. :)

Hart Johnson said...

*giggles* I would so DIE if I had to iron! My family would just be stuck in their stiff, wrinkled clothes! I'm glad your new home has the VERY NECESSARY amenity of a dryer! (dishwasher is nice, but I could possibly survive there... dryer... NO FREAKING WAY)

Slamdunk said...

We would not do well there--we love our dryer too much.

I do iron my own shirts though.

LTM said...

oh, Katie! You little princess... :D lol! j/k you~

I *can* iron--quite well, actually--but I HATE to iron. Not really sure why. It's sort of satisfying pressing those wrinkles...

but don't you love the way line-dried clothes smell??? My g'mom always line dried, and they're so fresh~ mmm :o) <3

DL Hammons said...

Just to show you how warped my mind is, when I read the title of your post I thought... Is that a wrinkle in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?

:)

Haddock said...

Ha ha....I laughed at that....... I’ve just arrived back in the 1950s.’

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