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:)