Pressing concern


All my life I have searched for perfection. It resides not in a flower petal or baby’s smile, or a chocolate soufflé or vintage cabernet sauvignon.

It is not a metaphor for how we live our lives, or how we should live our lives. It’s much more basic, more mundane.

My quest begins and ends with ironing.

While I’ve mastered other household skills to a passable degree, I have found that ironing remains my eternal goal.

It’s not that I can’t iron a button-front shirt. I have studied under the masters.

The first mentor was Robert Fulghum, who discussed the matter at length in “Maybe (Maybe Not): Second Thoughts from a Secret Life.” In one essay, he defines the spirituality of the perfectly ironed shirt done by one’s own hand, the simple joy of a task learned, practiced and accomplished.

The second mentor was Martha Stewart, who imparted her wisdom on the cardboard insert of her Martha Stewart Everyday ironing board replacement cover. She insists on a thorough job, ironing both the inside and outside of the garment. Martha taught me what a placket was.

The third mentor was Real Simple magazine, which skipped the time-consuming inside ironing for a four-part method: collar, yoke (the back upper-center panel), sleeves and body.

Starting out, I ironed in a most haphazard fashion with an ancient hand-me-down iron, one with a gritty soleplate. I cringe at how those early dress shirts fared under my clumsy care.

As I practiced the Martha technique, I set aside hours to press each panel, each side with a loving touch. I had a plastic spray bottle to prep each shirt before placing it on the board.

Those shirts were barely wrinkled after a day’s wear — not that I’d ever re-wear a shirt before the next laundry day. Her technique brought superior results.

The Real Simple plan brought much-needed simplification to the task. By dropping the additional ironing on the insides, I had the same results in about half the time. This was the way to tame a closet of unruly wrinkles.

To this day, I iron each shirt the exact same way, in a methodical Zen fashion. Each crisp garment brings a measured joy, finery made finer and flatter.

Yet, I wonder if I’ll ever truly attain ironing perfection. I press ever onward.


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