When A Girl Feels That She’s Perfectly Groomed And Dressed She Can Forget That Part Of Her*

The past few days I’ve been scrambling to find clothes to wear. I didn’t gain or lose any significant amount of weight. It’s not laundry time. I wasn’t robbed. I didn’t lose my wardrobe in a house fire. My iron stopped working.

To some people, this might not be a big deal, but for me, it’s major. Every morning before work, I iron the outfit I intend to wear, sometimes several. I may not like the fit or look of the first outfit. After I iron my work clothes, my workout clothes are next. Before placing new linens on my bed, I iron the sheets and pillow cases. While vacationing in Puerto Rico a few years ago, I let my friend shower first so that I could press that day’s outfits. Even though I live alone, I sometimes press my pajamas.

I think my undiagnosed OCD about neatly pressed things is inherent. My grandmother pressed the head scarf
that I wore to bed and my cotton sports bras. I have an aunt who spends hours every other weekend starching and pressing not only the scrubs she wears as a CNA at the VA hosital, but also her regular clothes, her daughter’s clothes, sheets, curtains, cloth napkins and even other people’s clothes. I have an uncle who used to iron his three kids’ clothes and his wife’s colorful nursing scrubs. I sometimes removed an article of clothing to have him press it (again) while visiting. While shopping, I’ll opt not to buy something if the fabric seems too delicate (I might accidentally burn it) or if it has intricate designs, pleats, ruffles or buttons that will prove difficult to press on my own. I don’t own a steamer.

One of my childhood Saturday chores was to launder and press, not only my own, but also my father’s and my two younger brothers’ clothes. During my two year stint in Catholic middle school, I had no problem adhering to the strict dress code. Girls had to wear a blue and green plaid skirt, matching vest, white, yellow or light blue blouse, and navy blue tights or knee-high socks–navy blue cardigan optional. I ironed my uniform every morning, or sometimes the night before, carefully making sure the pleats lay flat before I sprayed starch and applied heat. I ironed my blouses, even though I wore a cardigan all year long. My vest covered my back and chest; my cardigan covered the sleeves.  I ironed the whole blouse, including the collar.

In high school, I had my own iron. I wanted the ease of reaching into my closet to retrieve my iron rather than searching or asking who of the other three members in the house had the “community” iron. The boys claimed my iron was better and ofen hijacked it. I failed to be creative with the hiding spots. I don’t remember the brand of the iron, but it was part steamer and created creases so sharp they could slice bread.  I was excited the first time I bought an iron with a retractable cord.

Living on campus freshman year of college, my tabletop ironing board and iron sat semi-neglected. My unofficial uniform was stretch pants or sweats, which I only pressed if I didn’t fold and put them away immediately after removing them from the dryer. I also ironed the free t-shirts I got for signing up for campus clubs and credit cards. I wore them to aerobics classes at student athletics center.

I resumed wearing non-spandex and non-synthetic fiber clothes during winter break when I returned to my former after school position as office assisant at a small consulting firm. Even though I was the youngest employee, I was minfdul to look every bit as professional as my co-workers in the business casual environment. My attire often prompted some of the administrative assistants to ask why I was so “dressed up.”

The dress code of my current job is also business casual. Some people take it too far by wearing flip flops or t-shirts to the office, a far cry from my days of working in an office where employees were allowed to wear jeans only on Fridays. I enjoy our lax dress code, but I take pride in my appearance, which is why for the past few days putting together an outfit that didn’t need to be ironed proved difficult. Faint wrinkles seemed to have a spotight on them.  I deemed my sweaters, which had creases from being folded and stored, unwearable. Because of my crazy work schedule I didn’t have time to stop at a Bed, Bath & Beyond or Target to pick up a new iron after work, nor could I do it during lunch. For three days I wore the same template of an outfit: skinny jeans, knee hight boots and a fitted knit sweater that if I could, I would press.

Thank goodness for the weekend.

*F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Short Stories


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