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Ironing seen as a form of torture

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A guest column by Elroy Riggs

Tonight, I ironed some clothes. If you don't think that's worth mentioning, it's either because you've never ironed any yourself, or because you're a lot better at it than I am.

There are jobs to be done in life that I'll never master and ironing is one of them. I enjoy the idea of pressing something to make it look better, but as soon as I start, I remember all over again how impossible ironing is for me. I think there is a special place in heaven for those mothers and wives that spend days of their lives ironing clothes.

They've never made a shirt that doesn't need ironing, no matter what it's made of. All "permanent press" clothing needs pressing. "Permanent press" is as inaccurate as "one size fits all" or "no-stick" frying pans. One size doesn't fit anybody, and when you cook in a no-stick Teflon pan and spray it with no-stick Pam, things will stick.

It doesn't have to be a shirt, though. I remember trying to iron a bed sheet once. Here's this perfectly flat piece of cloth, free of pleats, buttons or irregularities of any kind, and I could not get the wrinkles out of it without ironing in more wrinkles than I was removing.

Ironing pants is even harder than ironing shirts. If I make a mess of a shirt, I can always put a jacket on and cover most of my mistakes. Pants are right out there in the open where everyone can see them.

The only really major change in men's clothing in my lifetime has been the elimination of cuffs on pants. It doesn't seem like much, but if the time ever comes when fashion people decide it would look good for men to wear pants with two creases up the front of each trouser leg, I'll have several pairs of very fashionable pants.

When I iron my pants, I almost always end up with two creases, the old one and the new one. I can't hit that old crease with my iron. I'm not at all satisfied with irons in many respects. We have one that is supposed to emit steam from little holes in the bottom, but at least once while I'm ironing, it gets some water it doesn't like and spits it out all over my clothes.

And who decided what shape an iron should be? I don't notice the dry cleaners using anything like they sell us to use at home. I can do the left side of the front of my shirts with the iron. It's when I get to the right front side, the side with the buttons, that I get into trouble. How do you get in between buttons three inches apart with an iron five inches wide?

The pointy nose doesn't help at all. The only part of a shirt I can really do a good job on is the shirttail, and no one sees that.

The shape of an ironing board isn't any better than the shape of the iron. Most of what you're trying to press hangs over the sides and pulls wrinkles into the cloth you're trying to smooth out.

Our ironing board is too small to lay a pair of pants flat and too big for me to be able to slip the pant leg over the end.

If I was a spy who got caught and my captors wanted to make me talk, the most effective thing they could do is put me in a utility room with a pile of shirts to iron. Before the day was over, I'd crack and tell them everything they wanted to know.

• Elroy Riggs is a Campbellsville resident who contributes guest columns to the Central Kentucky News-Journal.