Backstage Writers – Think Hope Do

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Postmodern Challenges – Defining Impact

A Postmodern Question

Why do we iron?

There is a certain hypnotic pleasure to the act. One or two gentle strokes, the ugly crease is gone, and you have straight, smooth cloth. We need this smoothness for some reason. Why? What do we get out of this repetitive, seemingly useless act? If every time I ironed, one starving child got fed, I’d iron every day. Imagine the sense of purpose we’d feel if we could iron out hunger, disease, inequality. We’d iron for peace. We’d iron to protect the ozone layer. Yes, I could understand ironing if there were a higher purpose to it. Have we defined smoothness as essential to the sedentary chapter of our existence? Ironing goes way back. Smoothness is neither a modern, nor a postmodern obsession. If the act of smoothing things weren’t in some way essential to our well-being, I’m certain we would have done away with ironing long before we put a man on the moon. We spend incredible energy on this ritual. We do love rituals. Religious practices are full of them. We go through all sorts of motions to honor values, ideas, and events that symbolize greatness. Ironing must be such a ritual. Does ironing satisfy a general need to smooth out our environment, like the cat patting your lap before it lies on it? Or does the pleasure we get from steaming away creases represent a cathartic release from the wrinkles we can’t smooth out? These untouchable wrinkles come in many forms. There are the ones you might find under your eyes, around your mouth. Some people have wrinkles on their knees. Imagine now if we could smooth out the wrinkles in our time management skills, our relationships, our abilities to hold our own at cocktail parties? Imagine if we could press all the icks of our lives back into a nice smooth line. That’s what we want, isn’t it? We want to smooth our lives into order, get into sync with the world, fit in with the standard codes. One swipe of an iron and imperfection disappears. It’s raw power, a sense of mastery, one hot fist against the universe, God in a bucket of steam.

OK, maybe ironing is just about not looking frumpy. I’m still glad I asked the question.

Category: Postmodern Challenges

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7 Responses

  1. NomyL says:

    I appreciate the symbolism and it’s elegantly written, but you’re still not going to get me to iron !

  2. Robert says:

    I often wonder about how important rituals are. I have a friend who is from and Episcopal church who finds most less formal services very unfulfilling. The rituals are important to his sense of connection with God.

    So many mundane actions seem to gather value over time. My sister has 3 kids, 2 absolutely hate to clean. But the youngest watched my mother clean as a baby and got a toy brooms when she was young. My niece would play she was grow-up by sweeping. She pushed a chair up to the stove so she could cook. at 11 she made a nice home-made grenache for her grandmother’s birthday party.

    My sister tried the same idea with me, giving me a new Swiffer for my 47th birthday. It didn’t work out as well. But my niece was genuinely excited as she offered to show me how to use it and how handy it was for cleaning and waxing.

  3. Marie says:

    I’m all in favor of passing a law that no one can wear smooth clothes. I love your analogies, but it doesn’t convince me that ironing is a necessity. I’m for revolution.

  4. tom weathers says:

    I’ve made peace with the ritual of cleaning the cat’s litter box (and it might help that my nose is old and doesn’t work as well). But there is something nice about removing the lumps and clods and leaving a nice smooth plain of cat litter.

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-I’m not sitting here, Fran!

-Oh Tod.

-Don’t start that, Fran.

-He did say, “Center Stage.”

-Why us?

-We’re props, Tod.

-Why’d he choose us, Fran? We’re not the only Americans. We weren’t first in line. Is it my weight? Is it your-

-He looked so pleased to put us here.

-And so we’re just going to sit here ‘cause “Monsieur” looked pleased? Are you nuts, Fran?

-Oh, Tod. You wanted something contemporary… You like being on stage.

-I can’t even talk to you.

-Don’t touch them!

-There’s got to be a back door. Don’t want to step over your “Monsieur”. Why’s he standing guard like that?

-Tod, you never touch the curtains in a theatre.

-Why the hell not? Let me guess, because theatre is like life? Is that it, Fran? You don’t turn your back on anybody, and you don’t touch his curtains? You’re pathetic, Fran!

-Sit down, Tod.

-I don’t like that tone, Fran.

-What tone?

-That sweet little voice of yours! I hate it when you get all nice. I know what you’re thinking.

-If you don’t want to-

-Stop whispering, Fran!

-If you don’t want to be part of the spectacle, sit down and try to act-

-Act how?

-Now is not the time.

-Come on, Fran, how should I act?

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