Friday, April 8, 2011

Flat Out Foolish

I'm just finishing my ironing. I'm ironing sheets and pillowcases. Yes, you heard me right...I'm ironing sheets and pillowcases! I'm doing this... again... because my first visitor of the season just left and I've got another one coming today. Which really, as I think about it,  isn't a very good reason, is it? I mean, who irons sheets and pillowcases, anyway?

The French do, that's who! The French seem to iron everything and I seem to be integrating whether I like it or not. 

I had an ironing board in the states. And yes, I used touch up my work clothes or iron the boys clean t-shirts that I'd left folded neatly on their beds and subsequently found laying in a heap on their floors. On Easter Sunday I would iron their only dress shirts, only to find that their arms had grown 3 inches since last Easter and it wasn't worth the bother.  My ex-pectorant used the iron to touch up his shirts between wearings, but he sent out his white collars and let somebody else do it.  Otherwise, the ironing board stood there and collected stuff. You know, just stuff. Like the kitchen table collects stuff, or the top of the washing machine by the back door collects stuff.

But it seems here in France, they're serious about their ironing. I am a femme de menage. This means, I'm a cleaning lady but I like the way it sounds in French better (do not mention this to the french government). I clean toilets, kitchens, bedrooms, fireplaces, and windows. And I do the ironing. The first time I went to my job, my boss opened a closet to reveal a stack of ironing like I've never seen before. I gasped. It's not like I don't know how to iron. When I was growing up, the bathrooms and the family ironing were my job and my mother carefully taught me how to do them both properly.  So apparently, returning to my childhood while here in France, I ironed washclothes, sheets, duvets, pillowcases, shirts, dresses, sweaters, leggings, nylon gym pants, old painting clothes and JEANS. Yes, jeans! In fact, I ironed a mountain of towels as well, which she later told me wasn't necessary...they just happened to be in the same closet. But still...washlclothes? Paintclothes?

When I see students moving in or out of their flats, there is always an ironing board involved. I'm not sure that my sons have ever owned an ironing board or an iron! My apartment is furnished and, of course, it came with all the equipment to do my ironing as well. I have since improved my equipment because I found a really nice, practically new iron (aside from the fact that someone obviously dropped it and it leaks...but only in a certain position) in the dumpster. It’s a plain, regular old iron. I point this out because when it comes to ironing, the French are not messing around. This contraption is very common here.

It's called a centrale vapeur. I don’t even know what it is but I hope when my heart stops, I will be here in France. Most certainly some well-meaning stranger will be able to defibrulate me with this sucker.

French artists seem to love ironing as well. Or rather, they like to paint women ironing. Obviously an interesting subject that Edgar Degas especially loved. This is just one of his many.

But Pablo Picasso, 

Louis Boilly 

and Armand Desire Gautier

got their hands in the picture as well.
 In the picture, yes, but I imagine not in the ironing. When I do the ironing I look more like Picasso's version than Boilly's lovely maiden.

Not to say that men don't iron here as well. In fact, I noticed that the champion of the Fer d'Or, a national ironing contest sponsored by Phillips Company, always seems to have a male champion. This time a Parisian barman. 

The strange thing is that I don't really mind this job. And there is something really heavenly about sleeping on freshly line dried, ironed sheets (not having dryers has a lot to do with the necessity of ironing). Okay, so I only do my pillow cases and the tops of my sheets. But the old linen sheets that I've been buying at the brocantes simply must be ironed. They just must. And of course, the linens for visitors. But I'll be damned if I'm going to iron jeans...or leggings! Anything that has to stretch that tight doesn't need to be ironed.

The assimilation process continues. I noticed today that my medicine cabinet is starting to look very in...full to bursting. But that's another post.


clipart provided by graphics fairy


  1. Yay for you and for ironing. We currently do not own an ironing board and since my husband doesn't have to wear a shirt and tie everyday anymore, he doesn't seem to mind. He does most of the ironing and when the ironing board broke, we didn't get another one. Now he's ironing on our granite countertops, which can't be good. I've got to get him a new one. Father's Day is coming up!

  2. Here in Texas they not only iron the jeans, they starch the jeans too. I do neither and I'm a lousy at ironing according to my mom & husband, which is a-okay with me :) Although I do love the looks of those irons...they would look lovely on the shelf.

  3. I iron just everything I can - from tea towels to sheets - and I thought I was just crazy.... but I am actually just channeling ze French!! Merci!

  4. Just looking at that art made me tired!

  5. To be totally honest....ironing is one of my favorite activities! It's just so satisfying. I always, always iron all pillow cases, sheets, dish towels, not to mention clothes! And yes, I hang them up to dry (our dryer has lasted almost 30 years from under-use!)
    Ah yes, my Mother would be proud!

  6. In Italy too most people seem to iron just everything, including tights and panties. I love to sleep in ironed linens, but I gave up ironing lately. It seems that I have become a lousy housewife, and you know what? I do not care anymore!

  7. Loathe ironing and do the minimum to preserve respectability..but you're right about those sheets.
    I collected them too and have hauled the lot to Costa Rica...and I iron them!
    I know French women who have someone in twice a week...just to do the ironing!
    As for the centrale vapeur...I have dark suspicions it is a sort of pressure cooker and wouldn't go within ten yards of one.

    The dryer is a new phenomenon to me.
    My mother gave me one for my birthday some years ago...and i think I've used it twice in all that time.
    I like to put washing out on the line, but American friends here shudder at the very thought....

  8. oh no! just can't go there!!!!! Pas de ironing!!!!!

  9. Well, I knew there would eventually be that sticking point preventing me from moving to France.

    If it weren't for Downy Wrinkle Releaser, I would have slit my wrists long ago.

    My job (in a family of eight) growing up was ironing, too, and my mother insisted on having everything (except towels) ironed, too. I'm so over it!

    I rarely iron now...and I won't buy any item that looks as if it will need it!

    People will do nearly anything in a competetive situation, won't they? I don't think there's a big enough prize to get me into this one, though!

  10. Bonjour Delana - oh! how I love that painting by Degas - the lady yawning reminds me of myself - just bored to death ironing. But because I love the French way of doing things I think it's time to reform and start enjoying the task.
    sheets, pillow cases, towels, tea towels - I shall iron the lot and in so doing shall feel very - very French!!

  11. Sounds like I should send all my house guests to your place for nice comfy sheets ;) I just made the bed for my mom's upcoming visit and the sheets look like a wrinkly mess. At least they are clean and smell like lavender, right?

  12. The iron sheets you presented me with made me feel "special" after I got over the shock of it all!

  13. My husband took over the iron after I melted the iron board cover to his best dress shirt twentysome years ago. I remain an eternally disabled housewife!

  14. One of my mother's friends irons cloth napkins and her panties. Napkins, I get; but PANTIES?!!

  15. Ironing, a small price to pay for LIVING IN FRANCE....Such a cute post, and the lifestyle of daily living in France. I can't get enough, so thanks........

    The French Hutch

  16. Great observation, as always. You're able to zero on the things that make France... well, French! Clever, clever selection of paintings, too.

  17. Love the collection of pictures but I obviously have no French blood in me! I hate ironing and only do it when absolutely necessary.

    That thing in my garden grows all over the place perhaps you had better come and visit before they all fall off!! Diane

  18. Oh! Boy, do I hate ironing, but the centrale vapeur I got has really reduced the hate factor. I decided to get one after talking to the little old ladies who get books from the library where I volunteer. They still iron everything, but they ALL have centrales vapeurs, without exception. I decided to get one (they aren't cheap!). Lord, as far as ironing goes? Best thing since sliced bread. Your hand just slides over the fabric and the wrinkles melt away. Almost makes ironing alright.

  19. They iron sheets in Ireland too.
    I have never gone that far. It is kind of zen though when you really put your heart into it. I'm on my way...
    aidan xo

  20. I'm with Fly - I iron as little as possible. My dear mother-in-law on the other hand will iron absoluteleverything if I let her, even underpants! The Picasso painting you chose is one of my absolute favourites - thanks!


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