ironWhen I was a young and foolish bride-to-be, the main excitement I got out of filling out a registry was to concoct an ideal household; you know, the kind with matching dishes I could never afford on my own, linen tablecloths, and every known kitchen gadget. Also on that list, culled from weeks of researching all the advice available on the Web: an iron.

I had never had an iron of my own before. I'm not even sure my parents owned one. I don't remember ever once seeing my mother iron when I was growing up. I certainly never saw my grandmother with one (she didn't even cook). My father and grandfather? Forget about it. My dad wore a button-down blue shirt nearly every day, but my mom bought the kind of wash-and-wear shirts that magically were neat enough if you hung them up right out of the dryer.

But, yet, I felt compelled to add that item to my fantasy household of the future.
And I got that iron, of course. It came from some dutiful relative, along with the matching sheet sets and the salad spinner (which we use often and has amused the children for hours) and the other useful items our family and friends gave us. And today it sits under my bed, unused after five years and still sealed in the box. Perhaps some day I'll trot it out for some purpose -- to make grilled cheese on a rainy day or afix Girl Scout badges to a sash. But for now, it's safe and sound and out of reach, the most useless item in the house.

So what do I do when I have a wrinkled shirt? I go to the dry cleaners, of course. I live in New York, so that's easy, and inexpensive. But I have taken random polls of people across the country over the last few weeks and have come across only one person who has an iron and regularly uses it -- my boss.

Maybe using an iron is a measure of success, and if I employed one more regularly, I'd climb up the corporate ladder. But something tells me if I spend any of my time ironing, I'd be a less productive employee. As it is, I can barely manage to keep myself and my family in clean laundry.


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