I think one of the best decisions of my adult life was to eschew the iron. When I was a teenager this was my chore* and I didn't mind it too much. I could whack on Heathers for the umpteenth time and recite it merrily to myself as I smoothed the shirts. It beat scrubbing floors or dusting which left me with chipped nails and a snotty nose. Therefore it's clearly not the actual chore itself I dislike, it's more that, as I age and care less about what people think of me, I have decided I don't like the whole concept of ironing.
I am convinced that the idea of ironing is tied up with a sense of public shaming. At least the arbitrary rules of etiquette were put in place to try and help people get along. Ironing benefits no one. It is an arbitrary construct, tied up with ideas of class, success and respectability. Prior to the invention of the washing machine and electric iron, how well pressed a man's shirt was indicated the state of his home and his marriage. Ironing is a hark back to the days where you blacked your step, ironed your clothes and stayed trapped in a loveless or abusive marriage for fear of what the neighbours would say. It is the epitome of respectability.
My wardrobe is respectably full of breton tops, Boden shirts and skinny jeans; the standard 'mum uniform' - but I stress that none of them are ironed. Ever. During my transitional phase I tried to buy clothes that wouldn't crease. Nowadays I buy what I like and hang it up to dry - if it's creased, fuck it; it only looks like it would after I'd been wearing it for half an hour anyway. There have been no snarky comments - not to my face at any rate, I have not lost friends due to my crumpled state, it has not hampered me entering any establishment I want to enjoy. Not ironing my clothes has made not one discernible difference to my life.
I appreciate it's nice to put on a freshly ironed cotton shirt, still gently wafting that freshly laundered scent, the warmth of it like a lover's caress, but then I feel properly glum when I besmirch it with coffee or croissant crumbs or whatnot minutes later.** An unironed shirt is a proactive statement that benefits my life, a spoiled one makes me feel like a failure. A creased shirt is kinder, the myriad micro-shadows created by all the crinkles can hide a multitude of sins. I feel under less pressure to behave when my clothes are already relaxed and, quite frankly, I'm sick of behaving myself.
It's not even like eschewing this chore has freed me up to complete more worthwhile tasks. In our house ironing has always been my husband's domain. He wants ironed shirts for work far more often than I ever did so the burden of making bumpy things smooth has always fallen to him. It's just I no longer hand him my clothes to be ironed now. I just wear them when I want to wear them. Sometimes he irons my stuff anyway and I have a vision of what it must have been like to be a middle class man in the 1920s. It's heady stuff, I can tell you.
Not ironing my clothes is part of my brand of feminism. I am not dressing for anyone but myself. I do not dress for the male gaze and i do not dress for the female gaze that is filtered through a patriarchal prism - both of which say how I appear is more important than what I do, say or am. Anyone who is distracted by my slightly rumpled shirt probably wasn't really listening to me in the first place.
*It will be my kids' too - ironing fosters contemplation, meditation and keeps the buggers in one place
**I will concede that I often think Pigpen from the Peanuts comics is my spirit animal.