A few things my mother taught me when I was a kid have served me well throughout life. I can fry an egg without overcooking the yolk or undercooking the white … because no one likes runny eggs. Unfortunately, she taught me by using bacon fat, which isn’t as fashionable today as it was 50 years ago.
Then, she taught me how to fry meatballs and cook them in homemade gravy. There was a lot of frying in our house, which is probably why I’ve been cursed with cholesterol problems. We also fried pepperoni, and if you’ve never had a fried pepperoni sandwich, you don’t know what you’re missing, although it’s something you might be better off missing.
One of the most valuable skills she taught me was how to iron. Back in those days, she’d spend hours pressing my father’s work clothes, in addition to her full-time job, so she needed my help.
It took much instruction and practice before I finally got it right, because a shirt has to be ironed in a certain sequence, from the collar to the shoulders, the cuffs, the sleeves and the body — or else everything gets messed up.
I groaned and grumbled when I had to iron flannel shirts. You see, my father was a working man who didn’t wear Brooks Brothers permanent press dress shirts valued at $100 apiece.
This was in the pioneer days before we had polyester, clothes dryers, and steam irons with different settings for cotton, wool and synthetic fabrics. After the 100% cotton shirts came off the clothesline, you had to wet them with a water bottle that had a sprinkler, and then roll them up to distribute the dampness.
We put so much effort into ironing my father’s clothes you would have thought he was an executive with a Park Avenue office instead of the most nattily dressed carpenter on the Bridgeport construction sites. We even ironed his handkerchiefs.
Come to think of it, we were more obsessed with starched collars and smartly creased pants than the U.S. Marines. However, my zealous pursuit of the perfect crease caused me to burn a good number of trousers.
Needless to say, I became an elitist, who took note of my friends’ wrinkled clothes, and I eventually started judging people by the creases in their pants the same way we judge people by the size of their cell phones, the make of their cars and the limits on their credit cards.
I confess that I enjoyed ironing. It was like Zen meditation, a true source of relaxation and peace, and certainly an art that few people appreciate nowadays. The joys, though, are short-lived because by the end of the day, the wrinkles have returned, along with the perspiration stains, and the shirt is destined for the wash again.
Even today, I often brag that my ironing skills are better than my wife’s and four daughters’, not to mention our dry-cleaners’. On more than one occasion, I’ve asked them to iron a pair of pants and later discovered a double crease while I was at work. Most men could care less about a double crease, but it disrupts my sense of cosmic harmony.
I’m not going to insist ironing is something every young woman should learn because I don’t want to be deluged by email from angry feminists or my daughters, for that matter. But it’s certainly a skill every young man should acquire, especially if he doesn’t have an accommodating mother, wife, girlfriend or sister and can’t afford to have his clothes dry-cleaned.
It’s such a necessary talent that I’m considering offering my services to the younger generation.
I recently read about a fellow who goes by the moniker Iron Man and gives free ironing lessons at bars in Brooklyn. He’s become quite a celebrity and wears a white lab coat while he works. He loves ironing for his three kids with his Black and Decker steam iron and presses clothes for free at his demonstrations. He’s also a purist, who insists that only barbarians would sleep on un-ironed sheets.
Years before this guy came along, I had the tools and the talent but I lacked the vision. My career path could have been entirely different if I began my own business, ironing underwear and silk skirts with pleats … instead of pecking away at a typewriter in the newsroom.
Maybe there’s still time. Maybe I can exploit my talents in the Trump entrepreneurial tradition. I’ll run a food truck on Park Avenue, where I’ll sell fried pepperoni sandwiches … and iron your Brooks Brothers’ shirts while you wait. For a significant fee, of course.
Contact Joe Pisani at firstname.lastname@example.org.