There’s a line in one of my songs, “Finding Barbie’s Shoes,” that says, “every day is laundry day.” If you have any kids at all, you know what I mean. Well, unless you have a shipping container full of clean underwear in your backyard, that is. In that case, you’re probably violating some sort of skivvy-related zoning ordinance.
I’m killing time right now, waiting for a load of pants to dry. Well, pants, skirts, shorts, colored socks and colored underwear. That’s how I categorize this particular load of laundry: it’s worn below the waist, and it’s colored. Next I’ll be loading up the washer with hoodies, blouses, t-shirts and tablecloths. What’s that you say? You never wore a tablecloth? Remind me not to invite you to a party.
Scaling Mount Laundry is a never-ending expedition at the Wire homestead, and Barb and I tend to separate laundry differently.
“Honey,” she’ll call from our bedroom in the back of the house, when she hears the washer filling up. “What kind of load are you putting in?”
“Shirts!” I’ll holler back.
A moment of silence, then, “You mean colored shirts?”
“Yeah!” And white shirts. And silk shirts. And rayon shirts. And flannel shirts. But no sweaters, man. I ignore washing all my wife’s sweaters, because they eventually seem to take care of themselves.
Being a Professional, who works in an Office, Barb has a wardrobe of conservative, adult clothing that mostly requires hand washing or dry cleaning. I found that I had to ruin only one or two garments before being relieved of that particular duty. Now these high-maintenance, fussy career clothes pile up in their own hamper in our bedroom, getting completely ignored by me every day as I round up all the dirty jeans, t-shirts, boxer shorts and sweat pants. I tell you what, I’d wear a three-piece suit to work every day if Champion made one out of sweat pants material.
And then there’s the whites. I wash the crap out of the whites (I used to mean that literally, but the kids have gotten better at doing their, um, paperwork). Hot water. Hot rinse. Extra soap. Second rinse cycle. Bleach. More rinse. I pour a couple glugs of Clorox down the bleach hole, and then I spend the next two hours gagging, eyes watering, till the washer quits spinning and those clothes are sparkling white. Super white. Larry Bird white. Occasionally, Barb will ask me about a particular piece of clothing that I have included in this Silkwood-level process.
“Did you wash those new underwear of mine? The off-white ones?”
“Yeah, babe. Only now they’re on-white.”
The dryer is a whole ‘nother source of conflict between Barb and me. I have a problem with dryer sheets.
Rusty and I spend the winter with sore throats and wheezy lungs. This is partly because of Missoula’s infamous dirty air, and partly because we smoke a lot of cigars. Well, since Rusty is only nine, his are the bubble gum variety. Anyway, I heard that Proctor & Gamble and other soap companies imbue their dryer sheets and fabric softeners with addictive chemicals and fragrances, compelling consumers to feel a need to use their products more and more. These chemicals, it turns out, can be highly irritating to folks with compromised respiratory systems. This was reported on Fox News, so it has to be true, right? Well, as soon as I found out about this, I bought some crazy static-breaking gloves for the dryer, and organic, geranium-based fabric softener for the washer. The gloves seemed to work for everything but Barb’s career clothes, which began to cling to her like real estate agents on a retired Californian. Plus, she didn’t like smelling like a flowerbox.
So I found a compromise. We use dryer sheets that claim to be free of dyes and perfumes. But they still smell vaguely perfumey. I mean, if their purpose is to keep clothes from clinging together, shouldn’t they smell like Teflon? Or Pam? Maybe I should take another whiff. There’s probably one stuck to the inside my sweat pants.
The whole clothes-washing ritual has so many unanswered questions in general. For instance, every time I empty the dryer I have to peel a foot-long blanket of lint off the lint screen. With this much material being sucked from every load, how is it that we have any clothes left at all? If I iron the lint blanket will it become a doo-rag? Could I use it to wipe up minor spills and treat cuts and abrasions? And if we’re not finding other uses for it, does it all just go to waste? I think there’s more lint in our nation’s landfills than there are old tires and Mariah Carey CDs.
All in all, the laundry is probably the least unpleasant of all the housekeeping chores. Unless I forget to empty Rusty’s pockets the day he brings home a hamster.