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The Zen of ironing

Ironing is cool.

There’s no point in denying it. My family has known for some time, so you might as well too. I love to iron.

The smell of crisp clean cotton under steam. The challenges of placquets, darts, tucks and pleats. The satisfaction of an empty ironing basket and a closet full of clothes cleaned, pressed and ready to go. Sure it's borderline barking mad, but it's relatively harmless.

It goes back to Air Cadets. My brother and I were in Air Cadets because our father had been in the Royal Canadian Air Force – it was that simple. Sir. And we were responsible for our uniforms. Spit and polish on the heavy round black boots. Bit of Brasso on the insignia on the cap. Iron the shirt, then a sharp crease down the pants. You had to put a towel over the blue serge pants or they’d get shiny. It was one small teenage drudgery among many but, for some reason that even years of therapy may not unlock, it stuck.

Ironing is like any kind of cleaning job – it’s mindless, and you have a tangible, satisfying, positive result at the end. It’s a kind of meditation – ironing zen.

I use a rickety ironing board that’s more than 30 years old. Its brown tubular metal legs shriek against each other as they scissor open, frightening the dog. The iron itself is a thing of beauty -- form perfectly matching function. A few years ago I discovered the cordless iron, which sits on its base at a 45-degree angle, steaming quietly like some rocketship ready to launch. 

I used to iron in front of the TV, watching baseball or some other slow moving sport. Curling maybe. Not golf. You can’t make any noise with golf. Now I iron with the laptop booted up to iTunes.  

The best ironing music is broad and expansive. Lyrical, like Finnish harpist and pianist Iro Haarla, who paints huge jazzy pictures in the style of Sibelius or Grieg. Chopin Piano music is always good, especially the Nocturnes. Miles Davis or Campbell Ryga. Sometimes a little Jack Teagarden or Paolo Nutini is fun to sing along with.

Some people take ironing to extremes, and call it Extreme Ironing. They pack their boards up mountains, dive to the ocean floor or attempt to iron clothes in a fast-moving boat or while bungee-jumping. Some attribute the idea to a 1995 song called Negasonic Teenage Warhead by American stoner band Monster Magnet. Others claim it was British factory worker Phil Shaw looking to combine a little ironing with a night out in 1997. At any rate, now the movement is international.

Compared to them, my ironing jones is quite manageable. My family has accepted my passion (although our son did move out). My wife has even embraced it, smiling when I hand her another batch of freshly ironed socks. At least I think she’s smiling. 

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