Lads, let me tell you, this laundering is a doddle

By David Medcalf

My pal Willie was one of the first males of our generation IN Our Town to fall in with the women's movement. No better man to burn a bra. He could talk the feminist talk on issues such as equal pay, contraception, glass ceilings and gender balance long before most of his buddies realised such issues were there to be talked about. The rest of us were content to bumble along in a world where stereotype father figures were the doctors and the judges and the breadwinners and the pint drinkers.

Meanwhile, the stereotype mother figures served up hot dinners, painted their nails and made sure their sons had clean handkerchiefs. But society was changing and my friend was smart enough to sense the shifting of the wind, while also being brave enough to break ranks and side openly with the ladies - except we probably were not supposed to call them ladies any more.

Willie was happy to be thought of as having a nodding acquaintance with Germaine Greer, though I don't suppose that the author of 'The Female Eunuch' ever claimed to have a nodding acquaintance with our Willie. It was Greer who said: 'The housewife is an unpaid employee in her husband's house in return for the security of being a permanent employee.' I sometimes felt that my friend would have liked to turn that thought on its head and offer himself as an employee of some energetic woman prepared to have him as her support crew.He probably fancied an arrangement which would have allowed him the leisure to write poetry in the mornings and work on his golf handicap in the afternoons without the pressure of having to earn real money.

As it turned out, after testing the bras (or bralessness) of several others, the woman with whom he settled down on a long term basis instead required a genuinely equal partnership. So Willie has spent the past four decades pulling his weight as a wage earner while also doing his bit around the home. Though never cordon bleu standard as a cook, he has his own apron hanging on the back of the kitchen door and serves an acceptable shepherd's pie.

He has been known to tidy the sitting room and takes his turn with the vacuum cleaner, though he generally needs to be prompted into such activity. He knows where the spare fuses are and is one of the few men on this planet who makes up the bed without having to be asked.

Yet I still sometimes wonder disloyally whether Willie's feminist egalitarianism might just possibly be worn as a cloak of convenience. He may make the packed lunches and clean the toilet bowl and make the weekly run to the supermarket but he fails the ultimate test. Willie does not do laundry. He has never so much as washed a sock in all their time together - except the once, when Helen was away on a break with 'the girls'. She returned from her four-star hotel in Clonakilty to find five-star chaos at home as Willie had decided to try his hand at the washing machine. Her best jumper had shrunk from a comfortable medium to misshapen tiny and her best white lingerie was now a dull off-pink hue. He has not been permitted to so much as rinse a tee-shirt since.

But now that I have had a quarter century to think about it, and now that I have myself become an expert on laundry, I wonder whether there was an element of the deliberate in his wilful jumbling together of delicates and coloureds.

As of last Thursday week, I could have told him that he was courting calamity when he turned up the temperature dial, thus guaranteeing that the dye would run and the woollens shrivel.

Last Thursday week, I took a notion and the challenge of the front loader and gathered up a heap of my old clothes - none of Hermione's unmentionables, Persephone's frillies, or Eldrick's style.

Lads, let me tell you, this laundering is a doddle. A couple of hours later and my mouldering pile emerged pristine and fragrant. I can do this. I am going to do this from now on.

Hermione, honeyed, hard-working Hermione, harbours lingering suspicions that her spouse's latest incarnation as house-husband must have some ulterior motive. She simply does not believe that I am inspired by the notion of finally overtaking my buddy Willie in the New Man stakes…Now all I have to do is overcome my pathological masculine aversion to ironing.

Wexford People

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