Smooth maneuvers for flat-out manly guy


September 19, 1998|By Rob Kasper

LATELY, THE BIG event in this guy's life has been the acquisition of a new ironing board.

I have devoted hours of study, thought and concern to the ironing-board purchase. However, the rest of the world seems to care very little about ironing boards. That's right, to most Americans, ironing boards are not a pressing need.

Demand for ironing boards is very low. I base this statement on a proven measurement of trends in American consumer behavior -- what goes on in the alley behind my house.

Early this week I put our old, perfectly functional ironing board out in the alley and nobody took it.

The trash men didn't take it because it didn't fit their definition of mixed refuse. The alley pickers -- a collection of late-night perusers who in the past have scooped away virtually every item put out in the alley, including a couple of my trash cans -- passed on taking a free ironing board.

Apparently, like many Americans, the alley pickers either send their clothes to a dry cleaner, or feel that owning an ironing board doesn't fit in with their lifestyle.

An additional indicator of low interest in ironing boards was the number of people who were found in the section of the department store where I bought my new board. I was the only one there. Moreover, I was also the only adult male in the entire housewares section of the store. It made me worry that not only was buying an ironing board out of fashion, it also might not be manly.

It was, after all, a Sunday afternoon in September, a time when most guys were free of the demands of domesticity and were occupying themselves by watching pro football -- beefy men pounding each into the ground. I like pro football and had been listening to the Baltimore Ravens game on the radio as I drove to the store.

Once I found myself surrounded by domestic devices, I felt the need to let the testosterone roll. I wanted to gripe like a man, to announce as I strolled through housewares that if the Ravens keep missing 40-yard field goals they aren't going to make it to postseason play. But down at the end of the ironing-board aisle, there was no one to gripe to.

Pretty soon a saleswoman happened by and we ended up talking about the fine points of ironing boards.

We agreed that unless an ironing board has a home, a place where it can permanently stand up, it will rarely be used. We also agreed that the spring-loaded metal models were too wobbly to meet my ironing-board needs.

Rather than hooking me up with a large metal board, the saleswoman paired me up with a mid-size board. It was a little over 3 1/2 feet long, was made of wood, and -- this was its finest feature -- had legs that held the board at various heights by snapping into notches placed in the bottom of the board. There were no uncertain springs, no wobbling. This was the sports car of ironing boards -- not too big, nimble, yet substantial enough to get the job done.

I tried to keep that sports-car comparison in mind as I waited in line with a handful of ladies waiting to pay for their purchases at the cash register. As they paid for their wicker baskets and scented soaps, the women eyed me and my purchase. Several told me that they thought my ironing board, with its blue gingham cover, was very cute.

My first choice in ironing boards was a much more manly model, a big one that fell from the wall. I had scouted it out, a few weeks earlier, at another store. This bad boy of boards was going to hide between studs in the wall. Then it was going to scoot out of the wall when summoned, just like those beds in the James Bond movies.

I was willing to fork over the $300 that the fall-from-the-wall version cost. But this plan was scrapped when it turned out the new laundry room in my house was too small to accommodate a falling board. If an ironing board fell from the wall, it would clobber the clothes dryer, making both inoperable.

Similarly, the old ironing board, 4 1/2 feet long, was too big to reside in the crowded quarters of the new laundry room.

But the sports-car board was ideal. It could remain upright on the laundry room sidelines; then, when needed, it could be easily summoned to pressing matters. So I brought the "cute" board home from housewares, I set it up and went to work.

One morning last week I was in the laundry room working out nTC with my new board, touching up a pair of pants and a shirt, and wearing, well, not much. All of sudden, who should show up outside the laundry room but the plumber and his assistant. They were prowling around the house carrying wrenches, checking the condition of the hot-water radiators.

I was standing at the ironing board, half-naked, pressing my shirt.

It seemed to me to be a gender-threatening situation. So I did what any real man would do. I scratched, I spit, I talked football with the plumber, and I ironed the wrinkles out my shirt.

Pub Date: 9/19/98

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