If you are a man married to a woman, and your wife is not 100% the jeans and t-shirt type, and you have any sort of a conventional modern marriage at all (i.e. you are under seventy), you probably now and then have to do women’s laundry.
Well, a woman’s laundry, anyway. If there’s a chance that any other women’s laundry might show up in the laundry, and you do not have adult daughters living at home, you will soon have (and deserve) greater problems.
Nothing is so calculated to showcase for a man the complexities of women’s lives. Our laundry? Shirts. Pants. Shorts. Socks. Maybe a few other things. None of it is complicated. At most, we might once in a while need to exert ourselves with an iron. Women’s laundry?
My first challenge is always to determine what part of her body it goes on. Key discovery: where does the head go? My wife turns all laundry inside out by reflex, and if it’s the kind with some hidden liner, that part is sure to hang out. It can take me a minute or two to locate the head-hole. If it has a head-hole–and that has to be it, because I know her legs would not fit through those holes on the side, and in any case I’m pretty sure she would not want a large opening in her clothes right down there–then it could be a blouse or a dress or a tunic. None of it can be folded, as it is all sheer and comes in odd shapes. All of it must be hung up, and no matter how many hangers we buy, there are never enough. Women’s laundry includes an invisible creature that consumes clothing hangers, not enough to ruin us, just enough to inconvenience us. She also breaks a few over time, or rather, those inferior pieces of crap fail to give proper service.
The scarf python: a phenomenon of the dryer. Each scarf placed in the dryer increases the chances of a scarf python by 10%, so at ten scarves, a scarf python is automatic and certain. The scarf python, usually twisted together with whichever item of head-questionable clothing is most susceptible to wrinkling, is a combination of all the scarves in the load, braided as if to make a low quality battleship anchor rope. They do not get dry, and in a wet climate like ours (Portland’s annual rainfall is measured in fathoms), must be hung up to dry or they will mildew. One’s wife does not like mildew, thus one must disentangle and hang up the scarf pythons and their victims.
Bra hooks: if you put her bras in the dryer, you soon learn that bra hooks are as good at seeking out sweaters and knitted materials as she is at seeking out your porn cache no matter how you camouflage it. (You can zip it up and rename it as a Windows .dll, bury it in the system files, and she will find it.) If permitted, the bras will destroy all her sweaters, and it will be your fault. Just hang the bras up. Think of the pleasant thoughts they inspire.
Socks: you, of course, will either have ten pair of socks that match precisely, times three, or perhaps a lesser number, but your socks will always have matches and be easily told apart. Hers are unique, hand-selected because they were ‘cute.’ She would rather hang herself than own two identical pair. However, she is fine with having seven pair that are identical except under 10x magnification, or by use of a tape measure. Each load of her laundry will contain one of each pair, but never two.
Putting it away: you will only be asked to do this once. That’s because, despite every good intention, you will fuck it up so catastrophically that she will never, ever, ever want you to do it again. It won’t matter how honest your effort is. You will fail to understand her basic clothing categories, folding methods, where things go. It will take her longer to unfuck your work than it would have for her to put them away herself. So yeah, go ahead, step up, man up, put it all away and do your best. Even dump out her whole sock drawer, which is 80% singletons whose partners are long gone, and attempt to match up every loose one. This is the best way never to be asked to do this again. Since you will not learn from experience, at most, she might correct you, then ask you to do it again. She will soon learn that you are incapable of learning how she does it, much less keeping up with her monthly changes in organization, and will just be happy you ran laundry.
Fabric softener: I was once talking with a platonic female friend about my wife’s habit of using four fabric softener sheets at the very minimum. I did not see why this mattered. Her rejoinder: “You obviously have never worn a skirt.” Well, couldn’t really argue with that. Anyway, just give in on this and use however many sheets she wants. Never take the spent ones to the trash until you are done with all laundry tasks, because spent ones will continue to crop up to the very end. If you have one sock left to go, there will be a fabric softener sheet stuck to it. If you need a hose filter, or some other shop or yard filter, spent dryer sheets are pretty good for that.
Lint screen: this may vary, but if I didn’t clean that thing, all our houses would have burnt down at some point. Happily, the lint screen meets all of our masculine criteria for a desirable task: it needs frequent doing, it means not bugging her about it, it’s easy, the dust can be mopped up with the lint roll, and it counts as a silent, helpful thing that you just do, take care of, solve, without ever bugging her. It’s a thing she appreciates even when it never comes up. Just do it, glad to have this way to contribute, bearing in mind that you could instead be trying to identify one of her odder garments.
Colors: this is laughable, because she is not like you. You have clothes that are white, gray, blue, or black. At the very most, three color categories; more likely two. Biracial laundry. Hers is the U.N. Hers has all colors, and the instructions for each are kept on carefully hidden tags, all of which you cannot possibly be expected to read. Simple guess: if it’s real cloth, it matters. If it’s plastic cloth, not so much. Anyway, do your best, mainly avoiding putting white things in with dark things made of real cloth.
Folding: you will never fold anything correctly. Try anyway. Look at it this way: of all the things she could get mad at you about, she will get the least mad about your valiant effort to decipher her incomprehensible regulations as to clothes folding. You tried. Sometimes, wives even sort of find your clumsiness, stupidity, and learning disabilities endearing, as long as they don’t happen in the wrong situations. Folding laundry wrong = okay. Paying bills wrong = not okay.
Doing women’s laundry is like a syndrome. The best you can hope to achieve is a sort of high function. Even that will help you, because at the very least, you tried. And she will pardon one hundred errors before she will pardon a single bout of apathetic, entitled sloth.
And when you find yourself confronted by a scarf python twined together with four indeterminate garments, with singleton socks falling loose everywhere and towels that somehow never get dry, know that you aren’t the only one. Stay strong, brother.