Posts Tagged ‘underwear’


June 18, 2010

When you work at home by yourself it’s easy to lose perspective. Certain things—laundry, for instance—can take on inflated importance in your life, absorbing so much of your attention that you forget other people might not place quite as much focus on them as you do.

Once you’re aware of this, the inverse (or is it the converse?) becomes true: You begin to assume that the things that occupy your attention—laundry, for instance—are of little interest to others.

Reassurance comes with confirmation—a serendipitous moment when you discover that there are others who see the world (or at least one tiny corner of it) the way you do. It came for me on pages 53 and 54 of the Random House trade paperback edition of Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart, when the character Misha, a wealthy Russian, describes living with his middle-class girlfriend in New York City:

At first I insisted that a professional laundress wash our socks and underwear, but Rouenna taught me there was something simple, methodical, and pleasing about doing it yourself. She taught me all about temperatures and detergents and how to treat “delicates.” … I’ll always associate self-laundered socks with democracy and the primacy of the middle class.

It’s a mistake to assume that everything in a novelist’s work is autobiographical. Writers of fiction make stuff up—that’s what they’re supposed to do. But in this case I want to believe that Gary Shteyngart experienced some sort of epiphany during the drying cycle one day, filed it away in his mind and rekindled it on the page. What I do know is this: I couldn’t have said it better myself.


Laundry Day #6

April 10, 2010


Sheets: 2
Pillowcases: 4
Towels: 5
Pants: 7
Shirts: 12
Undershirts: 3
Underwear: 23
Socks: 32

Temperature: Hot/Warm

Cost: $6.25

What have we learned?

It’s been a while since I did the wash.

I will confess that I don’t document every Laundry Day here. (How much laundry could one reader stand? I think I’m already testing that limit.) I also don’t write about every Laundry Day on the day it occurs, although I do present them chronologically. Nevertheless, it has been more than two weeks since my last Laundry Day post, and the lag has been about the same in real time.

Laundry reminds you when you’re slacking. The hamper overflows; your favorite items of clothing are unavailable (unless you’re willing to wear them wrinkled or less-than-fresh); you’re down to the few pairs of underwear and socks that you’d prefer not to share with others.

At first, you might approach these conditions with a sense of abandon. “Who cares about the laundry?” you think. “I’ll get to it when I get to it. I’m too busy/tired/stressed out/inert to give this my attention.”

That attitude might serve you for a while, but eventually it will be superseded by a sense that you’re not meeting your obligations.

The dirty laundry seems to tsk-tsk at you each time you walk past. “What? More?” it sniffs as you toss another soiled shirt on the pile. “There’s thermal underwear at the bottom here, you know, and we’re well into spring. Are you ever going to take care of this?”

The answer, you realize, must be “Yes, I am.” For the sooner you attend to the laundry, the sooner you regain authority over your life.

When it’s washed and dried you can toss it on the sofa beside you and attend to it while you watch television or listen to music or talk on the phone. Laundry doesn’t mind. All it wants is a little notice and care, and it will repay you with a sense of well-being; it will wrap you in warmth and softness and you’ll feel better for having given it your attention.

Laundry appreciates your attention.

Laundry Day #2

February 23, 2010


Sheets: 2
Pillowcases: 2
Underwear: 11
Pants: 6
Shirts: 14
Socks: 47

Temperature: Warm/Hot

Cost: $6.25

What have we learned?

Laundry is a word problem.

The price of one wash in a normal washer is $1.75. The price of one wash in the triple-loader, which theoretically—but not actually—holds three times the amount of a single washer, is $3. The price of 30 minutes in the dryer is $1.50. If we washed and dried all of the items listed above, which combination of washers and dryers did we use?

Do the math.

There is Always Laundry

February 22, 2010

There have been more days than I should admit when laundry was the only thing I accomplished before my head hit the pillow in the evening. I write “laundry” on my “to do” list most days, and when it’s done, I cross it off the list. Complete.

I consider doing a load of laundry an accomplishment, because it gives me satisfaction to know that I’m sleeping on clean sheets, using fresh towels and opening drawers full of clean clothes when I get dressed each day.

This is not to say that I believe doing laundry makes me accomplished as an individual. Only that it is a tangible indication I am taking care of things at home, making an effort to restore order and tidiness, which might, somehow, if I’m very, very lucky, restore order and tidiness to my thoughts. At the very least it says that I’ll have clean underwear for another week.

There might not be work, but there is always laundry. Some days, that’s enough.

Laundry Day #1

February 20, 2010


Underwear: 23
Undershirts: 1
Socks: 2
Towels: 4

Temperature: Hot

Cost: $3.25

What have we learned?

1) I do laundry for two. Truly, I probably own more than twenty pairs of underwear but I wouldn’t wait until I’d run through my entire inventory before doing a wash. Only half of those I washed today are mine.

2) I do not own my own washing machine. Oh, I have owned a washer and dryer, and I aspire to own some again someday, but right now I live in an apartment building and share a laundry room with 100 or so other people.

Laundry invites examination and investigation. It’s a regular episode of Murder, She Wrote or CSI or Psych – pick your poison – filled with psychological and behavioral clues and a staggering amount of DNA evidence. But let’s not dwell upon that last part.