To those who know me, the following rant won’t come as a surprise…
As a regular wearer of odd socks, I also rail against other forms of compliance. In my sights today is a thief of human time like no other.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, there were wrinkles. It was a simple time and the people ran free and enjoyed something called ‘leisure’ when they weren’t working. Appearance was merely a matter of doing your best. Get rid of major bits of mud from your smock and that’s all that could be expected of you. Then, someone ruined things for everyone.
It could well have been the nobility, or at least someone who had staff who stopped the music. “I think we’d all be much better off if our clothes were flat. Yes, the clothes that go on our bodies – that are not flat in any way – should be made artificially flat, that is to be free of creases. I decree that those displaying flat, smooth clothes will be ‘smart’ and anyone heretofore wearing wrinkled clothes will be ‘messy’ or uncouth. Well done me.”
And so it was. The iron – starting with some metal contraption filled with burning coal and then the electric steam iron – was invented. Millions of man-hours were thus destined to be spent in front of an ironing board to achieve previously unknown, unwanted, uncared for, levels of clothing smoothness.
Each of us, on average, will spend at least weeks, if not months of our lives ironing. That is a howling shame. If somebody told you that you had to spend an hour a week painting coal black you’d tell them to go somewhere not very nice. Why? Because it would be pointless. But that’s essentially ironing. The problem is, we’re so used to it being a societal norm that we freely give up this time in order to fit in or at least not stick out.
Societal norms can be useful. For example, not killing one another is quite handy and has been for a few millennia but norms that dictate entirely arbitrary things, such as having creaseless clothing, are poorly thought out and/or anachronistic.
The next time you think you’re conforming to a societal norm, stop and ask yourself if you really have to do it. You’ll probably do it anyway but you might surprise yourself.