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Laundro-Mate     824 Words

Men and women just look at laundry differently, that's all. For men, laundry begins virtually the moment they strip naked and, while scratching themselves around their private parts, attempt a jump shot which lands about a foot short of the laundry hamper.

Which is pretty much where I find it the next day. Usually seven pieces of apparel artfully arranged around the hamper; not in the hamper, but around it. In basketball terms, this would be called a shutout at the hoop. This same phenomenon, by the way, can be seen with the dishwasher. If I'm lucky, I generally find plates and utensils on the counter or in the sink. Again, not in the dishwasher, but around it. Men have it ingrained that, as in horseshoes and hand grenades, "close" counts.

For women, laundry is a lot like cooking and, therefore, represents a long tradition of service pretty much beginning when man first dragged home the woolly mammoth and exclaimed "Honey, I brought dinner...and, by the way, I got this nasty grass stain on the loincloth." The same principles apply: you throw a bunch of things into a bowl (washer), add spices (laundry detergent), stir (agitate) and in a few hours you have dinner (clean clothes).

My own mother was a veritable artist when it came to laundry. For years she would come into our rooms at the crack of dawn and snap those sheets off our beds like a cheap Vegas magician doing table tricks. Our bodies would be launched into mid-air and before we splashed down she would have the bed stripped. The door to the basement would be opened and our laundry would be hurled down the stairs into the black void. My mother would descend into that dark labyrinth, weave her magic spells and clean clothes would appear in our closets.

My husband is fond of reminding me that we no longer have to pound our clothes against rocks in the river and that appliances have now made housework easy. He, obviously, doesn't do laundry and believes in the laundry fairy. I have actually had to tell him that the washer must be turned on to work and that a transfer from washer to dryer must be made and, yes, then the dryer turned on. Of course, this is the same man who, for years, like Baskin & Robbins, always had 31 pairs of briefs, undershirts and sox. For him, laundry was a once a month drive-by at the local fluff and fold. The month of February was a bonus because sometimes he had two or three extra days to play with.

Now I don't make a big deal out of laundry. I just see it as one more thing I have to do to keep the household from being socially unacceptable. However, I draw the line at ironing, folding his briefs, and placing them back in his dresser. The latter comes out of a sense of respect for his privacy about what he keeps in his dresser. That, and the fact that I know what comes out of the dresser and I haven't had tetanus shot in years.

I would suspect that many women also find themselves in the role of "laundry police". This role is not limited to merely doing the laundry; in fact, I have deputized myself so that my duties also extend to determining which garments are actually worthy of laundering and which should become car chamois. Why any man would continue to wear a piece of cloth which, at one time, was a perfectly acceptable tee shirt and now resembles a shredded paper towel is beyond me. Only Elle MacPherson could wear so limited a piece of cloth and still be remotely called "clothed."

My husband and I have a continuing saga with a particular night shirt he has had since the early 1800s. The shirt, and I use that term only in the most liberal sense, has lost the pocket insignia, both cuffs, the tail and hem as well as the neckband. There are several holes in the sleeves and underarm and yet he insists it's the most comfortable piece of clothing he owns. Of course it would be…it's as technically close to being nude as a man could get.

Each laundry day presents me with another chance to rid his wardrobe of this personal favorite. Unfortunately, this particular garment has longevity equaled only to the shelf life of Spam. Agitator, rapid spin, cold water, hot water, hot dryer; it always manages to survive. I’ve found it rescued from the dryer (On how he found the dryer, I'm still unclear...) and stuffed under his pillow.

And so, each week, just like the seasons, the laundry cycle renews itself. And I’m sure I'll find the nightshirt crumpled in a heap...next to, not in, the laundry hamper. Right next to my cotton terry bathrobe, the one with the knap worn off...