Monday, September 17, 2007

On Mothers and Underwear

Recently, I was reminded by the very funny Katia about the "benefits" that come with a European mother-in-law. It seems that the Italian ironing obsession extends beyond its borders and into France. If you don't know what I am talking about, let me digress for a minute.

~~~ digression
Italians iron EVERYTHING. And by everything I mean everything, encompassing more than mere shirts & pants, oh yes - socks, underwear, sheets, etc. I have to be honest with you - my Italian and I have fought over the evils of ironing. It seems initially, he had a misguided opinion that I would work full time AND iron his stuff. Yeah - I had to quickly squash that idea. Hey, if you want your socks and underwear ironed - either do it yourself or take it to the cleaners - love you lots =) I do realize that some things need to be ironed and if I stretch my imagination, I can understand ironing sheets (my mom can't sleep on wrinkled sheets) but I'm not doing it. Stef's mom loves to suggest teaching me to iron and chocks my refusals up to "crazy American" behavior. hehe

Take my word for it - it is a national obsession, I mean past-time in Italy, ask any expat living there.
~~~end of digression

Evidently, this extends to France. Katia tells a very funny story about visiting her in-laws; her French mother-in-law finding her dirty laundry bag, washes/dries it; and then proceeds to iron her thongs. =) Woohooo THIS scenario hits close to home.

A couple of years ago, my in-laws came to visit for a couple of weeks. One of those weeks, I was working so they basically hung around the house during the day. Well, one day I came home and Stef's mom was very excited. grabbing my hand, chattering at me in Italian, gesturing wildly, and dragging me upstairs to our bedroom (stef trailing in our wake). Much to my surprise, she pulls open my dresser drawers and proceeds to show my how nicely organized they are now, everything neatly ironed, folded and stacked. Oh but not just any drawers - lingerie drawers =) panties, nighties, you know, the regular things you keep in drawers that are not necessarily made for family viewing.

Stef then proceeds to tell me how hard his mom worked, organizing and ironing my "unmentionables" while his mom stood beaming at me. Of course, I had to thank her profusely all the while inside, I was mortified. When she was left properly praised, I smacked Stef and asked him WHY he let her get into my drawers??? He of course had that "what" look on his face and couldn't for the life of him understand why I'd care. I mean, sure some are plain white undies used purely for function, but do you really want to your mom digging through the other items picked out especially for sake of seduction? Yeah, I know I am a repressed American but COME ON. lol

He finally got the idea, but of course we never let on to his mom how mortified I was about the whole thing. And really, I know his very sweet mother only did it because she sees me as her daughter and thats what mom's do. I mean, my mom is happy to help her girls with cleaning or laundry, ironing or whatever we need, but she wouldn't dig through drawers to do it. LOL

I am totally lucky with both wonderful parents AND in-laws - I love them dearly. But it never ceases to amaze me the cultural differences I can see between the two. Each have their own frustrations and blessings. =) I must admit though, in regard to the panty issue - I am glad I'm not in that club alone! lol

More later...


KC said...

Oh my! Well at least you have perfectly organized drawers now! My MIL has never done anything like that, but if she ever did, I, like you, would thank her while feeling mortified at the same time. She's very sweet, but I think that most of the time she doesn't understand my American housekeeping style.

Anonymous said...

Funny story! After you got over your mortification, you could've handed your mom in law a mop and bucket and said "hey, there's a few other things around here that need cleaned, too!"


american girl in italy said...

I realized there are two main reasons my mother in law irons everything

1. She doesn't dry anything, so she has to iron everything to soften it up. Otherwise the socks and underwear are as stiff as a board.

2. It makes thinks thinner so they fit in the small cupboards/drawers easier.

So, I suggest

1. Buy a dryer.
2. Buy a big dresser.


Texas Espresso said...

KC - I KNOW my mil questions my American cleaning style. hehe its probably a good thing I don't understand Italian all that well.

Andrea - I hadn't thought about it in a long time, but it is a funny story. Trust me - I thoroughly enjoyed coming home to a very clean house and delicious Italian meal. I felt a little guilty but heck - my mom would do the same thing, they prefer to be busy. Works for me!

American girl - I will take that advice to heart! lol I think you might be onto something...hehe

Valerie said...

Wow, so your MIL was in your drawers, both literally and figuratively! hee hee.

I don't get the ironing obsession either. I understand the stiffness factor of air-drying, but even after a year here, I refuse to iron skivvies, sheets and towels. Just ain't happenin'!

Cynthia Rae said...

You make me laugh! It is sad, but true. They like to iron around these parts. My sister-in-law came over to visit with my husband when I was out of town last week. She saw a pile of my clean laundry and wanted to lend a helping hand. So, she ironed EVERYTHING. I can honestly saw that my pj's never looked better! But really, after one night sleeping in them no one can tell that they were once wrinkle free.

What a waste of time!


rowena said...

Great if you had only included a photo of the irons that they have in Italy! And I don't mean the very modest Rowenta brand that I own - I'm talking the bulky-looking contraptions like this one (and it isn't even that evil-looking). Looks like a domestic weapon!

Katia said...

I'm so glad I'm not alone ;)

Linda said...

My ex mother in law didn't do that-she just cooked up a storm. My present husband's mother died years ago so I don't have to worry. I understand that French mothers in law can be the worst.

September Students said...

you're right--ironing is an obsession here! :) luckily my husband has learned how to do it, cause i'm not about to iron his underwear :)! we also have a dryer, so many things don't need to be ironed anymore! yay!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

This post was hilarious.

My mom also irons quite a bit, including sheets.

Kataroma said...

My boyfriend somehow managed to survive 15 years in Italy without owning an iron (and his mum lives in the Netherlands and wouldn't iron his clothes anyway!) He wears (non-ironed) jeans and t-shirts exclusively. I think he looks nice. :)

When I moved here I bought an iron but I only take it out about once a month to iron my button down work shirts. Everything else goes iron-free.

We're foreigners so we're allowed to be eccentric. ;)