Today’s Guilty Pleasure

Many deem picking up the dry cleaning to be a chore, and a low one, at that. It is the annoying, insulting, even demeaning purview of homemakers, assistants, and housekeepers. In movies, women who are dumped by their husbands nearly always utter the same, bitter refrain: “All those years I picked up your dry-cleaning…” This is meant to illustrate the depth of their sacrifice, the banality of their former existence, and the jerkiness of their soon-to-be-ex. It is drudgery and abasement personified.

But not to me. Not after having gone nine months — due to severe cost-cutting measures — without visiting a cleaners at all. Not when I’ve been watching wrinkled shirts pile up in a corner of our utility room like leaves in a giant, depressing, sartorial drift. Not when ironing one shirt takes me the entirety of an episode of “Modern Family.” No. For me, a trip to the dry-cleaners to pick up pressed shirts is a joy, an existential liberation, a reason for profound celebration. And when it is to pick up nineteen of these items? Why, it’s a brief car ride to heaven. An errand to Nirvana. A schlep to Shangri-la.

Sure, it cost us. Forty-seven fifty, to be exact. Certainly I will pay for it — in this case by skipping lunch out with MJ for a couple of weeks. And God knows I won’t be doing it again anytime soon. Between property taxes, pre-school fees, and airfare for a family reunion in June, we have been hemorrhaging money like a there’s no tomorrow. Which may be good, because if there is I don’t think we can afford it. (Just kidding, God. Kind of.) But seriously. Unless our tax return is twice the size we expect it to be, there will be no more indulgences like dry cleaning for a long time to come.

But I will not let that bother me now. For the pleasure of being slightly ahead, just for once, in the internecine battle known as “Housewife vs. Wrinkled Shirts” is vivid, total, and all-encompassing. Now that they are back on Mike’s side of the closet, I find myself running my hands across the plastic-draped shirts, crooning to them lovingly, touching their smoothness, laughing softly. It almost feels meditative. I close my eyes. Breathe in the mild toxins. I am peaceful. I am whole. I am shooting through the stratosphere, made of light, inhaling supernovas, exhaling galaxies. The stress hormones surge out of me like bats from a cave…

Then I remember how many shirts are left in the ironing basket.

Uh, bats? Not so fast…

Ah, well. Modern Family doesn’t look like it’s getting cancelled anytime soon. And it’s free on Hulu! Thank God for small favors. I’ll get right on those other shirts. I will. In nineteen days.

Until then I’ll be in the closet.

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